Chocolate Sponge

A fashionable midcentury dessert that's something like the fluffy love child of a mousse and a pudding.

Today I give you a Chocolate Sponge from the 1952 booklet “Better Meals with Gel-Cookery,” from Knox Gelatine. My version was shorter and less shiny than the original recipe photo. And curiously, giving me octopus vibes.

Close-up of texture of chocolate sponge, next to pattern of multiple chocolate sponge plated dishes

Promotional booklet "Better Meals with Gel-Cookery," open to the chocolate sponge recipe

Once a fashionable midcentury dessert, a sponge is essentially a dairy-free mousse with a “light, springy texture.” In a standard sponge recipe, gelatin is combined with a flavor base (e.g. fruit juice or chocolate), chilled until thickened, and then whipped to an airy consistency. The mixture is folded into stiffly beaten egg whites, and then poured into a mold to set. The resulting dish is fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth, and—in the case of this chocolate sponge—delicious. I topped mine with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, and it was heavenly.

Cover of "Better Meals with Gel-Cookery"

Knox distributed this promotional booklet to consumers from 1948 to 1952, free by mail order. The booklet begins with a missive on the various benefits of gelatin: it’s easy, thrifty, versatile, nourishing, and delicious. There is also some thinly veiled shade thrown at Jell-O, Knox’s primary competitor:

Gel-Cookery begins with Knox, the real Gelatine. Knox is the indispensable ingredient with which you can combine real–rather than imitation–flavors. With Knox you can choose the degree of dessert and salad sweetness or non-sweetness, and the food combinations your family likes best.

Knox is all real gelatine–unlike factory-flavored gelatine dessert powders which are about 7/8 sugar and only about 1/8 gelatine.

First open spread of "Better Meals with Gel-Cookery," describing the benefits of gelatin and some basic recipes

Another open spread from "Better Meals with Gel-Cookery," describing sponges

There’s a trove of enthralling recipes included in here, many of which I’ve already subjected my friends and coworkers to: Molded Macaroni and Cheese, Salmon Mousse, and Coffee Whip, to name a few. You can see the former two recipes on my personal Instagram account; I’d like to return to these recipes and snap some proper photos for the blog. But with recipes like Molded Chicken Loaf and Deviled Egg Salad, it’s tempting to try something new. How’s a girl to decide?

An open "Better Meals with Gel-Cookery," turned to the salads section

Additional salad recipes from "Better Meals with Gel-Cookery"

I’ll be coming back to this booklet, but thought I may as well share the recipes as I make them, rather than save them for all at once. So stay tuned.

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