Matthew, my three-year old, said he wanted a roly-poly cake this week. When I showed him some pictures, he decided on the red velvet roulade from the Hummingbird Bakery’s Home Sweet Home. As the name suggests, it’s a bright red roulade. I’ve only ever seen pictures of red sponges; Home Sweet Home, of course, has a good one, and I’ve seen them on TV when, for some reason, they’re always beetroot flavoured. The Hummingbird red velvet roulade isn’t a beetroot cake. In fact, flavour-wise, it doesn’t have anything red about it. The sponge is chocolate flavoured and the filling is white chocolate and cream cheese.
There were going to be two difficult things about making this cake. Rolling it up, and, given the disaster I had making pink cake for my Battenberg, making it red.
As per the recipe, I sifted plain flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, and a pinch of salt into a bowl and mixed buttermilk, vanilla extract and white wine vinegar in a jug. I creamed 120g unsalted butter and 150g caster sugar together in the KitchenAid (still on the blink) and added an egg. I gradually added the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar a bit at a time, alternating with a small amount of the buttermilk mixture until everything was mixed together. Then came the colour.
The recipe stipulates red gel paste colouring. It says that liquid food colouring won’t produce the deep red colour required for the cake. I found some tubes of red gel food colouring in Tesco. I bought one. Surely no normal-sized cake would require more. It was only when it was time to add it to the cake that I noticed the quantities. The cake requires one and a half tablespoons of colouring. That’s what, around 22mls? The tube I’d bought in Tesco for £1 was 10ml. It was going to cost me £3 just to make my cake a Hummingbird Bakery shade of red. I just used the one tube. My cake mixture turned from brown to… well, brown.
I carried on, poured the mixture for my brown velvet roulade into a lined Swiss roll tin and baked it at 160º fan for 25 minutes as per the recipe. It was just about cooked. I don’t think another couple of minutes in the oven would have hurt. I covered the cake with a damp tea towel and made the filling while the cake cooled. The recipe says that the cake should cool “a little”. I’m still not too sure what that means.
I made the filling by beating cream cheese, adding melted white chocolate, softened butter and icing sugar. When it looked smooth and fluffy, I turned my attention to rolling the roulade. This was done in couple of steps:
- I dusted a sheet of baking paper with icing sugar.
- I loosened the cake from the tin and turned it out onto the paper (because the cake had been baked in a lined tin, it was now sandwiched between two pieces of baking paper).
- Starting at the narrow edge of the sponge, I rolled it up between the two pieces of paper.
This stage actually went quite well. The cake, which was still fairly warm, rolled up very nicely. I left it on a wire rack to cool. The recipe says that the cake should cool completely, and it says that this will take between ten and fifteen minutes. Since I have over 70 episodes of Home and Away to catch up on, I gave it a lot longer.
I returned to the sponge about 40 minutes (2 episodes) later. It still wasn’t completely cool, but, since I’d left it for over twice as long as the recipe said, I decided to carry on anyway. I’d made the filling using 250g cream cheese, 130g white chocolate, and 50g each of butter and icing sugar. There was far too much. I could tell as I spread it that, with that much filling, I wasn’t going to be able to roll the roulade successfully, but, by that time, I couldn’t really scrape it off. Anyway, I’d already tasted it and there was no way that any of this delicious cheesy, choclatey cream was going to feed the birds.
It was bound to happen. As I started to roll, my roulade started to split. Fissures appeared along the sides and the filling oozed out. When I put it onto my cake plate it almost broke in half across the middle. This was when I started to stamp my feet. I even did a double stamp (sometimes called a jump). Now, with a three-year old in the house, the phrase, “stamping will never get you what you want,” is very familiar. I know it’s true. Stamping didn’t magically glue my roulade together and transport it in one piece onto my cake plate. I tell you what though Matthew, It didn’t half make me feel better about it. I calmly scraped off the filling that had escaped and ate it, and covered the cracks as best I could with icing sugar. Here is my red, sorry, brown velvet roulade. It may not have been the right colour and, calling it a roulade may be stretching things a bit, but it tasted absolutely great. The sponge was moist and had the tiniest buttermilk tang amidst the chocolate, and the filling was choclatey, cheesy and sweet all at the same time. It also started to look a little bit more roulade-like the more of it we ate.
There are a few things I’d change if I made this again. I’d probably give the sponge cake a couple more minutes in the oven, I’d use less filling (two-thirds at the most), and I would wait until the sponge was completely cool before rolling it (i.e. I’d do what the recipe said, rather than following its timings). Not only might it roll better, I could also have a few extra minutes in Summer Bay.
The main thing though, is that I wouldn’t bother with any food colouring at all. It cost a bomb (compared to the elements of the cake that actually added to the flavour) and, although it might look stunning if the colouring does work out, to me, a red chocolate cake just isn’t right.