The types of jelly desserts include a wide array of items, from gelatin-based treats to spreads that are eaten alone or in baked goods and candy. Referred to as "jelly" in Great Britain and Ireland, gelatin serves as a versatile base for various molded desserts, usually fruit-flavored. Soft spreads include jelly, jam, and preserves, as well as fruit butter and marmalade. These goods are usually used as toppings or fillings for various pastries, cookies, and cakes. Another variation is jelly candy, which is typically eaten alone, although it may be incorporated into sweet treats.
Animal collagen can be used as a base for gelatin, an agent commonly found in jelly desserts. These treats are commonly known as "jelly" in Britain and Ireland where it is associated with a particular type of fruit spread, and as "jello" in North America due to the popularity of the Jello® brand. A variety of gelatin desserts can be made by dissolving its powder form into hot liquid, and then chilling it to set. Natural and artificial fruit flavors may be added as well as dairy ingredients for a creamy custard-like dessert made in a mold or else cut into chunks or shapes.
Jelly desserts also commonly incorporate different types of fruit spreads. In North America, "jelly" is comprised of a mixture of fruit juice, pectin, and sugar cooked to create a clear substance that keeps its shape but is spreadable. Jelly may be made with herbs, teas, and wine, among other ingredients. Jam contains actual pieces of fruit that are cooked to a soft, thicker-than-jelly texture, while preserves maintain identifiable chunks and have a less spreadable consistency. Slow-cooked fruit and sugar can be made into opaque fruit butter, while marmalade is made from cooking sweetened citrus peel and pulp.
These spreads are most often used in jelly desserts as toppings and fillings. Doughnuts, sweet breads, and rolls are sometimes injected with jam or jelly. Cookies may have a dollop placed on top before baking for a thick, sticky topping. Cakes can contain layers of one or more types of fruit spreads, while preserves and fruit butter may be used for richer or thicker desserts, depending on the recipe.
A number of jelly candies may be eaten alone or incorporated into cakes, pies, or cookies. Gummy bears, worms, or other forms may be served as a finger-food dessert, used as a topping for ice cream or to decorate a cake. Jelly beans are used in a similar fashion. Either of these items may be used with gelatin or fruit spreads to make decadent jelly desserts.