My first serving of Roulage was at a tiny tea room where ladies met for elegant brunch, where mother-daughter luncheons or bridesmaids’ met the day before a wedding to dine with the bride and her female family members. This beloved place was down a cobbled lane on Southside, a place aptly named Cobb’s Lane. When I was a mere teenager, yet I believed I had never tasted any dessert that was more decadent. A deep rich chocolate roll around a cloud of whipped cream. Yes, there were other dishes we enjoyed there, a beautiful salad plate, a chicken imperial, if not in name- regal in taste, though as someone recently recalled- ‘We went to Cobb’s Lane for the roulage.’ And we did.
The Roulage recipe I have is old, it has no attribution, yet I’ve always been told it was the famous Cobb’s Lane Roulage. And while I’ve updated the technique, the ingredients are essentially the same. Eggs separately beaten, confectioners sugar, a few tablespoons of cocoa- no flour no butter- poured into a squeaky clean and dry jelly roll pan. Filled and rolled with lightly sweetened whipped cream – the presentation is always impressive even if the cocoa is uneven when dusted or whether the roll cracks a bit. It’s imperfections are just part of a fresh made Roulage.
The French call the method a roulade, other cultures call it a Swiss Roll. Some have been redundant in calling this version- a chocolate roulage- in the the South, the essence of a Roulage is that it’s a chocolate roll. I suppose I thought of roulage as a jelly roll, but it’s not exactly a simple sponge cake, since the batter does contain egg yolks, but no flour- though the baker does indeed use her jelly roll pan. There are those who’ve tried to improve the unimproveable by adding Bourbon or Grand Mariner to the whipped cream, or by setting a slice of Roulage in a pool of raspberry sauce- still, the classic is best. To be honest, I don’t make Roulage often enough. Or at least that’s what I think every time I make it. Still. When I make a roulage, it takes me back to a tiny, elegant, hidden-away place, called Cobb’s Lane.
Here’s how Camellia’s Roulage is made….
- 5 Large Egg Yolks
- 1 Cup Confectioners Sugar Sifted
- 3 Tbs Dutch Processed Cocoa Plus more for dusting
- 5 Large Egg Whites Stiffly Beaten
- 1/2 Pint Heavy Cream Whipped and chilled
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With the whisk attachment, stiffly beat 5 large egg whites and set aside. In another mixing bowl Beat 5 egg yolks until pale yellow. Add 1 cup confectioners sugar. Blend in 3 Tbs of Dutch Cocoa until blended well. Fold in gently, the stiffly beaten eggs whites. Smooth mixture lightly into an untreated 9x13 jelly roll pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes making sure mixture springs back lightly to the touch. During bake time, dampen a kitchen towel *Or you may use a silicone baking mat, which is what I have used with very good results. Put 3-6 Tablespoons Dutch Cocoa in a small bowl with a small sieve. Sift cocoa over a large piece of parchment paper. When roll is baked, turn out onto silicone damp towel immediately. (You may need to quickly loosen lightly before turning out) Trim edges of roll, then roll in damp towel - while still hot. Cool , while covered with an additional kitchen towel. ( Note: I have had excellent results turning the Roulage base in a silicone baking mat, instead of the damp towel, then wrapping the mat in a damp towel. When cool, remove the towel covering the roll and unroll on a cocoa covered parchment which coats the outside of roll. Spread whipped cream over surface, then roll. Place roll on waxed paper, cover. Cover this in plastic wrap securely and chill. With a serrated knife, slice roulage and serve on dessert plates, garnished with berries. ( Roulage may be frozen,if not serving right away. Serves 6 beautifully.
It does take a bit of self confidence to make a Roulage, just remember that the imperfections of a Roulage, only add to its beauty. For really, it’s a dessert that shouldn’t-couldn’t-wouldn’t want to be mass produced perfection. Here’s hoping that some time, you’ll challenge yourself to make a Roulage.
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine.