Monday, January 05, 2009

Chestnut Jelly Roll

I've been making rolled cakes for more than a few years now. My first was the classic bûche de noël, a traditional French holiday cake filled with chocolate butter cream and covered in chocolate frosting and made to resemble a log. I did that several years in a row.

A jelly roll filled with chestnut cream.

This past fall, however, I tried just a plain roll with jelly filling topped with powdered sugar. I used a recipe by Julia Child (my previous recipe was by Jacques Pépin) and it was a great success. It turns out that Julia's recipe makes just the right amount of batter for my pan, and results in a softer, spongier cake. It even uses fewer eggs than Jacques' recipe.

First step: the pan is buttered and lined with buttered kitchen parchment.

The cake was light and spongy, and it rolled up perfectly. I made the recipe a couple times with consistent results. So I was encouraged to make another just the other day. I got a can of crème de marrons (sweetened purée of chestnuts) from the supermarket and thought that would make a good filling.

Les ingrédients.

The cake is made with egg yolks, sugar, ground almonds, flour, and beaten egg whites. Julia says it's almost like a soufflé, only it's cooked in a sheet rather than in a soufflé mold. It turns out wonderfully spongy. I imbibed it with some leftover quince liqueur, but any brandy would do.

Beating the egg whites.

We lightened the chestnut cream with crème fraiche (French cream) and filled the cake with it. I think I baked the cake a little too long because it cracked slightly when I rolled it. If I were doing it for guests I might have frosted it to hide the cracks, but since it's just for us the cracks really didn't matter.

The (slightly overdone) cake and a can of crème de marrons.

And the cake is delicious, if I do say so myself. It's not heavy at all because it's sponge cake, and even less so because it's not frosted. The flavor of the brandy comes through as well.

Finished and rolled cake. It can be served like this, or frosted.

Next time I'll have to remember to take the cake out of the oven sooner. Once it looks done, it's already overdone. But no matter, it still tastes the same. By the time it's imbibed and filled, the cake regains its moist and spongy quality, even if the edges crack a bit.


  1. *mouthwaters* my mum makes something similar to this, except it's filled with poppy seeds. It sounds strange, but it's delicious.

  2. been waiting for pics & the verdict....i have a can of chestnut puree and have been wondering what to do with it....i once made a pie with it......added a couple of eggs & maybe some was quite previous jelly rolls were too tough...i later discovered prob from over beating (and prob over cooking too).....they cook quite quickly...

  3. Wonderful! Which Julia source was your recipe from? I would love to have a recipe and good directions for making a rolled cake.

    Looks delicious!


  4. p.s. "I'll Finnish it later." haaaa haaaaaaaaaa haaaa

  5. Finally! A bit of French cooking that I can sink my teeth into (although not without thinking of the calories!). Yummy.....a cup of tea with it, perhaps??

  6. Is this part of your new year resolutions?!? If so, I think I need to follow your lead. A lot easier than resolving to get to the gym.

    Happy New Year

  7. Looks wonderful, Walt. You are a master baker. Yum!

  8. While that looks delicious, my brain shut down at the beginning when you were talking about the chocolate version. I will sleep well tonight, dreaming of that. :-)

  9. Hey, I like the photo of you and Ken, summer 2008. You both look just like you did when I saw you in spring 2008!

    Walt, I remember that my mother always trimmed about 1/4 inch off the long sides of the cake so that it would roll up without cracking. Yours looks delicious, cracks and all!!


  10. Every holiday I covet a yule log
    I found a recipe to make one - it resembles what you are doing here.
    alas, I had not time to try it.

  11. muzbot, you said it.

    evol, poppy seeds sounds intriguing. I may have to try it.

    melinda, yes, they cook fast. And that chestnut stuff is very rich!

    judy, it was The Way To Cook by Julia.

    alewis, tea would be good. Me, I prefer a glass of red wine with mine.

    ben, back atcha! Yes, these are much easier resolutions to keep!

    ginny, thanks!

    walt, the chocolate version can be quite decadent! Sweet dreams!

    bettyann, trimming makes sense, but I like the crusty edges. Of course, they are the chef's treat!

    ur-spo, it's not hard to make, especially after you've done it a few times. Time, now that's another problem altogether.

  12. I have to tell you all: that rolled-up cake is really good, and the chestnut paste/crème de marrons is perfect as a filling. Sorry to make you jealous...


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