Chinese Swiss Roll

sliced swiss roll

Sometime last year, I thought it would be fun to make a Swiss roll. Even though my family didn’t eat much cake when I was growing up, we did all enjoy these roulade cakes from the local Asian supermarket — usually plain, but also coffee or chocolate flavored. If you’ve never had one before, Swiss rolls are a light and fluffy sponge cake usually rolled up with whipped cream. They are a nice, not-too-sweet dessert that pairs well with coffee or tea.

Anyways, my first Swiss roll attempt was a flop. The cake broke when I flipped it out of the pan. It tasted ok, though the bake was a bit uneven (probably because I didn’t rotate the pan and slightly underbaked it). I didn’t try again until last week, when I was looking for a recipe to use up some whipping cream from my last cake.

Second attempt: also a fail. The cake made it out of the pan in one piece, but it stuck to the paper and broke when I tried to roll it.

At this point, it became less about actually wanting to eat Swiss roll and more about wanting to BEAT MY NEMESIS. I read a bunch of Swiss roll recipes and tips and decided to try a different baking method. I was really careful about measuring out all the ingredients ahead of time and prepping the various baking utensils and surfaces. And…success! The cake came out in one piece and actually resembled a roll when all was said and done. I tried again a couple days later just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and it worked again! Very exciting.

untrimmed swiss roll

Some things I learned:

  • Measure out all your ingredients ahead of time and read the instructions through to the end a few times. The batter isn’t hard to put together, but it does require you to move quickly so your batter doesn’t collapse.
  • I highly recommend weighing your ingredients for best results.
  • Watch the cake carefully at the end, checking every 30 seconds or so when it’s near the end. Because it’s so thin, it can go from underdone to overdone just like that. That being said, make sure the cake is completely done before you take it out our you’ll end up with gross mushy cake.
  • I’ve tried to explain the rolling process below, but it’s easier to watch it. This video from Fine Cooking is helpful.

uncut swiss roll

Chinese Swiss Roll

Serves 8

Ingredients

Batter A

  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 85g / 1/3 c milk, at room temperature
  • 55g / 1/4 c neutral oil
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g / 1 c cake flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Batter B

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar

Other

  • 1-2 tbsp icing sugar

Filling & Garnish

  • 1/2 c whipping cream
  • 3-4 tsp caster sugar or to taste
  • Icing sugar, optional garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line a 13″ x 9″ inch baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Batter A:

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, caster sugar and salt into a thick batter. Pour in milk and mix well. Pour in oil and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Sift in cake flour and baking powder into the batter and stir slowly into a thick batter. Do not overmix.

Batter B:

  • In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until foamy. Slowly add in the caster sugar and beat to stiff peaks.

Combine:

  1. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk batter. When they are almost combined, add another 1/3 of the whites. When almost combined, add the final 1/3. Fold gently, but thoroughly. When you are finished, the batter should be a uniform color with no streaks of white remaining.
  2. Immediately pour batter into prepared oven and spread evenly with a knife. drop the tin on the counter several times to pop and large air bubbles. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-17 minutes, rotating pan once after 10 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
  3. While the cake is baking, prepare a clean linen tea towel (larger than the cake) and measure out some icing sugar.
  4. As soon as the cake is done, run a knife around the edges. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Sift the icing sugar over the top of the cake. Spread the tea towel over the cake, and place a large sheet pan or cutting board on top of the tea towel. Invert the cake onto the towel. Gently remove the parchment paper. Starting on a short end, gently but tightly roll the cake up with the towel inside. Allow cake to cool completely inside the towel.
  5. When the cake is cool, beat the whipping cream and sugar to taste to stiff peaks. Gently unroll the cake and remove the towel. On one short end of the cake (whichever looks more curled), use a sharp knife to score three parallel lines about 1/2 a centimeter apart (this will help the rolling process). Spread the cream evenly over the cake, leaving about an inch around the edges so the filling doesn’t seep out. Starting from the scored end, gently roll the cake back up. Transfer seam side down to a serving plate, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

To serve

  • Slice the ends off the cake and dust with additional icing sugar if desired.

