A holiday dessert doesn’t have to be labor-intensive to be delicious — and if you’re looking for something seasonal to whip up when you’ve only got a limited amount of time available, good news: JELL-O’s No-Bake Candy Cane Cheesecake is returning for the 2018 winter holiday season. Personally, I kind of think “Cheesecake” should be in quotes; there’s no actual cream cheese in the dessert, which is really the defining factor of what makes something a cheesecake. Still, though — the boxed mix does make a tasty, cheesecake-esque treat, and you can’t beat it for ease of access.
Delish confirmed the return of the holiday favorite with a spokesperson for JELL-O earlier this week. The details, however, remain a little hazy: We don’t know exactly where or when it will be available yet; the only info we have to go on right now is the promise that it will hit the shelves of “many national and local retailers” at some point in the near future, according to Delish. It’ll retail for around $3.50 per box, although as with most things, we can probably expect the price to vary a bit based on location.
JELL-O’s No-Bake line dates back much further than you might think — not as far back as JELL-O itself, which was created in the late 1890s, but still quite a while ago: According to Just A Pinch, the No-Bake line originally launched in 1966.
The main selling point was the speed with which the desserts in the line came together; the dessert mix claimed to be able to whip up a cheesecake in just 15 minutes. Of course, like many JELL-O and gelatin-based products, you do have to refrigerate a JELL-O No-Bake Cheesecake for at least an hour before serving it, but, well… hey, at least you don’t have to fire up the oven to make it, right?
The Candy Cane version of JELL-O’s No-Bake Cheesecake, meanwhile, is much more recent; it seems to have first hit the scene sometime around 2013. (That’s when the earliest reviews for the dessert I’ve been able to find are dated.) The box art does look like it’s undergone a bit of a makeover this year, though. Here’s what the older version of the dessert looked like:
And here's one of the images that has emerged of this year’s offering:
The Candy Cane Cheesecake box comes with everything you need to make the dessert except butter and milk (and a pan, of course). All you need to do to throw the thing together is melt a couple of tablespoons of butter, combine it with the Oreo crust mix, and press the mixture into an eight-inch square pan; beat the filling mix together with some milk; spoon the filling on top of the crust and top it with the candy cane sprinkles included; and then refrigerate the whole thing for about an hour. It might help to have a stand or hand mixer available; hypothetically, you could just combine the milk with the filling mix by giving it a really good whisk, but the higher speed of an electric mixer might be necessary in order to get the filling to thicken up.
Here’s what it looks like in action:
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can add a few more ingredients and make yourself not just a candy cane cheesecake, but a candy cane pie: While the cheesecake is chilling, mix together some melted chocolate and Cool Whip; then let the mixture cool. After the cheesecake has firmed up, top it with the chocolate-Cool Whip mixture, and voila — candy cane pie. Or a least, that’s what the instructions of the side of the box call it.
The consensus seems to be that the No-Bake Candy Cane Cheesecake is delightfully minty and not overly sweet, although it’s worth noting that a no-bake cheesecake is never going to give you the same experience as a slice of good, old-fashioned, baked, New York-style cheesecake. Serious Eats’ review of the Strawberry version noted that “more cream cheese flavor and a bit more density” would have been nice, but that overall, the fillings of these kinds of desserts are “airy and creamy,” making them “mostly a success.”
Can’t wait to get a hold of this mix? Good news: No-bake cheesecake recipes abound across the internet — including plenty of candy cane and peppermint-flavored options — and they’re all not that much more difficult than JELL-O’s version. Most of them use heavy cream and cream cheese for the base, although you might also find versions that incorporate Cool Whip directly into the filling.