Keep on keeping on: a roll cake

I have wanted to make a vertical roll cake again for quite a while. They’re a lot of fun because visually, they resemble trees! Whenever I think about Christmas, I obviously have to think of yule logs or bouche de noels. Those are roll cakes that are decorated to look like a freshly cut log. But when I think about a yule log, I wonder about the stump that gets left behind. And that was where this inspiration came from. I thought about how the tree stump would probably still try to grow, and that mushrooms are probably growing onto it as well. And then I thought about the bark that is still on the sides of the tree. From those visual elements, I decided to do a vertical roll cake with chocolate bark surrounding it, and mushroom meringues on top. The name of the cake was “Keep on keeping on” as a reference to how life will continue to grow and persist even when things might look like they come to an end. It also is a nod to how December is the end of one year(thank goodness in the case of it being 2020), and January is the start of another, so it ties in with the seasonality as well!

For the flavors, we have a kinako(toasted soy bean powder) chiffon cake with candied chestnuts, a chestnut-dulcey bavarois, dark chocolate ganache, a dusting of cocoa and kinako, chestnut-cocoa-kinako-dusted mushrooms, and tempered dark chocolate bark. So the three main flavors I focused on were chestnut, kinako, and chocolate. Chestnut was a no-brainer because they are hugely popular in winter desserts. The kinako, which has an almost peanut butter-like flavor, just works well in lending these toasty and comforting notes. The chocolate, I mean, every holiday except for maybe Thanksgiving and 4th of July features chocolate. So I am just following the trend on that one by using two kinds, being dark chocolate, and blonde chocolate. The blonde chocolate just helps with adding a richness and butteriness to the chestnut, and it pairs well with the kinako as well.

For the chiffon cake:
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup kinako powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt

In a bowl, whip your egg whites with half of the sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar, canola oil, vanilla extract, and kinako powder until combined. In a third bowl, sift the remaining ingredients together. Fold all three mixtures together to form your batter and then pour and spread it onto a parchment-lined half sheet pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes. Roll up the cake and allow it to cool. After the cake is at room temperature, slice it in half along the length so that you have two longer and thin pieces of cake.

For the chestnut and dulcey bavarois:
1 teaspoon gelatin powder
1 tablespoon cold water
a pinch of salt
5oz roasted and peeled chestnuts
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
4 oz dulcey
2/3 cups heavy cream, whipped stiff

In a bowl, mix the gelatin with the water. In a pot, bring the salt, chestnuts, and milk to a simmer. Transfer the warm chestnut milk, egg yolks, gelatin, and dulcey into a food processor and puree into a smooth paste. Pass through a sieve to remove lumps. Allow the paste to cool down to room temperature then fold in the cream.

For the confit chestnuts:
4 oz roasted and peeled chestnuts
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt

Chop up your chestnuts into smaller pieces. Simmer down in a pot with sugar, salt, and water until almost translucent in color, about 5 to 10 minutes. Strain out the chestnuts and allow that to cool for the first part of your assembly. Reserve the syrup as well for soaking.

For assembly pt. 1:
Line up your two pieces of cake so that the short sides are touching. It should be one long row of cake. Brush the cake with the chestnut syrup first. Spread on the chestnut bavarois mixture first, then sprinkle on the confit chestnuts. Roll up the cake into one thick coil. Wrap the entire cake tightly with parchment and freeze for two hours, placing on one of its flat sides.

For the meringues:
1 egg white
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cream of tartar
1 tablespoon kinako powder
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 roasted and peeled chestnut

Whip the egg white with sugar, salt, and cream of tartar to stiff peaks. Transfer into a piping bag with a rounded tip. Pipe onto parchment in flat disks and elongated Hershey’s Kiss/drop shapes to form the caps and stems respectively. Dust with the two powders. Chop up the chestnut as well and sprinkle on top. Bake at 200 degrees F for 2 hours. Allow the meringues to cool down for 1 minute before drilling out a small hole into the caps and pressing the stems into them. Store in airtight containers until time to serve.

For the ganache:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons kinako
a pinch of salt

Heat up the ingredients in a pot and whisk until combined. Allow the ganache to cool down to just above room temperature. Unmold the cake from the parchment and then spread on the ganache in a thin but even layer around the sides and top of the cake. Dust the cake with equal parts kinako and cocoa powder as well.

For the bark:
8oz dark chocolate(I used Guanaja 70%)
5g grated cocoa butter
a pinch of salt

Chop up the chocolate into smaller pieces. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a double boiler. Once the chocolate is half-melted, take off heat and stir until everything is melted together, then mix in the cocoa butter and salt. Mix until combined and smooth. Once the chocolate is about 88 degrees F, pour and spread it onto acetate or parchment. Freeze for 10 minutes, then crack into smaller pieces. Press into the sides of the cake. Finish the cake with meringues.

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