Despite the fact that I bake almost to an embarrassing extent, as frequently as daily on holidays, we do still consume quite a lot of storebought baked goods. And I may or may not have thrown a few hissy fits at missing out the opportunity to recreate these baked goods at home. One of the things I remember that we used to order all the time from a lady in our townhouse was swiss rolls, which inspired me in my early days of baking to try my hand at them.
Some of these earlier attempts failed miserably, as you might expect; and some turned out more edible and gave me enough confidence to keep on wasting ingredients. Over these years I’ve come to love making some flavours more than others – matcha, coffee, and taro most of all. Something about the pretty lilac contrasted against the cake roll is so inviting that it keeps me coming back to better the recipe and method.
If you’ve never had sweet taro (or savoury, for that matter, it goes amazingly well steamed underneath some pork ribs), this would be a wonderful opportunity to try it in a recipe where it comes through at just the right depth. It may well just become your favourite root vegetable.
As you can tell, I’m terrible at rolling swiss rolls, no matter which method I use, and I’ve tried many. The rolling pin method is great but somehow I always get scared that the filling would squish out that I end up not tightening enough. However, to my delight no cracks appeared at all, yay! I find that the popular tea towel and icing sugar trick doesn’t really work its foolproof magic for me, in addition to being messy. I forget who, perhaps it was Stella from Bravetart, suggested that cracking had to do with loss of moisture and in turn if you keep the cake moist it shouldn’t crack, and it worked! All I did was place a sheet of baking paper over the cooling cake to prevent sticking, and then drape a tea towel over it.
Taro swiss roll (makes one 33cm roll)
For the chiffon cake:
54g or 3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
45g mild-flavoured vegetable oil
90g flour (I used cake flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
117g or 3 egg whites
64g caster sugar
For the taro filling:
300g raw peeled taro
80g heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 175°C/347°F. Line a 21.5 x 33cm rectangular pan (or similar capacity).
For the cake, whisk the yolks with sugar and salt until the sugar has dissolved and the yolks turn a paler colour. Slowly trickle in the oil while whisking to emulsify, then mix in the milk. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add them to the wet mix. Starting slow, whisk the egg whites by themselves until bubbles form, then gradually increase the speed and slowly add in the sugar until the egg whites are glossy, somewhere between soft and stiff peaks. In several additions, fold the egg whites into the flour mixture until no more streaks of white are visible.
Transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smooth out the top and bake for approx. 15 minutes until the middle feels springy to the touch. Leave in the pan for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely, covered by a tea towel.
Thinly slice or dice the peeled taro, and steam for 20-30 minutes until able to be mashed. Pass the steamed taro through a sieve if you prefer a finer texture, and mix with butter. Beat the heavy cream with sugar to soft peaks, and fold into the cooled taro.
Depending on which side of the cake you want to use, you may want to flip it upside down onto another sheet of baking paper. Spread the filling evenly over the top, leaving a 1cm circumference. To roll, I find it easiest to place a rolling pin underneath the start of the long edge of the cake to guide it forward. Do a tight first roll, when you get to the top, pull the paper away from you and the pin towards you to tighten. Keep going till the end and tighten again with the pin touching the work surface. Leave the paper on, and place the whole thing carefully in a sealed bag or cling film. Chill the roll so that it can firm up, at least 2 hours. Slice off the ends, eat them, and proceed with slicing the rest.