Flourless Black Forest Roulade

I could spin an extended metaphor about why a roulade was the perfect cake for this occasion; about centrifugal force and how the more we spin, the more we feel glued together. (Nb, if you have no patience for things like this and just want the recipe stat, scroll to the bottom).

It could be about how when I think about the birthdays I’ve celebrated with my husband (there have been twelve of them now) the memories twirl over the globe; from Palm Beach, and the Gold Coast to LA, Lisbon, London, Dubrovnik, Baden Baden and back to Sydney. There have been platters of charcuterie consumed next to B grade celebrities, sangria prawns, ruby rare steaks at Hawksmoor, cold beers swigged on secret cliff bars and afternoons wafting in thermal pools. There are two constants in all of those. The first are the flavours of on of his favoured places; the spa town of Baden Baden in the Black Forest. It’s a fairy tale location where a tall blonde fellow could easily lose himself for days in a satisfied haze of ham, schnitzel and his holy trinity of chocolate, cherries and cream. It’s here he went on a quest to find to the source of the best black forest cake in the world- and was pretty confident he found it

(see here). Even on those years we weren’t in Baden Baden, we’ve still managed to bring a little piece of it to his celebrations.

And the second, is us.

Those twelve years of lighting candles have blown in many changes. I’m less extroverted now. He’s less introverted. We have new litmus levels for hurt and a deeper barometer for joy. We’ve cultivated tougher skins and softer cores. And despite travel and trials, we’re still entwined.

It’s less convenient these days to take a few hours out to make fantastical bakes like this one.

Or this one

 Or this one.

There’s a small fellow at our shins who likes to be involved (well, for a moment or two. But mainly he just wants to jump on and off things with someone to applaud his efforts). But this tradition; of making The Hungry One a different iteration of a black forest cake for his birthday isn’t one I’ll happily let go of. To abandon it, even for a year would be to let go of something much bigger than just a cake. It sounds silly, but that’s certainly how it felt on Sunday.

Luckily, this roulade doesn’t require much hands on time. It’s a simple scroll of a flourless chocolate sponge, lightly soused with Kirsch hugging a squelching centre of whipped cream, morello and dried cherries for chew. Over the top is a silky coat of chocolate creme patisserie and some shards of tempered chocolate for crunch.

While restraint is never on the menu for his birthday, you wouldn’t know from tasting this cake that honey contributes the sweetener and there is no call for flour – the eggs and cocoa hold their form together beautifully. There are a few neat tricks in the construction- the first is a sneaky addition of a little arrowroot powder in the whipped cream, it helps it maintain its body and prevents it from seeping out of the sides (it also helps to give the creme patisserie a little thickness instead of cornflour). Then there’s the process of rolling; notching a little score on the short end of the roulade closest to you allows you to get the first break in the pinwheel at an even and consistent line. Beyond that, it helps to use the baking paper to roll it along and gently apply pressure to hold the shape. Some people will tell you a cracked roulade is part of its charm. I say; nobody needs to know. Smother the top in chocolate custard and decorate the heck out of it.  This could work as a ginger scented bouche noel for Christmas. This could be stuffed with pecans and cream, adorned with salted caramel custard and topped with blackberries, or scrolled around raspberry cream and glossed with vanilla custard. But on Sunday, it was, as it will always be, a black forest flavoured sort of day. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 Flourless Black Forest Roulade

Serves 10


 Chocolate Roulade
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup/160 g runny honey
2/3 cup/75 g cocoa powder
1 pinch of salt

300 ml whipping cream
1 tsp arrowroot (optional)
2 tbsp cherry jam
1 tbsp kirsch
2 tbsp dried cherries
2 tbsp morello cherries, drained

2/3 cup chocolate creme patisserie/chocolate mousse
10 cherries
100 g of tempered chocolate shards

 Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 160C/320F and grease and line a 33 cm x 23 cm swiss roll/lamington tin with baking paper, being sure to push it neatly into the corners.

2) Whisk together the egg yolks and the honey until pale and creamy. Set aside.

3) Place the egg whites in a very clean and dry mixing bowl/electric mixer. Add a pinch of salt and whisk until they are stiff.

4) Combine the cocoa with the egg yolks, stirring well to combine.

5) Fold the egg whites in in three batches.

 6) Transfer the mix into the prepared tin, spreading gently to ensure it fills the corners. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until firm.

7) Allow the cake to cool in the tin.

8) Add the arrowroot to the cream (this helps to create a firmer cream that won’t squelch out the sides of the roll) and whisk until it holds peaks.

9) Gently turn the cake out onto a piece of parchment paper, with the short side facing you. Mark a line 2 cm out from the short edge and use a knife to make a cut, which goes only 3/4 of the way deep (this will help to make the first roll). 

10) Muddle together the jam and the kirsch and spread it all over the top of the cake.

11) Top that with the cream, then dot with the dried and morello cherries.

12) Starting at the edge with the incision, use the baking paper to help roll the cake up tightly like a swiss roll. Use gentle pressure fro your hands to help hold it in place.

13) Don’t fret if it cracks a little, that’s why you have the custard/creme patissiere to go over the top. Spread the custard over the crown of the roll and top with the tempered chocolate shards and fresh cherries.

14) Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight to help the flavours meld and the roulade to hold its shape.


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