Another Chocolate Cake

full
This past Valentine’s Day, I asked David what kind of cake he wanted. He told me, “I like that chocolate raspberry one.” I like that one too, but was also itching to try some new recipes. So I made another chocolate raspberry cake, this time with Swiss meringue buttercream (more on that later), espresso ganache, and more of that raspberry sauce from the original cake, because it’s just that good.

I never baked layer cakes until last year. My family wasn’t really into cake (often we’d just turn a carton of ice cream into birthday “cake” by decorating it with candy and sprinkles), so there wasn’t much reason to learn. While I think I’m still more of a pie person in general, I’ve started to find real enjoyment in making layer cakes. In a weird way it reminds me of planning a themed concert, which was one of my favorite parts of running a chamber music collective. We’d start out with a theme, and then try to think of different ways of representing that theme. Contrast was important, but all the components still had to make sense together. Other considerations included timing, instrumentalists available, and audience.

With layer cakes, you choose a general cake flavor, then the contrasting / complimenting ones. You have to plan when to make each component so that that everything will be ready at the same time. In my very limited experience, I’ve learned that it’s a 3 day process for me — bake the cake layers first so they can chill/freeze, then make all the components (frosting, filling, glazes etc.), and finally assemble everything and decorate. I’m sure it could be done in a single day, but I usually don’t have that much uninterrupted time; plus, it keeps me from burning out and getting lazy (which is when I tend to forget / drop things).

Anyways, if you got through all that cheesy analogy stuff, wow — thanks. You’re probably a good friend of mine or a family member, ha. So about this cake…

I’d been wanting to bake this particular chocolate cake for awhile as I’ve seen it raved about on The Vanilla Bean Blog, Hummingbird High, and a few other baking blogs. Also, it has coffee, which is never a bad thing in my book.

The consensus: this cake is a keeper. It’s moist and not too sweet, with a beautiful dark color from the cocoa + coffee combo and a rich chocolatey flavor. The other cake has a finer crumb and a nice buttery mouth feel, but this one is more moist. Let’s just say I’d make both of them again.
chocodrips

Buttercream: frosting is my least favorite part of cake (unless it’s cream cheese frosting) because it’s often so cloyingly sweet. So, I wanted to try making Swiss meringue buttercream, because it seems to be the preferred frosting for a lot of pro bakers — main reasons being it’s easy to work with and not too sweet. However, it’s also a bit finicky to make because you have to dissolve the sugar in the egg whites and make sure all the ingredients are the right temperature before combining everything. There are lots of articles about “how to fix buttercream” and “why your buttercream broke” etc. etc., so I knew I was in for a bit of a challenge.

Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of fun making this buttercream. I don’t own a stand mixer, so it took a LOOOOOOONG time to beat the egg white mixture with my handheld until it was cool enough to add the butter. I also made it the night before decorating (because that was when el bebe was asleep for the night and I’ve learned not to attempt lenghty-ish processes during the day), so I had to re-beat it the next day anyways. I found it difficult to keep at a good temperature for decorating because our kitchen was a smidge warm, plus I did get interrupted a few times by the infant child. So I had to keep refrigerating and re-beating and it got a little annoying. In the end it turned out ok — it was much less sweet than American buttercream. There are a ton of recipes out there, so next time I might try one with a higher proportion of egg whites to butter because I’d like to get it even lighter and silkier. Also, I’d probably borrow a stand mixer. And make it the day of decorating. Basically I need more practice and experimentation.

Ganache/Glaze: SO GOOD, and so easy. I had to freeze the leftovers so I wouldn’t eat it all with a spoon. I basically let it sit while I wrestled with the buttercream. Definitely not high maintenance. If I ever feel like making truffles, I’d fill them with this ganache.

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Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream and Espresso Ganache

Makes one 2-layer, 8-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (200g) cake flour
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (69g) good cocoa powder (I used dutch processed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken (I substituted 1T vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I used dark roast)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 8×2 inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pans.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. With a mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans (it will be very liquidy) and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely, removing parchment paper. Note: these cakes are quite delicate, so I recommend refrigerating and then freezing the layers overnight before decorating so they will be easier to handle.

