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On a Roll: A Great Old-Fashioned Cake

Nearly everybody agrees that home-baked cakes make just the right ending for a festive meal. So I am always surprised that the rolled cake has pretty much disappeared. Typically made of sponge cake spread with jam or jelly, the jellyroll was popular from the mid-1800s until well into this century, but we have apparently abandoned it in favor of richer, more sophisticated desserts.

It’s a shame. The rolled construction makes for a moist, flavorful and decorative cake, easy to serve in small portions--you can slice it as thin as you want without the usual cake problem of too much plain cake in proportion to the frosting. Although the roll may not be low in calories, it always seems light--a perfect rationale for those who want to pretend that there’s only bliss in every bite.

The basic formula is easy to vary. Once the thin cake is baked (in a jellyroll pan, of course) and cooled, it is spread with fillings that can be lean or rich: sliced fruit, nonfat yogurt or sherbet, or alternatively whipped cream or a citrus curd. The taste experience is always heightened because the cake is in contact with filling over its entire surface.

The rolled cakes that follow will bring any meal to a festive, albeit old-fashioned, conclusion. Gingerbread Genoise Roll With Banana-Brickle Cream is a delectable surprise, offering a combination of popular flavors that complement one another. The espresso angel cake roll wraps around a coffee-flavored whipped cream mixed with toasted walnuts. A sauce of pureed frozen raspberries, hot caramel or hot fudge makes it a centerpiece dessert.

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And if a low-fat dessert is your goal, just fill the angel roll with a nonfat coffee yogurt or a raspberry sherbet instead. You’ll have your cake . . . and be able to eat it too.

Gingerbread spices, toffee bits, banana, cream and caramel sauce all work together to create a most delicious cake roll dessert. A genoise is similar to a spongecake, but somewhat more moist and finely textured.

GINGERBREAD GENOISE ROLL WITH BANANA-BRICKLE CREAM

3 eggs

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2 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons minced candied ginger

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1 1/2 tablespoons molasses

1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup cake flour

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1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups whipping cream, chilled

2 teaspoons dark rum or vanilla

1 large banana, sliced paper-thin

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1 cup toffee bits, such as Bits o’ Brickle

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Bottled caramel sauce, heated

Place rack in center of oven. Line 15 1/2x10 1/2-inch jellyroll pan with foil, leaving 2-inch overhang. Fold overhangs around ends of pan. Grease and flour foil. Tap out excess flour. Set aside.

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Combine eggs, egg yolks and sugar in mixing bowl. Place over pan of hot water and whisk until lukewarm. Remove bowl from water. Use mixer at medium speed to whip egg mixture until cool and increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla, candied ginger, molasses, cinnamon and pepper. Mix until well combined and very thick.

Sift together flour and salt and fold into batter. Pour batter into center of prepared pan, then spread evenly.

Bake at 450 degrees until wood pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 5 minutes. Place pan on cooling rack. Use small knife to release any part of cake sticking to sides of foil.

Cover cake with baking sheet and invert. Remove jellyroll pan. Peel off foil carefully to avoid tearing cake. Place clean sheet of foil on cake with large wire rack over top. Invert so cake is right side up. Remove rack. Starting at short end, use foil to roll cake gently but as compactly as possible. Cool cake completely.

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Whip cream until thick. Mix in rum or vanilla. To fill, unroll cake and arrange banana slices evenly in single layer. Spread cream over slices, leaving 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle brickle evenly over cream. Use foil to reroll cake gently and as compactly as possible. Wrap airtight. Chill at least 4 hours, no more than 8 hours.

To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar pressed through fine sieve. Pass sauce separately. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

It’s rare that an angel cake batter is used as a rolled cake, but it has the perfect texture and versatility for just that purpose. Here, an espresso-flavored whipped cream mixed with toasted walnuts is used to reinforce the mellow coffee flavor. A sauce of hot fudge or dark caramel as well as pureed raspberries would not be an excess. Chocolate, vanilla or raspberry ice cream or yogurt would be other options for fillings; just freeze the roll until ready to serve.

ESPRESSO ANGEL CAKE ROLL WITH WALNUT-ESPRESSO CREAM

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3/4 cup superfine sugar

6 tablespoons cake flour

1 cup egg whites

3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

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1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons instant expresso powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

Walnut-Espresso Cream

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2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Bottled hot fudge or caramel sauce, heated, or chilled raspberry sauce

Place rack in center of oven. Line 15 1/2x10 1/2-inch jellyroll pan with foil, leaving 2-inch overhang. Fold overhangs around ends of pan. Set aside.

Divide superfine sugar in half. Sift 1 half 3 times. Set aside. Sift remaining half of sugar with flour 3 times. Set aside.

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Place egg whites in mixer bowl. Beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt. Increase speed to medium. Add superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at time, beating well after each addition. Beat until egg whites hold shape but are still shiny and moist.

Stir coffee and vanilla until smooth. Add to egg whites. Beat to combine. Gently but thoroughly fold in flour mixture. Pour batter into center of prepared pan, then spread evenly.

Bake at 375 degrees until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 12 minutes. Place pan on cooling rack. Use small knife to release any part of cake sticking to sides of foil.

Cover cake with baking sheet and invert. Remove jellyroll pan. Peel off foil carefully to avoid tearing cake. Place clean sheet of foil on cake with large wire rack over top. Invert so cake is right side up. Remove rack. Starting at short end, use foil to roll cake gently but as compactly as possible. Cool cake completely.

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To fill, unroll cake and spread with Walnut-Espresso Cream, leaving 1/4-inch border. Starting at short end, use foil to roll cake gently but as compactly as possible. Wrap securely. Chill at least 2 hours, no more than 8 hours, for optimum taste and texture.

To serve, sprinkle roll with powdered sugar, pressing through fine sieve. Use serrated knife to cut cake into diagonal slices. Pass choice of sauce separately. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Walnut-Espresso Cream

1 cup whipping cream, chilled

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1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Combine whipping cream, espresso powder and sugar in bowl. Chill 15 minutes. Stir mixture until espresso powder is dissolved. Whip until thickened. Fold in walnuts.

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