Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 103 - Jelly Roll

Sunday was Gay Pride Day, and not being a lover of crowds, I was planning to sidestep the celebration by enjoying the afternoon with FNBF in the new High Line park. Unfortunately, the High Line was closed for the day (fear of 12 jillion partying GLBT'ers crashing through the gates, no doubt). Plan B involved walking along the Hudson to our dinner destination, Spunto, a restaurant in the West Village, however en route, we inadvertently got swept into the eye of the "storm." After a torturous, yet proud, half hour spent crossing the parade at Seventh Avenue and Christopher, we slipped into a booth at Spunto and tucked into a delicious pizza and other assorted goodies, and then leisurely walked through the detritus of the parade back to my place, where I did what any self-respecting gay man does to celebrate the end of Pride Day: I made Martha's Jelly Roll.

Jelly Roll (p. 464)

Génoise is a new word for me. It's a fancy French term for sponge cake. The only cake that's less interesting to me than yellow cake? Sponge cake. Also, Angel Food Cake (yikes, I have to make that, too!). Ho hum. But then I remind myself, this project isn't about making only what I like. It's about trying everything and learning everything, and this was definitely a learning experience. So bring it on!

The batter for this cake is very HM (High Maintenance). It either has to be sifted 800 times, or melted then brought to room temperature, or heated indirectly until warm, or whipped to soft peaks, and then folded ever-so-gently.... I practically had a heart attack making this.

Some of the weird steps along the way:

Folding the flour mixture into the whipped eggs was really tricky! I knew that folding means "be gentle," but the flour was being so ornery! It was beading, almost like oil against water, as if it had been Scotch-Guarded! I kept thinking it was incorporated, and then I'd fold over a huge colony of dry flour beads! And this happened several times! I knew that over-folding was a no-no, so eventually, I just moved on to the butter stage. Here too, the butter was a little reluctant to be incorporated. But by the time I called it finished, I was pretty clear it was really done. And I don't think I pushed the batter too far.

I saw the instruction in the recipe to spread the batter into the pan with an offset spatula, but I didn't really get it until I actually poured the batter into the pan. Usually, you can give the pan a shake, and the batter will level itself out. But this batter is so thick, it really has to be pushed around and molded. It's really quite an unusual texture....

The cake cooked perfectly! Golden brown and springy, just like Martha said!!

I love the part where you roll it in a towel and let it cool rolled up, to teach it its shape. I felt like I was teaching my little cake-baby the facts of life.

The only part that went a little badly was the filling/rerolling. Once the cake was cooled, I unrolled it and slathered it with my homemade peach jam. I think my jam might have been a bad match for this, consistency-wise... too chunky/runny. The chunks kept it from spreading well, and the runny parts made the sponge cake a little soggy. The whipped cream went on fine, though.

Next came the rerolling. As I rolled the jelly roll, the whipped cream was being squeezed out, and when I finished rolling it, there was a big, blobby line of whipped cream across the roll, which had to be removed to "close the seam." I know it would have been better to keep that cream inside, but I'm not sure how I could have made that happen. It would probably have something to do with rerolling it more loosely....

The cake set nicely and I served it with a generous sprinkling of confectioner's sugar.

I thought it tasted just OK, but FNBF was more emphatic about it than that. Maybe some people really go for this kind of cake, because Ryan and Judith were over today and ate it very happily.

In any case, I'm glad to have learned how to make it. Next, I'll make something I'm excited about. :-)

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Until we eat again....

In case you can't find the Jelly Roll, "Carol Merrill" is pointing to it.


  1. I made Martha's jellyroll too - I'd never had one. It was really good. The thing with the towel is quite weird, I agree, but you cannot argue with the results on this one. I made a chocolate one and it was truly fab.

  2. Mmmm, the chocolate one, I'm actually looking forward to. I have to repeat, even though I wasn't so into the Jelly Roll, people have been oohing and aahing like crazy, everyone I've served it to, so I'm sure it's just me and my aversion to yellow cake. :-) Did you make the chocolate one from the Cooking School book, or did you find one in one of the magazines or online? (I have to check out your exploits. I'm so behind!!)

  3. The apricot or raspberry varieties are actually very similar to a traditional Austrian dessert.

  4. Agreed. This definitely seemed like a very refined, European, fanh-fanh special. :-)