Consider the lemon. A humble fruit that cannot be eaten out-of-hand, it often resorts to playing wingman to other flavors in cooking: lemon chicken, lemon hummus, lemon-white wine sauce. In the pastry world however, lemon gets its chance to shine: lemon meringue pie, lemon bars, lemon pound cake, and in this Light & Lemony Jelly Roll with Raspberry Cream Filling, among so many other baked goods. I had never made a jelly roll cake before, and although it wasn’t a standout recipe from Baked Occasions for me, I was happy to try something new for Baked Sunday Mornings, plus it’s a perfect dessert to celebrate the Vernal Equinox. (We’ve pretty much given up on any trace of winter in California… Could someone please send some water from the record Boston snowfall?)
This spiral cake consists of a spongy lemon sheet cake rolled up around a raspberry whipped cream filling. I’ve had a lot of re-dos in 2015 so far, but surprisingly, nothing went terribly wrong here– the hardest part was rolling up the cake. In order to roll a cake, it must be very pliable, and if you think about tender layer cakes, they are delicate and crumbly; such a cake would completely fall apart if you tried to roll it up. (And then you’d have to eat your mistake, so it isn’t all bad…) I noticed a curious thing when reading over the recipe: it has *zero* butter or oil in the ingredient list! I had to look at it about 5 times to make sure I was reading it right, but sure enough, this cake is almost fat-free. I don’t know the detailed chemistry behind it, though I presume this is responsible for the unusual texture and gymnastic flexibility of this cake. And yes, in case you were wondering, I’m perfectly fine telling myself that this cake is healthy. Let’s be delusional together. 😀
You’ll start by beating the egg yolks with sugar for 5-6 minutes, until the mixture is thick, pale, and ribbony, then add the lemon zest (from five —five!— lemons) and lemon extract.
Set this aside while you make a glossy, uncooked meringue by whipping egg whites with cream of tartar, salt, and sugar to firm peaks. (Incidentally, I could’ve just played with this gorgeous meringue and my spatula for a while– so smooth and pretty!)
I then folded the meringue into the egg yolk mixture in three additions, alternating with sifted flour and baking powder. You can see it get lighter in color and texture each time.
The batter was then ready to spread into the sheet pan. Be very gentle with this step, as the batter’s airy texture is due to the “lift” it gets from the egg whites, so you don’t want to deflate them with a heavy hand. Bake the cake for about 5-8 minutes– mine took the full 8 minutes. I was a little unsure because it didn’t seem quite set, but I didn’t want to risk overcooking it. If the cake is pulling away from the pan edges, you should be okay.
The next step is to cover the sheet cake with damp paper towels and let it cool like this for 10 minutes. (I presume this also helps in keeping the cake pliable.) Once you remove the paper towels, sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake, place a tea towel directly on top (I used a regular kitchen towel), then gently place another sheet pan right-side up on top of the towel. Flip the whole thing over carefully so that the cake now rests on the towel on top of the upside-down second sheet pan. Remove the sheet pan in which the cake was baked (now upside-down on the very top of your stack), and remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Sift another dose of confectioners’ sugar over the cake and trim about ¼-inch of cake from the edges all the way around.
Now you’ll do the first of two roll-ups. It felt awkward at first, but worked out just fine. Using the towel, slowly and carefully roll up the cake from one of the short sides, rolling the towel up with it. Let it cool like this while you make the filling.
I would actually recommend making the raspberry purée before starting the cake– it takes a while to push the raspberries through the sieve, and I was worried about the cake being rolled up too long and sticking to the towel, but it wasn’t a big deal ultimately. (It did stick, but I don’t know if it was due to this.)
After processing the raspberries into a purée (minus ¼ cup which you’ll slice in half and set aside), strain out the seeds in a fine-mesh sieve– I love the bright color of the strained raspberry juice! You’ll fold this into heavy cream whipped with confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and Chambord. Leave some brighter pink streaks because they’re pretty!
Now you’ll carefully unroll the cake, which was not too difficult. I then spread the raspberry cream and sprinkled the reserved sliced raspberries on top– it seemed like there was an awful lot of filling. Where it got tricky was in rolling up the cake around the filling. You’ll want a tight spiral ideally, but this was very awkward to achieve because the cake was stuck to the towel fairly stubbornly– if I’d had a third hand to hold down the towel while rolling, it would’ve been no problem! My roll was not as tight as I had hoped, and a lot of the filling squeezed out in the process, but the cake still had a recognizable “roll” shape, so I let it be rather trying to disassemble and re-do it. I’d reduce the filling amount by ⅓ next time.
I ever-so-gently transferred the cake to a long serving platter and let it set in the fridge for an hour or so before dusting with a final coat of confectioners’ sugar. When it was ready to cut, I got to examine the cake’s texture a little more carefully (i.e. nerd-style). I had noticed when trimming the edges earlier that the cake was rather spongy and hard to cut through, and the scraps were quite chewy. I had hoped that it would soften a bit once combined with the filling, which it did, though you can still see the big, spongy bubbles in the cake crumb!
I found the cake enjoyable, but it didn’t blow me away. (But then, most things without a) chocolate, b) caramel, or c) butter rarely do.) That chewy cake texture is a little odd, and I felt that the filling needed more sugar. The recipe calls for 1-2 tablespoons of Chambord, and I tend to go conservative with booze in my baked goods, but I would use the full 2 tablespoons if I were to make this again. Even though lemon is the star flavor, I liked the filling more than the cake. I think this would be very successful with strawberries or blackberries as well, by the well. Despite these minor critiques, it all comes together nicely– the cake is very pleasant and bright. My tasters loved it, so I think people who favor fruity desserts would most likely find this delightful. One more thing: Because of that cake texture that I keep talking about, it’s a hard cake to cut without mangling the jelly roll; use a sharp knife and a very gentle sawing motion to cut thick slices.
If you wish to usher in Spring with this Light & Lemony Jelly Roll with Raspberry Cream Filling, visit Baked Sunday Mornings for the recipe. Be sure to check out my fellow bloggers’ creations too! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2015.