Roll ‘Em


A rolled cake is easy to make and extremely practical to serve. Here’s how:

* Lining the jellyroll pan--typically a 10 1/2x15 1/2-inch pan with sides--is the key. Foil is an excellent liner (leave an overhang at the short ends to serve as convenient handles) since it holds up well in the baking and is helpful in turning out the cake after it’s baked. Prepare the foil as indicated in the recipe (angel cakes require no preparation).

* Pour the batter into the center of the pan and spread it as evenly as possible, using the sides of the pan as a guide.

* When fully baked (and that takes no time at all, since the batter is spread so thin--a wood pick makes an unquestionable determination), place the jellyroll pan on a wire rack. Use a small flexible spreader to release any part of the cake sticking to the sides of the foil. Cover the cake with a baking sheet and invert. Now remove the original pan and carefully peel off the foil to avoid tearing the cake. Lay the clean side of the foil on the surface of the cake. Place a large wire rack over the foil and invert the cake so it’s right side up again. Cool the cake completely on this piece of foil.


* To prepare the cake for rolling, use fingertips to peel off any thin surface crust from the cooled cake. Trim any hard edges with kitchen shears so the cake is as flexible as possible. If the cake is uneven or a little thick, move a rolling pin gently across the cake to compress it. The cake can be frozen at this point, wrapped airtight (let it thaw in the wrapping).

* Brush the cake surface with flavorings such as liqueurs, melted jelly, fudge or caramel sauce, if desired. Then spread the filling evenly over the surface, leaving a quarter-inch border all around. Starting at the short end, use the foil to roll the cake up--gently, but as compactly as possible. Wrap it in foil.

* Refrigerate or freeze the cake as directed--or at the very least, let it sit briefly at room temperature if the filling isn’t ice cream. Chilling helps meld the flavors and textures and makes slicing easier and neater (also, many cake rolls are do-aheads, even if they aren’t frozen). Be sure the cake is wrapped in foil so that it doesn’t dry out.

* Rolled cakes can be frosted with whipped cream or glazed with a thin, shiny frosting. Alternatively, they can be sprinkled with powdered sugar pressed through a fine sieve.

* Serve on an elongated platter, decorated with leaves and a few flowers. Serve the sauce in a separate pitcher.

* Use a serrated knife to serve, cutting each slice on the diagonal with a sawing motion.