Torta Helada is a Peruvian specialty. It roughly translates to frozen cake. You can find this cake in just about every dessert shop in Lima, Peru. These types of cakes are very popular. So much so that my mother was even able to start her own small business making jellos cakes for birthday parties and special events. Not only are we attached to this jiggly dessert through business, but also in personal matters as well. This very simple but very delicious dessert helped create bonds in my family and memories that will never be forgotten. This dessert allowed me to truly open up and accept a new way of life through a difficult time in my adolescence. I know,I know, that seems like alot to ask from one simple cake, right? The reality is, learning how to make this sweet treat gave me a sense of belonging and kinship with my sudden new familial arrangement. When I think back to the first time I had this treat in my new home, I was scared but also, with one bite, still felt like I WAS home. One familiar bite gave me back everything I knew. This isn’t just a dessert to me, it’s a beautiful memory.
2 cups (16oz) of Nestle evaporated milk
2 boxes of Jell-o instant mix – strawberry flavored
1 Pillsbury Moist Supreme White Premium Cake Mix, 15.25 oz
1 packet of colapez (unflavored gelatin)
1 batch of fresh strawberries
3 mixing bowls
1 cake pan/mold for jello
1cake pan/mold for cake
1 pair of kitchen scissors*
1 mixer (hand held or other)
*if you’d rather bypass the cutting process, use two small cake pans to create two even layers smaller than the diameter of the mold you will be using to pour the jello
In order to achieve the best results, we suggest prepping your ingredients the night before. First, bake the Pillsbury cake according to the instructions on the box. We used the white cake mix just so that it does not take away from the main components of the Torta Helada but you can use any cake mix you would like! Chocolate, vanilla, funfetti, whatever flavor your heart desires. You really can not go wrong here.
One thing to keep in mind is that we want the base (the cake) to be smaller in diameter than the jello that will surround it. You can either use two smaller cake pans to bake your cake in two even layers or take a pair of scissors to cut off the excess of the cake that you no longer need, making sure to cut it as evenly as possible. We decided to just use the pan we currently have and cutt off the excess once it was done. Once you have fully baked the cake to completion, let it rest on the side to cool and refrigerate when cooled. I know, I know, it is almost impossible to resist a freshly baked slice of cake but you must! The reason it needs to cool is because you want the cake to be nice and cold when applying the jell-o. If you were to add it fresh out of the oven, the heat would melt the jello and absorb the mix into the cake, and we definitely do not want that.
Now we can move on to your strawberries.
When prepping your strawberries be sure to wash them really well. Once they are washed, let them dry in the refrigerator overnight. Prepping your strawberries the night before, as opposed to the the same day, ensures that the strawberries will not be too soft or soggy when you’re placing them on your torta helada the next day. This is totally up to personal preference but you can either remove or leave the calyx on the strawberries. We like to leave it on for decoration but it is not necessary. Do what works best for you. Once you are done with your strawberries and your cake, place them both in the fridge overnight to cool. Put your evaporated milk in the freezer over night so that in the morning it will be almost slushie like.
The day has finally come to complete your torta helada, hooray!
So now the first thing you want to do is get out all your ingredients and set them in front of you.
If you haven’t already, cut your cake to the size you’d like to be (remember, it needs to be smaller than the pan you have your jello in because the jello needs to cover it completely). Once that is done, go ahead and cut your cake down the middle to separate the top half from the bottom half, creating two equal layers. Put your halves to the side and let’s pour us some jello!
Prepare both boxes of jello separately. With one of the prepared jellos, pour it in the pan and then add your strawberries in whichever design pattern you would like. From there you can put that pan in the fridge and forget about for about 30 minutes. While your jello is cooling and solidifying in the fridge, take out your frozen nestle evaporated milk. You can let those sit out for a bit to allow the milk to thaw just a little and get to a slushie-like consistency but not thaw completely.
Once that has been sitting out for a bit, pour two cups of evaporated milk into a bowl and start mixing it with a mixer. We want to essentially whip the milk into a thick creamy consistency. While whipping the milk, start adding jello from the other bowl you prepared slowly into the bowl with the milk while you are mixing it still. This is going to create the light pink layer surrounding the cake. Once mixed completely you will need to start assembling your cake.
Bring out the layer of jello with the strawberries that we let solidify in the fridge now. Scoop a good portion of your whipped jello and place it over that jello layer. You must work quickly because the whipped jello hardens pretty fast and becomes unmanageable after it stiffens up. Once you place the bottom layer, add your cake piece on top, more whipped jello, then your last piece of cake on top of that. You should now fill in the sides and all areas surrounding the cake. They need to be completely covered with the whipped jello.
Once you’ve covered all sides of the cake, You are all done! Congratulations! You have officially made Torta Helada. Now, place it back in the fridge for a few hours to let it cool for a while and then serve and enjoy with your family and friends,