The period of time between Christmas Day and Epiphany on January 6th leaves plenty of space for cake and as much as I adore the classic festive fruit cake it’s good to break up its heft with something a little lighter.
This roulade is really my husband’s recipe, a version of a cake he has baked every Christmas and New Year’s Eve for at least 25 years and possibly even longer: he can’t recall exactly when he began. It has become one of our most-requested, carted off to seasonal pot-luck parties and helping to bring in the New Year. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t adore it.
You’re probably wondering if I have lost my mind in suggesting the purchase of a bottle of creme de menthe for a single cake but in my defence the booze will keep forever, quietly sitting in the back of the drinks cupboard and anyway, when you’ve tasted this cake you’ll be wanting to make it again. It uses quite a lot of creme de menthe so you’ll soon get through your bottle.
You see, peppermint oil or essence just doesn’t cut it for this cake although online you’ll find lots of recipes for chocolate roulades made with them. The creme de menthe imbues the cake with a depth of flavour that is far removed from the Colgate-like mint of even the best oils. I don’t want a childish minty cake and what I am after is something far more adult, a cake for late nights and this is most definitely that.
Saying that, kids do love it too and our children ensure that this roulade gets made each year, no matter how tired we are. The prep is pretty simple although the cooking and assembling of the cake are separated by an overnight chill in the fridge. It’s not a last minute cake you can knock up but don’t be daunted, it rolls like a dream and has never given us a moment’s trouble in a quarter century of its baking.
CREME DE MENTHE AND CHOCOLATE ROULADE
170g caster sugar
170g plain chocolate
6 free-range eggs, separated into yolks and whites
300ml double cream
110 mls creme de menthe
icing sugar to dust
Heat the oven to 350F / 180C
Oil a 33cm x 23cm / 13in x 9in Swiss roll tin and line its base with greaseproof paper. Make a small diagonal snip in each corner of the paper to help it sit well in the tin and then brush the paper lightly with oil.
Break the chocolate up into small chunks and place into a heat -proof bowl then balance this this over a saucepan full of simmering water (or use a Pour double-boiler/ bain marie), not allowing the base of the bowl to touch the water. Over a low heat, melt the chocolate and when it is liquid, remove from the heat.
Pour in a third of the creme de menthe and stir until combined then repeat this process until all the alcohol has been added.
Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and creamy. Now stir in the cooled and melted chocolate mixture then mix until combined.
Place the egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk until they are stiff. Using a metal spoon, add the whites in two portions to the chocolate and yolk mixture and gently fold them in until they are just combined.
Pour the mixture into the tin, smoothing it into the corners and ensuring it covers the base evenly. Bake for 15-20 minutes, keeping a close eye, and when it is done (a cake tester inserted will come out clean) remove from the oven and cover with a clean tea towel. It will have risen slightly and feel firm. Leave overnight.
The next day dust another piece of greaseproof paper with icing sugar and loosen the roulade from its baking tin by turning it upside down on top of the greaseproof paper so its lining paper is on top. Peel this lining paper off.
Pour the cream into a mixing bowl and whisk until fairly stiff then smooth it over the cake leaving a border of around 2cm around the entire edge. With the short edge facing you, make a cut along it with a knife, but don’t cut all the way through- this will help you start off the rolling. Using the paper underneath the cake to help control the roll, pulling it away from you as you roll the roulade up. Don’t worry about cracks appearing, this is meant to happen. Once folded, with the join hidden underneath the cake, chill it for a few hours and to serve, dust with more icing sugar and decorate with whatever Christmas kitsch takes your fancy.