Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chocolate Roll Cake

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Did your mother put dessert in your lunchbag? One day a week? What, never? Yeah, me neither. NEVER. I'm totally over it though. Any resemblance to a jolly treat from other kids' lunches is coincidental. Of course.
Actually, I don't put these in my kids' lunches, either. Hello, someone might see me buying them! I gotta protect my rep, so I make jelly roll cakes. People are always impressed with these roll-ups, which are just a little bit more trouble than a plain old 2-layer stack and frost. In the days before electric mixers, non-stick pans and parchment paper, they must have required some skill. But all you really need now is to have your ingredients prepped and actually follow the directions (note to self), since the instructions are a bit fiddly.

Traditional jelly rolls are made with an airy, eggy sponge cake called a genoise. The dry texture appeals to me because I grew up with it. (Mmmmm, tastes like Passover.) But if you like a moist and tender cake, by all means, just use your regular recipe. The Hershey's chocolate recipe always works, and so would Betty Crocker.

6 eggs
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar

8 tablespoons softened butter
3/4 cup marshmallow fluff
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk

Heat your oven to 350 (convection 325) and line a jelly-roll (11"x16") pan with parchment paper. Put a couple of inches of water into a pot over a low burner.

Sift 2/3 cups flour, 1/3 cups cocoa powder, 1/4 teaspoon table salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional) into a small bowl.

In another small bowl, measure out 6 teaspoons of oil.

In your large mixer bowl, put six eggs and 3/4 cup sugar. If you have something better to do than wash dishes, just use the whisk attachment from your mixer to whip the eggs and sugar over the steaming water. This won't take long - you just want to get them warm and dissolve the sugar.

The eggs should be just a little foamy when you put them on the mixer to whip up. After about three minutes on high, add the vanilla extract and beat for about three minutes more until the egg mixture has tripled in volume and has the texture of softly whipped cream.

Sift about a third of the dry ingredients over the eggs and fold them in, repeating until you have combined them completely. Remember to be fairly gentle, since you're trying not to pop the millions of little eggy bubbles that give the cake it's structure.

Use your spatula to glop about a cup of the batter into the oil and stir it together. No need to be gentle here, since you are just trying to lighten the oil with enough batter that you can add it back without weighing down the whole cake.
Precisely this much
Fold this back into the mixer bowl and spread the batter on your parchment. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is dry and springy. Cool on the counter for several minutes. Dust the top of the cake with a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar.

Spread a large, clean dish towel over the top and invert the pan so that the cake is sugar-side down on the counter. Peel off the parchment.
Roll the cake up in the towel, put in a plastic bag, and refrigerate until you're ready to frost it.

I wish that Marshmallow Fluff didn't make the best vanilla frosting. Believe me, I am just the kind of person to say, "Yuck! Who buys that stuff?" But marshmallows are just sugar and egg whites heated and beaten. You know how you make fancy Swiss and Italian meringue buttercream frostings? You heat egg whites and sugar and beat the hell out of them for about half an hour. So ...

While you are beating the stick of butter, spray the measuring cup with oil before you put any fluff in it. Add the fluff to the butter, and beat on high for another minute before adding the sugar and vanilla. Beat these until fully incorporated, and then add the milk in a tablespoon at a time until you get the frosting smooth and fluffy. This whole operation should take less than five minutes, which is why I got over myself and started buying fluff.

Spread the frosting over the unrolled cake, roll it up, and put it on a platter in the fridge for a while to firm up. You will probably have to slice off the ends to expose the swirl of filling. And to do a little quality control ... winkwink. You can dust the top with powdered sugar or cocoa powder before serving. Feel free to refrigerate this for a couple of days, just slice it with a serrated knife to prevent squishing it.

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