Strawberries & Cream Roll Cake

I'm always excited to share recipes but I'm particularly excited about today's just because it's so pretty. It's seriously so pretty and if you disagree, I think you need to have your eyes checked!

I've been wanting to share a roll cake for a while. The reason I haven't? The last time I made one and tried to blog it, I failed horribly. It was a mini disaster. The cake split in half while I was trying to roll it so I just turned it into a rectangular stacked sheet cake and called it a day. I mean, it still tasted fine, but it didn't look anything like a roll cake. But, after working out the kinks, I think I've got a relatively foolproof roll cake recipe and technique. Let's get rollin'! Hooray!
Ingredients [makes two 13" roll cakes]:
6 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons cake flour
+ butter for greasing
+ quarter sheet pan

1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced

Okay, so the first step is to grease the sheet pan and line it with parchment. This step is crucial because the cake recipe itself has no fat in it (except for the egg yolk) so it will stick if you don't properly grease the pan. I used about 1/2 tablespoon of butter and spread it all over my quarter sheet pan (13" x 9") and then lined it with parchment paper. I actually cut the corners of the parchment paper out so that it would fit perfectly in the sheet pan.

All right, now let's talk about the cake. Start with the yolks, the lemon zest, and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Whip together until the mixture becomes a lovely pale yellow. Then, add in the salt and vanilla and mix that in as well.
Sift in the baking powder and cake flour - I just sift it right into the yolk mixture. Okay, so normally I'm like, "cake flour, schmake flour" but in this case, it's pretty important. Cake flour is finer and lighter and has less gluten (protein) than all purpose flour so it leads to a fluffier cake, which is what we're looking for with this roll cake. You don't want to end up with a dense, heavy cake here. If you don't have cake flour, you can substitute with a mixture of all purpose flour and cornstarch (use 5 tablespoons of all purpose flour and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch). It's not a perfect substitution, but it's pretty darn good.

Right, so once the baking powder and flour are sifted into the bowl, mix the ingredients together, just until they're combined.
In a separate, super clean bowl, whizz up the egg whites until they're nice and fluffy - stiff peaks. I've mentioned this a few times now, but to test for stiff peaks, keep attempting to flip the bowl upside down and stop when you can do it without dumping the egg whites everywhere. The goal is to avoid overwhipping the egg whites.
Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture. I like to chuck about a cup's worth of egg whites into the yolks to lighten them up just a bit before dumping in about half of the remaining egg whites and folding them in. I'm not overly careful about folding in this first installment, but with the final installment, I'm super careful to preserve as much of the air as possible. We're looking for a v. light and spongy cake so it's important not to lose too much air.
Once the batter is combined, pour it into your greased and and lined sheet pan. Use an offset spatula to spread out the batter evenly into the pan, making sure to get the corners. Then, give the pan a bang on your countertop just to release any larger air bubbles.
Bake the cake in a 350F oven for 15 minutes until the top is lightly golden and the cake springs back when you poke it.
Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and remove the parchment. If you did your job with the greasing, it should pop out really easily and the parchment should peel off in a snap. Let it cool completely.
Once the cake is cooled, slice into it horizontally, using a serrated knife to cut it in half. The serrated knife is a really important tool for slicing cakes and breads. The serrations act like several little knives cutting into the cake at several different points. The cuts eventually join together which allows you to cut into a soft material without squishing it.

So this spongy cake recipe as well as this cutting-in-half technique is what will make rolling this cake really easy. This light and spongy cake has v. little fat in it, which makes it less crumby and easier to roll up. Cutting it in half gives you a little more flexibility - the outer surface where the cake has browned has the least amount of moisture, which makes it a bit less flexible. Exposing some of the innards gives you an entire surface that's much more bendable; does that make sense?
Next, whip up some heavy cream with powdered sugar to make sweetened whipped cream. Also, rinse your berries and slice them thinly. You can certainly vary the filling here - you could make a chocolate mousse and use raspberries or use a bit of jam - it's up to you. I went the strawberries and cream route, obviously. If your fruit is too tart for your liking, you can definitely sweeten it up with some sugar but the strawberries that I got a hold of were so delicious. I could smell them from halfway across the grocery store. They tasted fake, they were that good, so I left mine alone. Plus, I don't like my fruity desserts too, too sweet.
Spread out a large piece of plastic wrap on your working surface. Place half of your cake on the plastic wrap and then use a offset spatula to spread a good amount of whipped cream all over the surface. Leave about a 1" border on three sides; you want to spread the whipped cream all the way to one of the long edges and that's the edge that you'll start rolling. Plop the berries on top of the whipped cream.
Use the plastic wrap to help you roll up the cake. You want to start rolling from the side where the whipped cream was spread right to the edge. Once the cake is rolled up good and tight, use the plastic wrap to seal it up and then pop the cake in the fridge for at least two hours to set up. Refrigerating the cake while it's all wrapped up will help it keep its shape. Now, repeat with the second half of the cake - now you've got two roll cakes! One for yourself and one to share.
Once it's out of the fridge, you can dust it with a little more powdered sugar, just for looks, and a berry garnish. Then, slice it up and serve. I trimmed the ends, as they weren't quite as pretty, but it's up to you. Again, use a serrated knife to slice this up so that you don't squish all the filling out of the cake.
Look at how pretty that is! I mean, aren't you impressed? It looks awesome and it didn't take too much effort - I mean, it's easier than macarons. It's so sunny and yellow and honestly, that little bit of lemon zest goes a long way, bro. It adds a ton of brightness and it makes the cake taste sunny. Honestly, the cake all by itself can seem kind of dry, but once you've got the cream filling inside, it starts to soak up some of the moisture and gets really delicious.

So come on, what are you waiting for? Go make some dessert now! You know you want to.
Here's the recipe page: