Victoria Swiss Roll, A Blogiversary Dessert

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This week marks three years since I started this blog, which means it's been three years of learning lessons the hard way (ALWAYS the hard way), three years of getting the side-eye from Judson on the weirder recipes even as he supports every dish I attempt to make, and three years of actively avoiding the recipes for swiss rolls sprinkled throughout the Recipe Box. But I've picked up a lot of skills in the last three years, and finally decided it was time to tackle a proper swiss roll in the style of a Victoria Sandwich. It was a 2018 goal of mine to learn to make a decent swiss roll, so in honour of the third anniversary of The Recipe Box Project, here we are!

I still make a lot of American and Americanesque recipes these days; a solid chunk of recipes in the box are probably identifiably American, and in a pinch without other plans to the contrary, I'll probably always fall back on the recipes I grew up with. But I'm always trying to broaden my kitchen repertoire and become more experienced with British and especially Scottish dishes. So to combine my roots with my adopted culture, here's a swiss roll made in the style of a Victoria Sandwich- the most quintessential of British desserts.

Loads of tiny bubbles, so make sure you tap that batter before you cook it!

Loads of tiny bubbles, so make sure you tap that batter before you cook it!

See that filling oozing out? That's why you add extra powdered sugar if it's too thin!

See that filling oozing out? That's why you add extra powdered sugar if it's too thin!

A Victoria Sandwich is made of two layers of vanilla cake sandwiched with a filling of jam and a simple buttercream or whipped cream, the whole thing dusted with powdered sugar. I hate a Victoria Sandwich because I am a baptised member of the Church of All Possible Frosting, but using the flavours of a Victoria Sandwich in a swiss roll means you get all the necessary flavours but at a ratio of ¾ cake to ¼ frosting (this is the holy ratio when it comes to cakes, as far as I am concerned). What I'm saying is: this swiss roll is the perfect cake. A combination of British flavour and American techniques, beautifully presentable to your pals, your colleagues or anyone you need to impress, and you don't have to pipe or smooth any frosting!

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Swiss rolls aren't really a thing in the US these days; before making this, I had never even had a swiss roll before, much less made one. I haven't quite perfected my own technique yet- if Mary Berry was invited over for tea, she'd point out that my swirl could be an awful lot tighter*- but I was still pretty stoked at how this one came out (a big improvement over the first time I tried to make one back in 2016... the whole thing fell apart into a pile of messy crumbs before I even got it out of the pan). Then a Scottish friend asked me what I've been cooking lately and I humble-bragged about how I had finally made a successful swiss roll and I guess she didn't realise that I was proud of it and had never made one before, so she rolled her eyes and told me a story about learning to make an amazing swiss roll way back when she was in primary school and how years later as a teenager, her home economics class was such a joke because they did nothing but make swiss rolls every day for weeks and it was the easiest class she's ever taken.

A few words of advice: if there was ever a recipe worth getting your mise-en-place done before you even start, it's this one. Make sure you've read through the recipe and have your pan prepared, your oven preheated and your dishtowel set aside and ready to be used. This isn't a difficult cake to make (and your frosting doesn't have to look stellar!), but you should be prepared for every step of the process before you begin or you'll end up with a cooled cake that won't roll properly. You can fill this cake with anything you want; a chocolate ganache with cherry jam would be amazing, or a citrusy fruit curd. I used raspberry jam and an almond-infused whipped cream cheese frosting to mimic a Victoria Sponge, and I have no regrets.

*No she wouldn't, because Mary Berry is a gem of a person and would never be so rude. But Paul Hollywood totally would.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. Besides being delicious, this cake is versatile, beautiful, not too heavy and a perfect complement to afternoon tea, a birthday party, or your next dinner party.

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This version of cream cheese frosting makes a glaze, not a frosting, so I updated it below. Don't try to use this one! 

