Shortly after Ronald Reagan became Governor of California in 1967, he began eating pectin jelly beans to help him quit smoking. When a new brand of jelly beans, called Jelly Belly beans, appeared on the market in 1976, Reagan switched to them and would often share them with his staff and visiting officials.
Reagan enjoyed these sweet little treats so much that he sent a letter to the chief executive of the company that produced them, stating, "we can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around the jar of jelly beans." Even after he became president, Reagan's fondness for Jelly Bellies didn't diminish, and large colorful jars of them were often prominently displayed on his desk in the Oval Office, in the Cabinet Room, and even on Air Force One.
When Jelly Bellies first appeared on the market, there were only eight flavors: Very Cherry, Lemon, Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, Root Beer, Grape, and Licorice, which was reportedly President Reagan's favorite.
Today, there are more than 50 official and creatively-named flavors to choose from, including Bubble Gum, Buttered Popcorn, Cappuccino, Caramel Corn, Chili Mango, Chocolate Pudding, Cotton Candy, Green Apple, Kiwi, Juicy Pear, Lemon Drop, Margarita, Orange Sherbet, Piña Colada, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Sizzling Cinnamon, Strawberry Cheesecake, Toasted Marshmallow, Top Banana, Tutti-Fruitti, Very Cherry, Wild Blackberry, and Watermelon.
Of course, jelly beans taste great alone, but they can also be used in cookies, cakes, and in this recipe for Perfect Party Cupcakes from Hello, Cupcake!
4 jumbo cupcakes, baked in blue, red, green and orange paper liners
4 standard cupcakes, baked in blue, red, green and orange paper liners
4 mini cupcakes, baked in blue, red, green and orange paper liners
1 can (16 oz) vanilla frosting
Assorted food coloring
⅓ cup Jelly Belly jelly beans in assorted flavors
Directions: Divide the vanilla frosting into 4 mixing bowls. Tint each bowl different pastel color with the food coloring.
Working on one party cupcake tier at a time, spread tinted frosting on top of cupcakes in like-colored paper liners and make smooth. Using matching jelly bean colors, arrange alternate color Jelly Belly jelly beans around the outer edge of each cupcake, one lengthwise and one crosswise.
Stack the cupcakes, pressing the top cupcake into the frosting to secure. Insert a candle in the top center cupcake if desired. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes and jelly beans.
FOOD FACT: In 1981, three-and-a-half tons of Jelly Belly beans were shipped to Washington, D.C. for Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. Blueberry, one of the most popular flavors today, was developed so there would be patriotic red, white and blue jelly beans at the festivities - and a jelly bean mural of Reagan was even made with these delicious sweet little treats!
FOOD FACT: In addition to the 50 official flavors, the Jelly Belly Company frequently produces "rookie" flavors that are added to the roster if they become popular enough. Some of the more curious flavors that have since been withdrawn from the market include Baked Bean, Bloody Mary, Buttered Toast, and...Roasted Garlic!
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