Slightly bitter coffee jelly (jello) and sweetened cream are a perfect match of flavour combination as well as visual effects. I have never seen coffee jelly served in Australian cafés, but in Japan it is one of the most popular dessert menu items at cafés and restaurants.
Note: I did not realise jelly is called jello in America. So for those who are familiar with jello, please read the post by replacing ‘jelly’ with ‘jello’.
In mid-January, I was invited to my friend’s holiday cottage down on the south coast of New South Wales with other friends. This is an annual event and each one of us takes responsibility to serve everyone’s dinner in the evenings. I usually serve Japanese dishes and this year I served Kingfish Tartare Japanese Style (will be posted soon) as part of the starters. For the main I decided to serve a Chinese dish, Hainanese Chicken and garlic rice.
The dinner is usually a three-course meal and I always struggle to come up with a suitable dessert as it is not my habit to have dessert after main meals. To avoid sweet desserts, I sometimes served fruit salad for dessert and I had a feeling that I might have served it last year.
Then I remembered one of the desserts that I introduced to my other friend while we travelled Japan last November. It was a Japanese version of parfait and it had coffee jelly in it. I really enjoyed this dessert as the ice cream and cream went so well with the bitterness of the coffee flavoured jelly. So, I decided to serve coffee jelly to my friends.
What I didn’t know was that my friends had never tasted coffee jelly and they had never heard of it. They are Aussie and know of jelly with other flavours but coffee jelly was new to them. They were very curious about what it would taste like. They didn’t say it, but I am sure they were a bit worried that it might not be tasty.
I served coffee jelly cut into cubes with sweet thickened cream on top and my friends loved it. They said that the slightly bitter coffee jelly went very well with the subtle sweetness of the thickened cream. One of my friends went for a second and I was so happy that my coffee jelly was well received. They said I should post the recipe.
That was a long story but that’s how coffee jelly made it to the post today.
Neither coffee nor jelly originated from Japan, of course, and I am sure they both came from Western countries. But it seems that coffee jelly has taken root in Japan more than any other countries.
It is pronounced ‘kōhīzelī’ (コーヒーゼリー) or ‘kōhījelī’ (コーヒージェリー) in Japanese. Coffee is pronounced ‘kōhī’ because the Japanese language does not have the sound ‘f’ and most foreign words with ‘f’ gets replaced with ‘h’.
Coffee jelly is quite simple to make and there are many different ways of serving it. One common way of serving it is to make the jelly in a glass and top with cream once the jelly is set (like the first photo).
Sometimes, jelly is moulded into a flat large container, then cut into cubes to serve in a glass or a cup (see the photos below), topped with cream (photo above and I added instructions for this in the recipe, too). You could also use a jelly mould and serve on a plate.
Most recipes make coffee jelly sweetened with sugar but I don’t do it. I simply make espresso coffee and add gelatine to set. But I add sugar to the cream so that the sweetness balances out with the slightly bitter coffee jelly. I do it this way because you can’t control sweetened coffee jelly, but you can adjust the sweetness by controlling the amount of cream to add.
It is a bit bitter so I should say coffee jelly is a dessert for adults.
Slightly bitter coffee jelly (jello) and sweetened cream are a perfect match of flavour combinations as well as visual effects. It is one of the most popular dessert menu items at cafés and restaurants in Japan.
Prep Time includes minimum time to chill jelly to set (3 hours).
Note: I did not realise jelly is called jello in America. So for those who are familiar with jello, please read the recipe by replacing 'jelly' with 'jello'.
- 6g (0.2oz) gelatine powder
- 60ml (2oz) cold water
- 250ml (8.5oz) strong black coffee (hot, note 1)
- 150ml (5.1oz) cream
- 10g (0.6oz) sugar (note 2)
- Chopped strawberries and mint leaves
- Shaved chocolate and mint leaves
Add the cold water to a small container and sprinkle the gelatine and soak in it for about 5 minutes until the gelatine becomes soft and spongy.
Add the gelatine to the hot coffee and mix well ensuring that gelatine is dissolved and there are no gelatine lumps.
Pour the coffee mixture into 2 or 3 short glasses and chill them in the fridge for minimum 3 hours.
When the coffee jelly is set, pour sweet thickened cream over the jelly, decorate with your choice of decoration if using.
You will need about 9cm x 15cm (3 1/2" x 6") or similar surface size container with minimum depth of 3cm (1 3/16").
Pour the coffee mixture into the container. It should make the thickness of the jelly to about 2.5cm (1"). Chill it in the fridge for minimum 3 hours.
Using a knife, score the jelly at 2.0 - 2.5cm (3/4 - 1") interval to make grid lines (see the photos in the blog).
Using a soft spatula that can bend easily, scrape off the jelly cubes gently, starting from one edge of the container. (note 3)
Transfer them into serving glasses, pour sweet thickened cream, topped with decoration of your choice if using.
While waiting the jelly is in the fridge to set, add cream and sugar in a bowl.
Whip the cream until it thickens only slightly to a consistency a bit thinner than cream soup.
1. I have an espresso coffee maker so I used the coffee from it. But you can use any type of coffee and instant coffee is OK, too.
2. If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to increase the amount of sugar to 15g.
3. Even if the cubes crumble a bit, don’t worry. They will still look pretty.