For the last few days, I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Now that I’m almost done with it, I can say that the book has given me three significant takeaways: 1) an entirely new understanding of where my food comes from 2) a diminishing desire to eat it and 3) a guilt complex because, while I will try my best to be a conscious eater, inevitably, I will slip. For example, after I went to the gym this morning, I walked to the farmer’s market and bought fresh herbs and salad greens for lunch and then woke up from my nap ready to make this sponge-cake recipe that my dad and I have been mulling over for the last two days which calls for eggs that my parents got from the supermarket. Though I’ve relayed the facts I learned about industrial chicken/egg farms to my parents, their money is not my money, and I can’t make them buy cage-free eggs harvested from happy hens running around some beautiful pasture. In my own life, once I get a real one, I’ll do my best with my meager starting salary to respect the natural food system the best that I can.
Anyway, I bought some organic raspberry jam the other day (although, here again, Pollan warns the reader through numerous examples that “organic” generally means better, but still not great, especially since it’s been co-opted by corporations looking to make $$$), and I was looking forward to using it. As I picked up the jar, I remembered some TV show I saw recently in which some 12-year-old kid whined, “But Dad, no one likes grape jelly anymore!” and wondered how old I was when I stopped liking grape jelly. Or whether I ever really did. I actually devoted more mental energy than necessary to this musing, and decided that, hey, I was never that kid who liked grape jelly. I was never that kid who even liked jellies or jams…until I discovered raspberry preserves my junior year of high school. I had a great “Brit Lit” teacher who thought (and rightly so) that artistic movements, food, and literature all blended together–the cultural essence of a nation and its peoples. Once our assignment was to make Irish Sodabread, another time we were to make scones properly accompanied with Devonshire cream and fruit preserves. I picked raspberry on a whim, and have been a jam fan ever since. Just not grape.
Right. So this is the first time I tried making a sponge cake, and I have to say, it went pretty well considering all the things I read on the internet that outlined the various ways a Swiss Roll could end up like the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. Or Donald Trump’s comb-over. Or the Bogman’s teeth. You know. A mess. So I’m going to include some tips in the write-up of the recipe, and I hope they’ll help!
Recipe for the Swiss Roll (makes 1 log, about 10 servings, unless you’re greedy, and it’s easy to get greedy w/this cake)
1/3 cup sifted cake flour
1/4 cup fine white cane sugar (I used plain granulated and it was fine)
3 egg whites, 2 egg yolks, separated
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Fillin: Raspberry preserves. Feel free to add some home-made whipped cream, dried or fresh fruit, candied nuts–after mastering the basic spongecake, have fun!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
1. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until the egg whites foam and form soft peaks.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with vanilla, sugar, and salt and gently fold them in to the egg whites. Be careful not to deflate the egg whites.
3. Gently fold in the sifted cake flour into the mixture with a spatula.
4. Line a 15×10 in jelly roll pan (ideal) or do what I did…use a 14×11 with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with non-stick spray or butter it, that’s up to you. You want to make sure the sponge cake won’t stick to the parchment paper, otherwise it’ll be nearly impossible to roll.
5. Scoop the batter onto the pan and spread it as evenly as you can, filling the rectangle of the pan. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Do the toothpick test…if the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done. You don’t want it to overbake because then it’ll be dry and will fall apart when you roll it.
6. Let it cool slightly (it’ll cool quickly, so no worries). While it’s still warm but easy enough to handle, flip it onto another piece of non-stick sprayed parchment paper and peel the original off the back of the spongecake. You’ll want to roll it up with the narrower side facing you (the side being rolled, so for me it was the 11 inch side). Cut a slit, but not all the way through the cake about 1 inch away from the edge facing you. It’ll help keep it all rolled up.
7. Spread the filling onto the spongecake surface, roll it up and then roll the whole thing in parchment paper, and stick it in the fridge to set. That should take 30 min to 2 hours, depending on whether or not you put cream on the inside. Rolling it up in parchment will help it keep its shape.