Buttercream

Use your favorite vanilla buttercream (this is a good start) with a few spoonfuls of raspberry sauce and/or food coloring to get your desired shade of pink.

Espresso Ganache / Glaze

Makes one cup

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 3/4 -inch pieces
  • 3/4 c (6 oz) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Method

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until bubbles appear around the edge; remove from the heat (this can also be done in the microwave). Add the espresso powder and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for several minutes. Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. Let the ganache stand at room temperature until firm enough to spread.

Raspberry Sauce

Make one portion of the recipe here.

To Assemble

  1. Allow cake rounds to chill completely. Level if necessary.
  2. Set one layer on a cake round or platter and spread with a layer of ganache (you can be fairly generous, though reserve at least 1/3 cup or so if you want to glaze the top and sides), topped with a layer of raspberry sauce (leave a thin border around the edge so your fillings don’t seep out from the weight of the top layer).
  3. Set the other layer on top; spread a thin layer of buttercream over the top and sides. Chill for at least half an hour before spreading a heavier layer of frosting over the entire cake.
  4. Chill again for at least half an hour before adding ganache drips along the sides and spreading it over the top (you will need to gently heat the ganache to get it to a glaze consistency — this was about 20 seconds in the microwave for me). Style Sweet CA has a great tutorial on drippy cakes.
  5. Garnish as desired (I used fresh raspberries, cocoa nibs, and crushed pistachios). Chill if not serving right away, but serve at room temperature with plenty of raspberry sauce. Cake keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.

Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

carrot cake yayDavid and I are celebrating our second anniversary today — yay! As part of the celebration, I thought it’d be fun to make carrot cake, which was the top tier of our wedding cake. I’d actually never made carrot cake before, despite it being one of my favorite types. But I knew exactly what I wanted — moist but not too oily, tons of carrots, nuts and raisins but no pineapple or coconut, and — of course — delicious cream cheese frosting.

For the cake, I reviewed dozens of recipes before settling on the Flour Bakery one as my starting point. For the frosting, I went with the recipe used on our original wedding cake — a white chocolate cream cheese concoction from The Cake Bible. White chocolate may sound like a strange match for a carrot cake, but it really works nicely — the chocolate lends a rounder, richer flavor compared to just plain icing sugar; and a touch of lemon juice provides the perfect tang. This frosting is definitely decadent — I frosted the cake conservatively (with about half a cup left over), and that was rich enough for my taste.

carrot cake side

carrot cake single

Carrot Cake

Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang | Makes one 2-layer, 8-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (360g) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) canola oil
  • 3 tbsp buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (70g) Greek yogurt, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups (320g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups (520g) grated carrot, tightly packed (about 4 medium)
  • 1 cup (160g) raisins, soaked for at least 1 hour in boiling water and drained
  • 1 cup (100g) toasted walnuts, chopped (100g)

Method

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 8-inch cake pan and line the bottoms with parchment paper; then lightly grease parchment.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the eggs and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3โ€“4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and thick. (This step will take 8โ€“10 minutes if using a handheld mixer.) In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. On low speed, slowly pour the oil mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. This should take about 30 seconds.
  3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. When most of the flour mixture has been incorporated, add the carrots, raisins, and walnuts and continue to fold until the batter is homogeneous. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
  4. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool completely in the pans on a wire rack. Refrigerate or freeze cake rounds until ready to frost.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from The Cake Bible | Makes enough to frost one 8-inch, 2 layer cake

  • 9 ounces (255 grams) good-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (23 grams) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Method

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between. When the chocolate is almost all melted, allow the residual heat to complete the melting. Cool to room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in the lemon juice and melted chocolate. Use immediately to frost cakes (can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks ahead; bring to room temperature before using).

To Assemble

Allow cake rounds to chill completely. Level if necessary. Set one layer on a cake round or platter and spread with a thin layer of frosting (about 1/2 – 3/4 cup). Set the other layer on top; spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides. Chill for at least half an hour before spreading a heavier layer of frosting over the entire cake. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Cake keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.