This version of cream cheese frosting makes a glaze, not a frosting, so I updated it below. Don't try to use this one! 

one year ago: mocha cake with caramel frosting
two years ago: swiss chocolate cake
three years ago (new!): old-time chocolate cake with fudge frosting

The recipe:

Victoria Swiss Roll

the directions:
cake:

Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
Grease a 10x15 shallow-sided pan, then line the bottom with greased parchment paper and set aside.
Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside.
On medium-high speed, beat eggs until thick and pale yellow (approx. 3 minutes).
Lower speed to medium-low and gradually beat in sugar for approx. 1 minute.
At same speed, add water and vanilla all at once.
Beat in flour mixture all at once.
At same speed, continue beating until very smooth and well-blended.
Pour into prepared pan, then drop pan three times onto counter from a height of a few inches to knock out any air bubbles.
Bake 11-13 minutes until just done.
While cake is in the oven, lay a dishtowel on the counter and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Make sure powdered sugar is in a thin, even coat covering the entire dishtowel.
AS SOON AS CAKE COMES OUT OF OVEN, run a knife around the edge of the pan, then turn out onto prepared dishtowel.
Gently peel off parchment paper, then, using the dishtowel as leverage, quickly roll the entire cake into a spiral with the dishtowel, starting with the short end.
Set aside and allow to cool while you make the filling.

Filling:

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and uniform.
Add salt and almond or vanilla extract, then 3 cups of powdered sugar.
Beat until smooth, then add ½ c (60g) powdered sugar at a time if needed to reach a soft but spreadable consistency.
Once cake is mostly cool (at least 30 minutes, carefully unroll it from the dishtowel and spread with a thin layer of raspberry jam.
On top of jam, spread or pipe cream cheese frosting in a thick layer.
Starting from the same edge as before, gently but tightly roll the cake into a spiral.
Rotate the cake so that the seam is down and place on a serving plate, then sift powdered sugar over the whole thing.

the ingredients:
the cake:

1 c cake flour (or 1 c MINUS 2 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 c (200g) sugar
5 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
Approx. ¼ c (30g) powdered sugar for sprinkling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the filling:

¾ c (170g) butter, softened
¼ c (55g) cream cheese
3-4 c (375-500g) powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
¼ c (80g) raspberry jam

Cheesy Meatballs*

You'll have more meatballs than this- i just forgot to take a picture until they were already snacked on.

You'll have more meatballs than this- i just forgot to take a picture until they were already snacked on.

We don't really eat a lot of meat around here in the Recipe Box kitchen- partly because it just doesn't occur to me to cook it all that often and partly because meat in Scotland is loads more expensive than vegetables and grains, and since I don't mind a lack of meat and I'm the one who does most of the meal planning and cooking, here we are. And when we have a party? The only meat I usually bother with is charcuterie.

When it comes to ground beef, I probably only eat it four times a year when it's chili season or I'm somewhere with top-notch beef tartare (fun fact: I was a vegetarian for five years, and didn't eat ground beef for probably another three after that). Even as a kid, I didn't like meatballs (or spaghetti), but luckily I've outgrown that. So when we threw a party recently, I knew I had to make these cheesy meatballs- the perfect hot snack during a dreary Scottish winter.

They're easy, delicious, bite-size (so they're easy to eat standing up at a party) and if you manage to have any leftover, they reheat like a dream so you can snack on them late at night when your guests have all made it into their cabs and headed home. If you're cooking for people with dietary restrictions, though, a word of warning: these contain meat (obviously), dairy, gluten, wheat AND eggs... so nearly anyone with allergies or other restrictions is going to have to pass.

*This also doubles as a great nickname for whatever pet you might own!

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The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. These are perfect party food and look especially nice served in the skillet they were cooked in, if you have an attractive one. I'm only knocking off a spoon because the cheese got so melty when they cooked that I had to drain off the juices before I served them, which was unexpected but not the end of the world.

One year ago: crazy crust apple pie
two years ago: Happy New Year!

the recipe:

Cheesy Meatballs

the directions:

If cooking immediately, preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Combine all ingredients and mix well (using your hands works best).
Shape into small balls (approx. 1-inch round).
At this point, you can store them for up to 48 hours before using in the refrigerator, covered tightly in plastic wrap, which makes them a perfect make-ahead party food.
When ready to cook, place the meatballs in a cast-iron skillet or other oven-safe serveware (a decorative pie plate works well) and bake 10-12 minutes until very brown and cooked through.
May be served directly from the skillet.

