As I flipped through a recent issue of Food Network Magazine, I spotted a photo of a red velvet cake roll that looked delicious. I’d made one similar to it before, but this was a little different. It involved boiling down cherry-cola to a syrup and adding it to the batter. And so the story goes, I was in. It all started out well. I opened the one bottle of soda I bought when I went grocery shopping, poured it into a saucepan, and boiled it down to a super sweet concoction. I mixed up the batter, put it in the oven, and it baked up beautifully. From there, it was a kitchen failure.
As I started to roll the cake, it fell apart before I could even complete one roll. I make pumpkin rolls, and they tend to crack a little just to keep me from getting too confident. But these were not cracks. I’m talking tearing completely apart from one side to the other with each roll. This was not a cake roll, but several long strips of red velvet cake. Hmph. I started to dump the entire thing in the trash (as I’ve done with more baking projects than I care to think about), but I tasted it first. It tasted fine, but I certainly couldn’t taste any of the cherry-cola flavor. I decided to freeze the failed cake. Who knows, maybe I’ll try making red velvet cake balls.
But I wasn’t ready to give up. The day was still young, and I wanted to make a cake roll. I took a deep breath, grabbed a diet Dr. Pepper from the fridge, and started over. Since the flavor didn’t even come through, I didn’t waste another trip to the store for cherry cola. I went to the recipe from Baking for All Occasions that I made a few years back for Christmas.
This could have ended up being a failure, too, because I didn’t exactly follow the instructions. Unlike most rolled-cake recipes that I’ve seen, this recipe states to let the cake cool, then add the filling and roll it up. I tempted my luck, and used a dish cloth sprinkled with powdered sugar to roll it up right out of the oven, just to see. It actually rolled right up without a problem. However (of course, right?), it cracked a bit when I unrolled the cake to add the filling. No worries, I quickly topped it with cream cheese frosting, rolled it back up, and stuck the whole thing in the freezer.
Red Velvet Cake Roll
Source: Baking for All Occasions
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature and slightly beaten
1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan (15 x 10-inch) with aluminum foil, pressing the foil into the corners of the pan and leaving a 2-inch overhang at each short end. Spray with cooking spray and set aside.
Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the milk, vanilla, and vinegar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-low speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer, and scrape the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat until light in color and fluffy in texture, about 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and mix until combined.
Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternately with the milk mixture in two additions. Begin and end with the flour, and mix each time just until smooth. Scrape the bowl all the way to the bottom after each addition. Add the food coloring and mix until the color is distributed evenly. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and use a rubber spatula to spread it evenly.
Bake the cake about 10 minutes, until the top is set and it springs back with lightly pressed in the center. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Run a thin knife blade around the edges of the cake to loosen the sides. Then pull up on the foil overhang and carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack. This part made me a little nervous because it hung down in the center and looked like it was going to break in half. I ended up lifting one side up with the foil, and sliding the rack underneath until the cake was centered on the rack. Whew! Immediately tear a piece of foil that is the same length as the cake, and fold it over the cake like a tent so it doesn’t stick. This will keep the cake moist as it cools. Let it cool on the rack for about 45 minutes.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the filling:
In the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla extract until smooth. Alternately, dump the ingredients into a food processor and process until smoooth. For this method, sifting the sugar isn’t necessary. Refrigerate filling until needed.
To assemble the cake: Remove the foil from the top of the cake. Transfer the cake on its bottom sheet of foil to a work surface, placing it so that one of its long sides is parallel to the edge of the surface closest to you. Using an offset spatula, spread the filling evenly over the cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border uncovered on the long side farthest from you. Begin rolling the cake by flipping the edge nearest you over onto itself. Tightly roll up the cake lengthwise until you reach the far long side. Use the foil beneath the cake to assist in rounding the shape (otherwise the cake will stick to your hands). Carefully lift the roll and set it, seam side down, on a sheet of foil (you can use the tented sheet). Wrap the cake securely in the foil. If you plan to serve it the same day, transfer the foil-wrapped roll to a baking sheet and freeze for about 30 minutes to help set the filling. Cut into ½-inch slices and serve.
If you plan to freeze the cake longer than a day, tightly wrap with two additional layers of foil.
Whether you freeze the cake just long enough for the filling to set, or store for two months, the slices will look much prettier if you cut the roll directly from the freezer.