I love to bake, especially cakes. It is my go-to dessert to make for company, special occasions, holidays, or to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Cakes fall into two major groups; foam cakes, which contain little or no fat (angel food, sponge, meringue, chiffon) and shortened cakes which contain fat (butter and pound). My list of favorite cakes is a mile long. However, our traditional, special cake for the holiday season is a pumpkin roll. This particular cake is a light, moist sponge cake that is filled with delicious cream cheese filling and then rolled up like a jellyroll. The exterior is dusted with powdered sugar and then the cake is cut into spiral slices that resemble pinwheels. The smell of pumpkin and spices as it bakes is one of those warm, cozy aromas that reminds me of festive times shared with family and friends.
To make a cake roll you follow the basic rules for all sponge cakes; eggs and sugar beaten until thick and fluffy after which the rest of the ingredients are added. Instead of baking the batter in a round cake pan, it is spread into a shallow rectangular jellyroll pan.
The biggest problem people seem to have with a sponge cake roll is cracking. This can be prevented by rolling the cake in a clean towel immediately after removing it from the oven and pan. I’m not sure what takes place as it cools (steam maybe?) in the towel to make it pliable . . . all I know is that after doing so, it can be easily unrolled, filled and rerolled with little cracking. This cake can be served immediately, but chilling it for a few hours or overnight sets the filling and makes it easier to slice. Dust it with powdered sugar just before serving otherwise the sugar soaks into the cake. Making the roll sounds harder than it is. Don’t let the preparation and towel process scare you . . . it really is easy to put together and is impressive looking.
Lisa, my sister in law, always has a chocolate cake roll with chocolate filling/frosting as her birthday cake. Actually, she calls it a “Lincoln Log” cake because of the appearance. It is rolled up jellyroll style with chocolate filling/frosting on the inside and outside. The exterior of the cake is then made to resemble the bark on a tree, which is done by dragging the tines of a fork along the outside. This cake is delicious and Lisa claims it to be a prize winner!
Cake rolls are not just holiday fare they can be served year round. They freeze well and don’t take long to defrost. During the holidays, I keep several cake rolls in the freezer for a spur-of-the-moment dessert.
They are especially nice to give as gifts as everyone seems to love them. The cake, filling and frosting combinations for cake rolls are endless. Let your favorite flavors be your guide and your imagination “roll” so to speak! The pumpkin roll is the recipe for this week.
Diann Greene, whose column appears weekly in Accent, can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.