Yields approximately 36 bite-size meatballs.

the ingredients:

1 lb (500g) ground beef
1 c (114g) cheddar cheese, grated
¼ c (30g) dry bread crumbs
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp minced onion (or ½ tsp onion powder)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 egg

Pope Ladies, or, Sour Cream Yeasted Rolls

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When I first found the recipe for Pope Ladies in the Recipe Box, I giggled at the name, then I read the description: 'traditional fare for New Year's Day,' and I couldn't stop giggling because obviously these were some kind of joke made up by Betty Crocker, right? Wrong. I know it's too late for you to make your own Pope Ladies for THIS New Year's Day, but since they are also traditionally served on Lady Day (March 25, the day Mary found out she was pregnant), I figured I'd give you a head start on all your Lady Day preparations.

Pope Ladies, as it turns out, originate from St Albans, a small town in Hertfordshire, England. Apparently, ever since medieval times, people in St Albans have been eating these buns each year on 1 January and 25 March. There are conflicting stories as to how they came about: one legend says that a noblewoman and her group of attendants were lost in the forest when they came upon a monastery in St Albans- by way of thanks to the monks who saved her, the noblewoman gave them a substantial monetary reward, which they used to bake lady-shaped rolls to feed the poor. Since they were monks, the rolls became known as 'pope ladies.'

This is literally the diagram I had to follow along with the directions. For once i think mine came out better than the picture!

This is literally the diagram I had to follow along with the directions. For once i think mine came out better than the picture!

An ok story, but it doesn't really do much to explain the name, which is why I prefer to believe the other story (though I'm quite sure Eleanor, a devout Catholic, would probably not). The second version of the story states that the rolls are named for Pope Joan, an apocryphal and (probably) mythical female pope born in 818AD. Although it's now thought that Joan was a myth, the legend said that she was only discovered to be a women when she stopped in the middle of a parade to give birth, and was shortly thereafter murdered because of it. This legend first gained traction in the 1200s, roughly the same time as Pope Ladies came about, so it's also thought they might have Joan to thank for their name.

Either way, this particular batch of Pope Ladies is not quite made in the traditional manner- usually they would be made with scalded milk, not sour cream and usually they would have eyes made from currants and a tiny dough nose. But I was making these while drinking a prosecco cocktail last night shortly before heading out to a pub with Judson and friends and I completely forgot the faces until they were in the oven. Oops.

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These are best straight from the oven, when the outside is crusty and firm and the interior is soft and plush, but they reheat well and are pretty good at treating a hangover as well. The dough is forgiving and easy to work with, and if, for some reason, you have the willpower to make food in your kitchen today, I'd recommend you whip yourself up a batch of Pope Ladies and then call all your hungover friends to come eat them with you while you tell them stories about medieval feminist popes. If your friends are anything like mine, they... probably won't be too surprised.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. They're absolutely perfect when fresh from the oven, but not quite as good when reheated so I'm knocking off a spoon because they need to be eaten promptly.

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one year ago: crazy crust apple pie
two years ago: happy new year!

The recipe:

Pope Ladies

the directions:

Dissolve yeast in water in mixing bowl, then set aside.
Heat sour cream over very low heat just until it melts and is lukewarm.
Add warm sour cream, butter, sugar, salt, ONLY ONE egg and 1 cup of flour to yeast mixture.
Beat until smooth.
Add remaining 2 cups of flour and mix until dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Knead dough on a well-floured surface until smooth, about 10 minutes (alternatively, if you have a dough hook for your mixer, beat on very low speed for approximately 3 minutes).
Grease the mixing bowl, put dough back into it and turn once so greased side is facing up.
Cover tightly and put in a very warm place to rise 1 hour (or if you live in a drafty Scottish flat, up to overnight).
When dough has doubled in size, punch down and form your Pope Ladies:
Preheat oven to 190C/375F and grease 2 baking sheets.
Divide dough into 12 pieces.
Form half of each piece into an oval-shaped body approximately 4 inches long, lay on baking sheet.
Divide remaining piece of dough in half again and roll one piece into a long thin snake approximately 4 inches long.
Lay this piece in a U-shape around one end of the 'body' to form arms.
Take remaining piece of dough and form into a ball for the head.
Place head ahove arms body on your baking sheet (they'll rise enough in the oven to attach as long as they are touching).
Repeat until you are out of dough, keeping Pope Ladies spaced apart at least 3 inches on your baking sheet.
Beat remaining egg with a fork and brush over the ladies, taking care to avoid large drips.
Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
 

Serve warm, best straight from the oven.

the ingredients:

2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
¼ c warm water
1 c sour cream
2 tbsp butter
8 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
3 c flour, divided