Nomtastic! Facing My Culinary Fears, Roulade Style

I don't know why roulades have always scared me. Maybe I simply didn't trust my skill level, or believe that a cake could possibly be pliable enough to be molded and rolled without falling apart in one's hands without massive amounts of patience, energy, and confidence. But I really think it was just the preparation method that turned me off. The whole rolling-the-cake-up-in-a-towel thing. Yeah. A towel. Not smooth, harmless foil or parchment paper. Oh no. A towel. The thought of it terrified the obsessive compulsive in me, the one who inspects at eye level every baked good for the merest wisp of lint or stray hair, so intense is my fear of serving a contaminated dessert. This, dear reader, is the real reason why I've never made a roulade. I've always wanted to, secretly. They are so whimsical and fun and filled with luscious fillings. But the spectre of the damned towel and its' grotesquely fuzzy landscape loomed...oh, the humanity.

This Thanksgiving I decided to face this fear head on. I guess I figured it was time some fears got faced, and this one seemed most doable. So I went to the store and inspected towels to purchase for this endeavor. The recommended towel of choice is flour sack, and while they were pretty smooth, no fabric loops that can catch on the cake batter and make it stick, I could still see tiny little fibers that were entirely too easy to dislodge. That simply wouldn't do. So I found some thin microfiber towels that said "lint-free" on the label and upon much inspection and manipulation, I felt reasonably confident that my cake would not end up with a repulsive wool coat.

Since the whole concept of the cake was intimidating enough to me, I decided to simply use the classic Libby's Pumpkin Roll recipe. The only changes I made were to add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.

Upon spreading the cake batter onto the prepared pan, tap the pan against the counter firmly a few times to help pop any air bubbles.

The key to a cake the holds its rolled shape without cracking is to turn it onto a towel that has been very generously covered with powdered sugar immediately after it has finished cooking. The powdered sugar is what will keep the cake from sticking, and also, I guess, provide a barrier between the cake and any wayward fuzzies.

So, turn the cake onto the towel immediately and gently roll the cake up in the towel. The towel will literally be steaming from the heat of the cake. You also have to be patient and let the cake cool completely before unrolling, which will allow the cake to be pliable and re-rollable.

I was absolutely stunned when I got this far. It tried my courage, but technically the cake itself wasn't that difficult to prepare. It cooperated surprisingly well. I let the cake cool for a good hour or so, and did not encounter any cracking when unrolling. I also inspected the cake, up close and personal, and did not see any lint. I had expected at least some, but the powdered sugar protected it admirably.

 I prepared the cream cheese filling, and also added a dash of pumpkin pie spice and a handful of toffee chips for texture and sweetness. Be sure to not spread the filling to the very edge of the cake, because it will spread and smoosh out and not look so hot. Give it an inch border around the perimeter. I held my breath rolling it back up, but it ended up looking pretty awesome, especially for my first try. I cut the ends off at a slight angle, which looks nicest, I think. I garnished the cake with more powdered sugar, a salted caramel sauce I got from Trader Joe's, and more toffee chips. 

Since I didn't end up taking this to my parents for Thanksgiving, it was all for G, S, and myself. We polished it off in a day and a half, so maybe it was all for the best. It was decidedly nomtastic.

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