I always used to wonder What makes a fancy dessert so fancy?? And behold the answer: unflavored gelatin.  A far cry from Jell-O and prepackaged flavored gelatin powder, unflavored gelatin is actually quite versatile and can give any combination of sugar and dairy a controllable shape or texture.  I find it extra wonderful because it allows me to eat desserts that are less sweet than cookies and pies (not that I don’t enjoy those products, but sometimes they sit in my stomach the wrong way).  And it is easy to use.  Unflavored gelatin is still available at most major supermarkets, tucked away in the food-that-never-goes-bad aisles- i.e. the middle- below the Jell-O boxes.  For some reason, I fear that it will quietly become extinct in the next few years.  But considering how often I use it, my box should last me at least another ten years.  AT LEAST.  Like my Polaroid film (though I’m still hoping Polaroid will revive it for nostalgic purposes).

The recipe I adapted my panna cotta from can be found on Epicurious.  I added a bit more gelatin this time than I should have, but I was very happy with the texture.  It’s like silken tofu!  Mmm mmm.  Also, the Meyer lemon juice gave a slight tart but sweet kick.  Perfect for the morning or for a late night snack, on its own or with some frozen fruit.  I recommend using raspberries or blackberries as your fruit of choice because they exude some extra juicies when thawed.  Enjoy!

Above: Whipping cream + sugar + gelatin.  The mixture should be off-white/very very pale yellow.

After a few days in the fridge covered in plastic wrap, I took out my last cup of panna cotta and prepared it to be eaten.  Frozen raspberries on top.

I let the berries thaw overnight in the fridge.  Um yes I’ll take that fancy looking dessert for $20 please.


2 tbsp water

1 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin (I spilled over some)

1c whipping cream

1/2c sugar

2c buttermilk

2tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice (optional… I happened to have some in the fridge)

frozen berries (optional)


A pot

Ramekins and/or small cups and/or a cupcake tin that you can use nonstick spray on (NOTE: I tried to use those one-time-use flimsy cupcake wrappers and my panna cotta turned into a pile of mush on my plate).  This recipe filled up four of my wooden teacups plus one small glass.

How to Make:

Put water in a small bowl and add the gelatin over it.  Let the mixture stand approx. 10 minutes.  It should take on the texture of gumdrops.  In the meantime, heat the whipping cream and sugar (I used a little less than 1/2 cup) in a pot over medium-high heat and stir constantly.  Bring to a low boil and stir often. The sugar should dissolve rather quickly but keep stirring until it’s time to add the gelatin.  Add gelatin and remove pot from heat.  Stir stir stir and then let mixture cool until lukewarm (It took mine about 15-20 minutes).  While cooling, prepare the other ingredients to be added.  Measure out buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice.  Keep the lemon juice separate from buttermilk and vanilla until it’s time to throw everything in together… in case some funky reaction goes on while you’re waiting.  Or not… I don’t know what the consequence would be if you combined them.

Stir in the remaining ingredients to the pot.  Scoop into ramekins and refrigerate overnight (or for at least four hours).  Add frozen fruit a few hours before serving.  (Optional) Try to cut around the panna cotta and serve on a plate.  This was an epic fail for me, so GOOD LUCK to you and don’t try it if you’re hosting a party.