Monday, January 23, 2012

Persimmon Cake Roll

Slice of Cake with Whipped Cream Spiral
Slice of Festive Persimmon Roll

Recipe by Robin


Gung Hay Fat Choy! That’s Happy Chinese New Year! It’s Year of the Dragon, the most auspicious of all signs, associated with high energy and prosperity. The Dragon brings the Four Blessings of the East: wealth, virtue, harmony, and longevity.  For the first time in 60 years, we have a Water Dragon year. This is particularly good, as the Dragon’s fixed element is Wood, and Water nourishes Wood, as in making plants grow. Water amplifies the Dragon Year’s forces of creativity, good luck, and accomplishment. It is said that “bigger than life” events of all sorts can happen this year.


Hands Rolling Up Cake in Towel
Rolling Baked Cake in Towel
Since the Dragon is colorful and flamboyant, this elaborate and showy dessert is perfect for a celebration. And since China provides 71% of the world’s persimmons, measured in tons, a persimmon cake is an appropriate way to usher in a Chinese Dragon.

You will need enough time and finesse (or courage) to make this recipe. If you allow 3 hours or more, you won’t be rushed or stressed. Provided that, it’s quite fascinating and fun to roll up a hot cake, unroll it and roll it back up later, noting how it “remembers” its rolled shape. And I can 99.99% guarantee rave reviews at the table. If you allow enough time, the process of putting the roll together is quite magical.

The cake’s special time-wise needs are as follows:
  • Eggs must come to room temperature.
  • Nuts must be ground and toasted.
  • Baking time is short, but cake must be watched carefully, although if it’s slightly overcooked (as mine was) it doesn’t seem to matter in the end product.
  • Cake must be rolled up when warm, then unrolled, filled, and rerolled.
  • Cake must cool before rerolling.
  • Cream for the filling must be whipped.

Hands Beginning to Roll Cake Up
Rolling Cake Around Filling
Note that if you measure out 1 cup of almonds and grind them, the amount will increase by a few tablespoons. I sprinkle the extra over the top before serving or inside before rolling up. This takes less time than trying to grind up exactly 1 cup.

I use homemade persimmon spice jam as part of the filling (recipe to come). If you don’t have that on hand, apricot jam with a little ginger mixed in is a fine substitute.

Wishing you a creative, prosperous, and lucky New Year. Let’s all fly with the Water Dragon!

Rolled Cake
Persimmon Cake Roll Ready to Plate & Serve
Persimmon Cake Roll

1 cup ground almonds or hazelnuts
4 eggs at room temperature
½ cup sugar or evaporated cane juice
¾ cup persimmons
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
¾ cup flour
¼ rsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup whipping cream
8 oz. persimmon spice jam
powdered sugar (optional)
baking parchment
clean terrycloth kitchen towel

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Be sure that eggs are coming up to room temperature.

Butter a 17” x 11.5” jelly roll pan. Cut a sheet of parchment 2 - 3 inches so longer than the pan, and place on the butter with excess on both ends (you will use these to maneuver the cake after baking). Butter the top of the parchment.

Grind nuts to fine powder in blender or food processor. To toast, put into a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Monitor the toasting (don’t leave the stove or toaster oven), stirring frequently until nuts are evenly golden brown and fragrant. Put the nuts onto a large plate to cool.

Melt butter and set aside to cool.

Mash persimmons and add baking soda, stir till dissolved. Set aside.

Sift together flour, salt, cinnamon. Stir in cooled ground nuts until evenly combined.

Beat (room temperature) eggs with electric mixer on high speed till light. Add sugar and vanilla and beat with mixer till very fluffy and doubled in volume, about 7 minutes.

Beat persimmon mixture until light and airy. You may use the same electric mixer (a little egg on them is okay) or a wire whisk.  Fold persimmon mix into egg mixture.

Gently fold nuts and flour mixture into egg mixture.

To incorporate butter: Put about 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl and fold in cooled butter. Then fold the butter mixture into the batter until just incorporated, no longer. Use as few strokes as possible.

Pour batter onto jelly roll pan, and spread lightly with rubber spatula until batter covers pan evenly. Put cake in oven and watch carefully. It will be done in 10 minutes, but check it at 8. If cake springs back when touched lightly, it is done.

Remove from oven and immediately turn cake onto terrycloth kitchen towel: invert jelly roll pan and hold parchment tabs while removing pan (it’s good to have a helper for this part). Peel off parchment from one end, using metal spatula to separate any sticky areas of the cake from it.

Immediately roll cake and towel up together, and place on cooling rack until cool.

Chill the bowl and beaters to whip the cream. When cake is cool, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Remove jam from jar and stir until thin and spreadable.

Carefully unroll cake. If any edges are burned, cut them off evenly with a large sharp knife. Spread evenly with a layer of jam, using a flexible rubber scraper. Sprinkle on any remaining ground nuts that you might have, or reserve these for a topping. Top with an even layer of whipped cream to 1” from edges. Roll the cake back up carefully (without towel!), ensuring that it is even on both sides and not too tight (filling squishing out) or loose (air gaps between cake and whipped cream).

Place on serving platter and top with powdered sugar and/or leftover ground nuts if desired. Serve within 3 hours. Refrigerate before serving only if necessary. Prepare to dazzle your guests.

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