Other people’s recipes: Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet Roulade

I’ve been unforgivably lax in posting lately, so I’m just about three weeks behind at present, but Prairie Home Companion was a rerun today, so I’m going to use some of that time to catch up. I’ll have to apologize in advance that these reviews won’t be quite as detailed as I’d like, simply because I’ve put them off for too long. The first recipe I’ll cover is Alice Medrich’s “Bittersweet Roulade”, from her book Seriously Bitter Sweet (Artisan, 2013; pp. 159 and 189). This recipe is in a chapter titled “Less Is More”, and it’s hard to argue with that claim here: Bittersweet Roulade is a thin, flourless chocolate soufflé cake rolled up with a filling — either whipped cream, which I should have used, or whipped chocolate ganache, which I actually did use. I prepared the ganache ahead of time, as it is supposed to be thoroughly chilled before whipping, and I have no pictures of that part of the process. So let’s start with the mise en place for the cake:

Mise en place
Clockwise from upper left: pure vanilla extract (the recipe calls for one teaspoon); 170 g of chopped Valrhona Guanaja 70% bittersweet chocolate (“for baking”, but it eats pretty nice too); six room-temperature large eggs, separated; ¼ tsp cream of tartar; 150 g sugar; 1 tsp espresso powder; and 10 g of Valrhona cocoa powder.

Melted chocolate mixture
The first step is to dissolve the espresso powder in ⅓ cup (80 ml) of hot water. The result is mixed with the chopped chocolate and melted in the microwave, and the teaspoon of vanilla is stirred in after the chocolate mixture is melted and smooth. This is then set aside to cool, so that the egg yolks can later be incorporated without scrambling.

While the chocolate is cooling, a meringue is made by whipping the egg whites and cream of tartar, then gradually adding the sugar while continuing to whip until stiff (“but not dry”, Medrich always says) peaks are formed.

Soufflé-cake batter
The meringue takes several minutes to come together, by which time the chocolate has sufficiently cooled to whisk in the egg yolks. The meringue is then folded into the chocolate-yolk mixture following the usual procedure for a soufflé, making the light-brown batter shown above. (It will darken with baking.)

Prepared half-sheet pan
The cake is baked in a parchment-lined half-sheet pan. Because my parchment comes on a roll, it tends to curl up if I don’t do something to stick it to the pan, which would make the process of spreading out the cake batter quite difficult, so I use a few pulses of baking spray on the underside of the parchment.

Unbaked cake batter in pan
The cake batter doesn’t have to be perfect, because most of the imperfections will be hidden when the cake is rolled up. However, it is important that it be fairly even, so that it cooks at the same rate.

Fully baked cake
It’s hard to tell the difference between this photo and the previous one, but now the cake is cooked. It takes a short time, only about eight minutes at 375°F (190°C), but then must cool completely in the pan, about another half an hour or so.

Cake turned out onto sheet of foil
After cooling, the top of the cake is dusted with the cocoa powder and then inverted onto a sheet of aluminum foil (I found that a plastic cutting board helped keep the cocoa powder from escaping during this process). The parchment can then be carefully peeled off of the bottom of the cake, which will become the inside of the roulade. (Alternatively, Medrich suggests a pavé presentation, which involves cutting the cake into six rectangular layers and then filling.) The recipe clearly calls for just one cup of whipped cream, or a half-recipe of the whipped chocolate ganache, but my whipped ganache was so stiff that I was unable to spread it sufficiently thin to cover the cake when restricted to just half — so I had to use it all, and that’s reflected in the nutrition data I present below. Whipped cream (even cocoa-bean cream) would not have been nearly as stiff and would have also provided a pleasing color contrast. In any event, once the filling is spread evenly over the cake, the whole assembly is rolled up tightly in the aluminum foil and refrigerated overnight. (By the way, I used Valrhona Caraïbe 66% to make the whipped chocolate ganache — and yes, I did increase the cream to 2¼ cups as the chocolate notes direct! It would have been even stiffer had I not.)

Completed cake with confectioner's sugar sifted on top
It turns out that I have very few serving platters of an appropriate length to present a “Bittersweet Roulade”, so I was stuck with this winter-themed one. After removing the foil, I trimmed the edges and sifted some powdered sugar over the top. Unfortunately, after a couple of hours, the powdered sugar had all dissolved, so my work tasters didn’t get the full effect.

Cross-section of cake
You can see in this end-on view how the chocolate ganache filling and the chocolate cake are pretty much indistinguishable after several hours in the fridge. Everyone raved about the chocolate flavor as it was, but I would have preferred to have sufficient contrast to make it obvious that there actually was a filling. Nobody complained about coffee flavor, despite the fairly large quantity of espresso powder, myself included.


As prepared (with double the intended quantity of whipped chocolate ganache):

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/12 of roll
Servings per recipe: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 429 Calories from fat 315
% Daily Value
Total Fat 35g 54%
 Saturated Fat 19g 96%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 154mg 51%
Sodium 51mg 2%
Potassium 111mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 8%
 Dietary fiber 4g 14%
 Sugars 25g
Proteins 6g 12%
Vitamin A 15%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2%
Iron 9%
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1 Response to Other people’s recipes: Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet Roulade

  1. tanya2austin says:

    I made this for a Yule Log cake last Christmas, and used her recipe for white chocolate ganache (added peppermint extract). It turned out perfectly, with a nice contrasting swirl!

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