Jelly Cakes

by | Jan 17, 2018

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Jelly Cakes are an old-fashioned Australian dessert. These vanilla sponge cakes are sandwiched together with cream, coated in raspberry jelly and then rolled in coconut.

Jelly Cakes are an old-fashioned Australian recipe. Classic Jelly Cakes are rounds of vanilla sponge cake sandwiched with cream, coated in raspberry jelly and rolled in coconut. They look like pink lamingtons on the outside but have a totally different taste and texture.

You might know them as Gem Iron Cakes depending on where you’re from. And if you grew up in Australia in the 50s, 60s and 70s, you might remember seeing Raspberry Jelly Cakes at the Country Women’s Association (CWA) cake stalls and at school fairs.

Traditionally, you’d use a Gem Iron to bake your Jelly Cakes. What’s a Gem Iron? It’s a heavy cast-iron skillet with about 18 holes with rounded bottoms, similar to a patty cake pan. To use it, you heat up the gem iron in a moderately hot oven then add the cake batter and bake them for just a short time.

Gem Iron

Why? I couldn’t find for sure in my research. My best guess is that most women in country Australia were cooking on wood ovens. You can’t accurately control the temperature of a wood-burning stove like we can on our modern gas and electric ovens.

Maybe preheating a heavy metal baking pan helped distribute heat evenly on baked goods. I know my Mum gets frustrated at the memory of trying to bake a sponge cake using her wood-stove at the farmhouse.

Gem Irons for Jelly Cakes are hard to find these days. You could try second-hand thrift stores or raid your Grandma or Great Aunt’s cupboards. There are alternatives to the gem iron, thankfully. If you have your heart set on the round shape then the modern patty cake pan makes a fine substitute, as does a muffin tin.

I personally used a large rectangular baking tin and cut sponge cake squares instead.

Classic jelly cakes

The hardest part of baking Jelly Cakes is knowing when the jelly has reached the right consistency for coating the cakes. Your jelly must be partly set to stick to the cakes. Too early and the raspberry jelly will soak into the sponge and leave it stained and soggy. Too late and it won’t stick.

The ideal point is when the jelly is thick and viscous like a bowl of egg whites. To be honest, my jelly set a fraction too long and got a little lumpy, but all sins are covered once you coat the jelly cakes in coconut. Definitely watch my Jelly Cakes tutorial below to see what I mean.

I recommend eating them the day that they’re made due to the jelly and cream content. To save time you can make the sponge and cream the day before, then just set the jelly and assemble the jelly cakes when you need them.


Click to watch how to make Jelly Cakes

Jelly Cakes

Print Recipe


Jelly Cakes are an old-fashioned Australian dessert. These vanilla sponge cakes are sandwiched together with cream, coated in raspberry jelly and then rolled in coconut.
Jelly Cakes
Course Cake
Cuisine Baking
Servings 12 Jelly Cakes
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 45 minutes to 2 hours


Jelly Cakes
Vanilla Cake
  • 125 g Unsalted Butter softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 110 g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Eggs lightly beaten
  • 225 g Self Raising Flour
  • 125 ml Full Cream Milk
Jelly Coating
Vanilla Cream Filling
  • 125 ml Thickened Cream
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tablespoon Icing Sugar


Vanilla Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line the base of a 30 x 20 x 4cm rectangular baking tin with baking paper and grease the sides with non-stick spray. OR grease the holes of your patty cake tin or 12-hole muffin tin with non-stick spray.
  2. Add the softened butter, vanilla and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Beat together with electric mixers until thick, pale and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs half at a time, until fully mixed in and creamy.
  3. Pour in half of the milk, and half of the flour. Gently stir together until just mixed. Add the other half of the milk and flour and fold gently together. Don’t worry if the batter looks like it’s split. That’s usually due to differences in temperature between your eggs, milk and butter.
  4. Scoop the batter into the prepared baking tin. Smooth the top. If you're using a patty cake tin you'll need to bake your cakes in two batches between two pans. If you're using a muffin tin, only fill the hole to 1/4 - 1/3 full. You might also need to bake in two batches to yield about 24 mini cake halves.Bake for 15-20 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden brown, springs back when lightly touched, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  5. Remove cakes from their tins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  1. Pour the jelly crystals into a medium sized heat-proof bowl. Add the hot water and stir until the crystals have dissolved. Stir in the cool water then place the jelly in the fridge to half set only. This is 45 minutes to 2 hours, so don’t forget to check. The jelly should be thickened and viscous like egg whites, but still stir-able.
Cream Filling
  1. Add the cream, vanilla and icing sugar to a bowl. Whip together until the cream is thick and the beaters leave their mark in the cream. Cover and leave in the fridge to chill until ready.
  1. Remove the cake from the tin.If you used a rectangular baking pan: cut the cake in half, and in half again from the long edge. You should have four long strips of cake. Spread the cream evenly on two of the strips of cake, then sandwich the remaining strips on cake on top. Now you should have two layers of cake sandwiched together with cream. Cut the strips into 12 equal pieces.If you used a muffin pan or patty-cake pan, spread cream on half of the cakes and sandwich them together. Your 24 mini cakes should make about 12 sandwiched cakes.
  2. Remove the jelly from the fridge. Use a slotted spoon to drop a piece of cake into the jelly. Toss it around to coat all of the sides, then place the piece on a rack. Repeat for the remaining pieces of cake.
  3. Fill a bowl with desiccated coconut. Drop a piece of jelly-coated cake into the bowl. Toss it around so each side is coated in coconut. Place back on the rack. Repeat for each piece of jelly-coated cake. Serve

Recipe Notes

  • Don’t worry if the batter looks like it’s split. That’s usually due to differences in temperature between your eggs, milk and butter.
  • Consistency of the jelly: you want the jelly to be partially set. What does this mean? We’re aiming for jelly that sticks to the outside of the sponge cakes, rather than soaks into the cakes. If the jelly is still at a liquid stage it will just soak into your cakes when you dunk them in, giving you a soggy mess. Leave the jelly until it starts to become lumpy but stir-able. The cakes will look a bit ugly at first but the coconut covers all sins.
  • I make my jelly AFTER the cake has been made. I tried to be clever and started the jelly before I began preparing the cake. Problem is, you don’t know at what time exactly the jelly is ready. You have to use it before it continues to set in the fridge, which is a problem if you cake is still cooling or baking!
  • Storage: given the cream and jelly content I would keep these in the fridge until a few hours before you need them, then I’d let them naturally approach room temperature before serving. I would discard any leftover cakes at the end of the day.
Cake Mistress 17 January, 2018

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