If the chocolate topping don’t crack and peel off, that there ain’t no Ho-Ho/Yodel/Swiss Roll. A ganache it’s not.
The filling can’t be too heavy. Or too sweet. Or too thick. Or too thin. Or too runny. It’s not custard-like patisserie cream. Not buttercream, either. No way. Plain whipped cream won’t get you where we’re goin’.
The cake has to be chocolately, moist and flavorful, but not too rich. This … is no brownie.
I tried every possible permutation. Sometimes, the simplest things are the hardest to get just right. And if it’s not right … it’s just wrong. There’s no in between.
These are so right. And here’s how it’s done.
The cake is simple enough. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt) with the chocolate mixture (chopped chocolate, butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs and water).
Pour the batter into a (USA Pans) quarter sheet pan (about 9 x 13 inches) greased and lined with wax paper, and shake it to even out the batter. Then smack it on the counter to pop the air bubbles.
Bake for 8 minutes, and check. Bake 2 minutes more if needed for the cake to be just firm to the touch. Turn the cake out immediately (while still hot from the oven) onto a piece of wax paper dusted with confectioner’s sugar and peel back the (now top) layer of wax paper. Slice the cake in half across the width and remove one half to another piece of wax paper, also dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Fold the bottom sheet of wax paper over onto the top of the cake.
Starting at a short side and rolling as tightly as you can, roll away from you.
Place the roll, seam side down, on a wire rack to cool completely. Working quickly, repeat with the remaining half cake.
While the cakes are cooling, whip the cream with some sugar until soft peaks form (like this).
Mix the powdered gelatin with cool water, and then microwave the mixture until it is liquid, like this.
Add the gelatin mixture to the whipped cream, and blend until thickened, like this.
Carefully unroll one cooled cake, and remove any wax paper adhered to the top. As you unroll the cake, it will remember where it was and stay kinda bendy, but it will crack, almost for sure. It’s really okay. Some of mine cracked. I just took photos of the prettiest ones. That’s part of the Food Blogger Creed. Don’t think that all mine were perfect — but they sure looked pretty by the end…
Spread the cream filling with a small offset spatula in an even layer about 1/4 inch thick. You won’t use all the filling. That’s not really a big problem, when you think about it. Roll ’em back up, and cover the whole roll tightly with plastic wrap. Repeat with the other cake, and place both in the refrigerator to chill.
Melt the simple chocolate topping.
Then dip in the chocolate topping, and allow it to harden. Kinda like Magic Shell (remember that stuff?).
- 1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose gluten-free flour (I use Better Batter)
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if using Better Batter)
- 1 tablespoon (5 grams) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- dash (1/8 teaspoon) kosher salt
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (divided)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 extra-large eggs, beaten
- 6 tablespoons warm water (plus more, if necessary)
- 1 packet (1 scant tablespoon) unflavored powdered gelatin
- 1/4 cup cool water
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting
- 3 tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
- Grease a quarter sheet pan well with unsalted butter. Line with a sheet a wax paper, and grease the paper with unsalted butter, and set the pan aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium-sized bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, and whisk to combine well.
- In a separate large, microwave-safe bowl, place 3 ounces of chopped chocolate and the butter. Microwave on 50% power for 45 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Allow to cool briefly. Add the granulated sugar and vanilla, and mix well. Add the eggs and water, and mix until well-combined. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture (see photo), and mix until well-combined. The batter should be pourable. If it seems too thick, thin it with another tablespoon or two of water.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and shake from side to side and back and forth to distribute the batter evenly in the pan. Smack the bottom of the pan against the counter to burst the air bubbles, and place it in the center of the preheated oven.
- Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cake is just set and is firm to the touch. Check at 8 minutes, and watch carefully.
- While the cake is in the oven, place two large pieces of wax paper (or 2 tea towels) flat on the counter side by side and sprinkle both generously with powdered sugar. As soon as the cake is removed from the oven (before it has had a chance to cool at all), turn it out onto one sheet of wax paper (or one tea towel) and remove the pan. Carefully pull back what is now the top layer of wax paper and discard it. Cut the cake in half width-wise (see photo). Remove one half of the cake to the other sheet of wax paper.
- Working quickly, dust the top of one half cake with more powdered sugar, and, starting at a short end, begin to roll the cake away from you as tightly as possible (see photo). Gently squeeze the cake with your hands to secure it as rolled. Place the roll, seam side down, still wrapped in wax paper on a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining half cake.
- While the cakes are cooling, make the filling. In a small microwave safe bowl, place the contents of the packet of powdered gelatin and the 1/4 cup water, and mix to combine. Allow to sit for a few moments until the gelatin swells. It will be lumpy. Microwave the gelatin mixture for 30 seconds, stir (see photo) and set it aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream and 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar on high until soft peaks form (see photo). add the slightly cooled gelatin mixture, and whisk again on high until the mixture has thickened (see photo again). Place the filling in the refrigerator to chill while the cakes finish cooling.
- Once the cakes have cooled completely, gently unroll one cake and peel back any wax paper that has adhered to the top of the cake. The cake will almost certainly have cracked in various places, and it’s fine. Spread an even layer of filling about 1/4 inch thick over the entire surface of the cake, spreading it more thinly as you reach the edges. Reroll the cake tightly, and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining cake. Place both rolls in the refrigerator to chill. You will have left over filling — not a particularly troubling problem.
- While waiting for the rolls to chill, make the chocolate topping. In a medium-sized microwave safe bowl, place the remaining 5 ounces of chopped chocolate and the 3 tablespoons of shortening. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat for 45 seconds at 50% power. Stir the mixture, and heat again for 45 seconds at 50% power. Stir and repeat if necessary until all the chocolate is melted and smooth.
- Remove one chocolate roll from the refrigerator and unwrap and discard the plastic wrap. With a very sharp knife, slice the roll into four equal pieces by cross-section. Dip the tops and sides of each roll in the melted chocolate mixture, and place each roll on clean parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining chocolate roll from the refrigerator. Allow the rolls to sit until the chocolate sets – either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. The chocolate coating will seal the rolls, and they will last at least at least a day or so on the counter, or a few days in the refrigerator.
This recipe can be easily doubled. For all the trouble, if I were you — I’d double it. Just be sure to divide the cake batter between two quarter sheet pans and bake each separately in the oven (to ensure even baking). If you try to bake the whole cake in a larger, half sheet pan (and I speak here from very recent and unsettling personal experience), it will be too difficult to handle effectively. Trust me. If you double the batter, you won’t need to double the filling, but you will need to double the topping.
These are a bit of trouble, but not too much and they are entirely worth it. They’re as good as you remember – and even better still.
P.S. If you haven’t yet, please pick up a copy of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy! Without your support, I can’t keep the blog going!