by Jasmine Moore
Growing up, gingerbread was absolutely forbidden in my household. My mother absolutely despised the stuff, telling me stories of how she would shove towels under her door when her own mother would make gingerbread for the holidays, how even thinking of the smell would make her retch. So, naturally, when I finally got to try gingerbread cookies in my teen years, I absolutely adored them. Fate just loves irony! And I just love gingerbread!
Even before I was able to taste real gingerbread, it was always a scent I associated to the holidays, whether it be in my frequent stops to candle shops, artisan soap stores, or walking by the ever busy bakeries come Winter. There is such a nostalgia to the scent, and it is immensely comforting, with its warm spices and its sickly sweetness of molasses.
It makes you remember warm holidays at home, surrounded by the twinkling of Christmas lights. And then, of course, there is the delight of decorating gingerbread houses, an activity I took immense joy in watching. Staying up late during my Winter break from school, I would sit and watch my local cooking channel’s Christmas specials; one I remember admiring with starry eyes was a ginger bread house building competition. Artisans would make stain glass with candy and build mansions and castles with the cookies, decorating them all to look like incredible Winter Wonderlands.
This program ran every year, and I never grew tired of it Perhaps I had a bias towards gingerbread before trying it, or maybe my love for it ran a lot deeper than I could ever guess. Who could say!
And, because I was forbidden from baking the oh-so-evil gingerbread while I lived with home, I naturally made up for lost time when I became independent: Gingerbread men, houses, ice cream, coffee beans, and the ever impressive roll cake. Just in time to impress all your Christmas guests, and show off for your in laws! Well, maybe not for this year, but it still photographs well, so send a few pictures and have them in awe. I actually made this for mine and my fiance’s Thanksgiving dessert. My fiance was impressed that I was able to roll a perfect spiral after having cooked all day, and it was a perfect ending to our dinner.
But, assuming you are trying to impress more than just your significant other, who is already happily stuffed with their favorite foods, let me tell you why roll cakes are the perfect dessert, especially for entertaining. They are actually deceptively easy to make once you get the hang of them, and even if you mess it up, cover the outside with frosting, and no one will ever know.
They’re also extremely versatile with the flavors they come in and very easy to adapt to your tastes. And, being that roll cakes are made with a light and fluffy sponge cake, they are both delicious and very easy to convince yourself to have another slice of. Provided everything goes according to plan, you are left with a crowd pleasing, and very impressive looking cake.
Taking the offset spatula I bought and have somehow only used once, I utilized the extra whipped cream frosting I had and decorated the outside, making long, overlapping strokes on the cake to look like snow covered bark, which turned out perfect.
And so, I had a beautiful little Yule Cake to serve! It may not be all that traditional but is so tasty and might even win your love for gingerbread as well.
Gingerbread Roll Cake:
4 eggs, room temperature and separated
¼ cup honey
¼ cup molasses
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of powered sugar, or as needed
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 F; lightly grease a 10×15-inch pan’ and line it with parchment paper. This step is important! Make sure the parchment paper is long enough to work with and goes up the sides of the pan at least half way. Press it into the pan and then grease it again, being more liberal this time. Set aside another piece of parchment paper of the same size, dusted liberally with powdered sugar. You can also do this with a clean kitchen or tea towel.
Taking your egg yolks, mix them with the honey, molasses, vanilla and spices, until they are unified in color. Sift in the flower, baking power, and salt, and mix again until just incorporated. Set aside.
Place your egg whites into a clean bowl, and with an electric or stand mixer, use a whisk attachment, and beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks.
Using a rubber spatula, incorporate the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture in thirds, carefully mixing in the egg whites in a folding motion, so as to not deflate them and lose their light and airy texture. Make sure to get the bottom of the bowl when you mix, as egg white will like to hide out down there, along with scrapping the sides. Fold until all the egg white is mixed in, and the batter is a unified color.
Pour your batter into your parchment lined baking sheet and spread out to an even thickness. Slide into the center rack of your oven, and bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until the cake springs back, and has a firmer texture. Ovens vary, so keep an eye on it at the 8 minute mark.
Remove your cake from the oven, and invert it onto your parchment or kitchen towel, dusted with powered sugar, while it is still warm. Carefully, start rolling the cake into a spiral. Set aside and allow to cool on a wire rack.
While your cake cools, prepare your filling by placing your heavy cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar into a bowl. Whisk the mixture until stiff peaks form, and set aside in the fridge.
Once your cake is cooled, unravel it, and peel off the parchment paper. Spread the whipped cream filling on it in an even layer, reserving a portion if you wish to decorate the outside of your cake roll. Gently roll it back up, trim the edges, and clean up any spillage from the filling. Transfer to your serving dish of choice, and enjoy!
If you want to decorate it like a Yule Log, spread a thin layer of filling over the entire cake, and with long, overlapping motions, drag a butter knife or offset spatula over the cake, creating a bark like texture. Decorate with cookie mushrooms or cocoa power/powdered sugar a more woodsy effect!