Jell-O gelatin powder and its imitators, with their deep colors and crystalline clarity, bring a bright and cheerful note to the table. They’re even more eye-catching when assembled into colorful showpiece desserts, either in individual cups or as larger molds. One way to make this humble treat impressive is to layer it into a vivid rainbow. It’s a simple process, though it does take time and a bit of patience.

The Basic Version

You’ll need at least three colors of Jell-O — usually red, green and blue — at a minimum, and five or six make for a more authentic rainbow. Mix up your first color, as directed on the package, and pour a thin layer into your mold or divide it between individual dishes. Refrigerate the Jell-O until it’s firm but not completely set; then mix and add a second layer the same thickness as the first. Continue, until you’ve filled the mold or dishes and used all of the gelatin. Each pouch makes 2 cups of dessert, so before you start, make sure your mold or dessert dishes will hold the correct total. If not, layer the remainder into another bowl for a separate dessert.

Theme and Variations

The same basic method can be used to make numerous variations. For example, layer orange and purple Jell-O for a Halloween treat or red and green at Christmastime. You can improvise a white layer, if desired, by using unflavored gelatin to thicken sweetened condensed milk or prepared vanilla pudding. If you like your rainbow-hued treats firm enough to eat as finger food, adding unflavored gelatin to regular Jell-O makes it gel strongly enough to cut and handle. If you prepare the colorful layers in a pan, you can later unmold them and cut them into squares for a vividly festive treat.