Roulade au Chocolat Saint Valentin: Chocolate Roulade Cake for Valentine's Day

From the archives. The very iffy photo shows that it is from the very early days of Just Hungry! I look back at this with nostalgia, because not only have my photography skills improved somewhat, it reflects a time in my life when I was into a far more complicated kind of cooking than I am now. I no longer bake things like this, but if you want a pretty spectacular chocolate dessert for Valentine's Day, and have the time and patience, I do highly recommend this rich yet feathery light little confection. I've edited it slightly to be more accurate (what the heck did I mean by 'small container of cream' anyhow). Originally published on February 14, 2004.

roulade au chocholat

This is a small but quite spectacular chocolate dessert, that I made this afternoon and now is waiting for us to devour tonight. It is basically a rolled cake, with a featherlight chocolate bisquit (sponge) made without any flour and rolled with almond buttercream; this is then covered with creamy chocolate ganache, and finally dusted with cocoa. It's not that hard to make but it is a bit involved, so if you'd like to try it please follow the steps carefully.

It's a perfect St. Valentine's Day dessert of course when it's formed into a heart shape as I did here, but it can be enjoyed at any time. You can simply make one round cake, or make little bite-sized rolls (rather like the big sushi rolls), and ice each one individually with the ganache.

Now, this recipe does use rather precise weights, unlike most of the recipes I post here. But in this case it really is worth the effort to take out the kitchen scales and measure everything.

Since the recipe is given in steps, here's the whole shopping list:

  • 200g / 7 oz (2 bars) of best-quality Swiss or Belgian dark chocolate, 70% cacao content
  • 180ml / about 3/4 US cups, or 1 container of whole or heavy cream
  • 1 block of unsalted butter
  • Pure vanilla essence
  • 200g / 7oz of ground almonds
  • White sugar
  • 5 large eggs, pasteurized or very fresh organic
  • Cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate powder!)
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Incidentally, you can tell that it was originally a recipe from a Japanese source because of the rather precise amounts listed for the ingredients - for some reason, Japanese recipes are very exact. This originally appeared in a 1970s issue of Today's Cooking Magazine, the companion magazine for a long-running cooking show on NHK TV of the same name. I have more than 100 of these magazines, and I treasure them dearly. The older issues belonged to my mother but now I own the lot, from the '70s up to 2009.

Recipe: Roulade au Chocolat Saint Valentin: Chocolate Roulade Cake for Valentine's Day

I've divided this into 4 steps: the bisquit or sponge, the almond buttercream, the ganache, and finally the assembly. [Edit: I had an extra egg in the original ingredients..there is no egg in the almond buttercream. Also, the yolk is just mixed in at the very end to the chocolate ganache.]

Part 1: The bisquit (sponge cake) base

  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 45 g / 1 1/2 oz. sugar
  • 30 g / 1 oz of dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150°C or 300° F. Line a sponge pan (or a metal pan about 30cm x 20cm, or 12 inches x 8 inches or so, with a lip) with a teflon baking paper like Bake-o-Glide or buttered kitchen parchment paper.

Add 30g/ 1 oz (or about rounded 2 Tbs) of sugar to the egg yolks, and beat at high speed until the mixture is a very very pale yellow (sort of the color of undyed cheddar), and it falls in ribbons from the whisk.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the rest of the sugar (15g / 1/2 oz, or about rounded 1 Tbs) and beat until it forms soft peaks. Don't overbeat or your sponge will be rather dry.

Microwave the chocolate for about 45 seconds to 1 minute until softened. Beat it with a spoon to liquify it. Add 1 Tbs of hot water drop by drop (it will seize up, or turn stiff and dull looking, at first, then loosen up) to the chocolate.

Add the chocolate to the egg yolk mix. Mix in half of the egg white into this, then fold in the rest, being careful not to over mix. Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth out the top with a wide spatula or even a piece of clean cardboard.

Bake for 20 minutes. Take out and let cool. Put a damp kitchen cloth over this to prevent it from drying out.

Part 2: Almond buttercream

  • 80g / 2 1/2 oz finely ground almonds
  • 50g / 1 1/2 oz unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 33g / 1 oz sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Put the ground almonds in a frying pan over medium heat and toast lightly, stirring all the time. As soon as it is toasted just enough so that it has turned a golden brown and smells great, take it out of the pan (or it will continue cooking and may get burned and bitter tasting).

Whip the butter and sugar together until the sugar is totally incorporated into the cream. It shouldn't feel gritty when you are done. (Do this in a small food processor if you have one.) Add the vanilla.

Mix in the toasted almond powder.

Part 3: Chocolate ganache

  • 170g / 6 oz. dark chocolate
  • 160g / 5 1/2 oz heavy cream
  • 100g / 3 1/2 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk, very fresh organic or pasteurized

Heat the cream in a low heat in a thick-bottomed pan until hot but not boiling. Add the chocolate, cut up into chunks or shredded, and mix until thoroughly melted.

Pour out the chocolate mixture into a bowl and let cool for a bit until it's just rather warm when you stick your finger in. Add the butter to this, mixing rapidly until it's totally incorporated. Mix in the egg yolk. Let it cool in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Part 4: Assembly

Cut the bisquit (sponge cake) into strips about 2 inches / 5 cm wide. You want them to be pretty even, so it's helpful to use a ruler to make sure the strips are of the same width. Spread the tops with the buttercream.

Carefully peel the cake strips off the parchment paper with a spatula. Don't worry if the strips tear though. Roll the strips one by one around and around until you end up with a roll about 15cm / inches in diameter.

With a knife and your hands, form the roll into a heart, by pressing the back of a knife into the top indentation, and making the end rather pointy. (Of course, you can just leave it as a circle too.) Smoosh the top a bit if necessary to make it more or less even.

Cover the sides of the heart or roll with a thin layer of the chocolate ganache. Cover the top with a thick layer of the ganache, smoothing it out so you keep the heart shape.

Dust the top with cocoa, through a fine sieve or tea strainer.

To make the heart pattern, cut out some hearts in a piece of paper about the same size as your rolled cake. Place the paper on top of the cake, and dust lightly with icing / powdered sugar.

Some other chocolatey things from the archives

For something more manly and assertive, try Guinness Cake with Whisky-Sour Icing. This remains a favorite cake in our house, since it's very easy to make and creates a bit of a sensation.

This mousse au chocolat is also a perennial favorite - very easy and very delicious.

If you are a vegan or on a strict diet, try the chocolate version of this tofu-based pudding.

On the other hand, what could be more indulgent than homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups?

Filed under:  chocolate dessert baking cake

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Looks delicious. I have a recipe site and would love to post it.

hi maki,
wondering about the egg listed in the list of ingredients for the almond buttercream and the ganache. when should the egg be added in? thanks!

Oops sorry about that Jun - there is no egg in the buttercream. I've edited to reflect this.

Idées cadeaux pour la Saint-Valentin

Am currently shopping for a good vanilla essence. What brand(s) would you recommend?

I don't have a particular favorite long as it's labeled as being pure vanilla essence or extract and not 'artificial' vanilla (aka vanillin) it should be fine. Actually I try to use real vanilla pods whenever possible, such as for flavoring custards. (an odd fact - vanilla essence/extract from real vanilla is not commonly available in Switzerland, though artificial vanillin is...however vanilla pods are very commonly available and relatively cheap. I had my first real-vanilla encounter about 12 years ago via a custard made by my future mother-in-law...who was never what you'd call an adventurous cook...but using real vanilla was the only way to go for her. I didn't know what that black specks were!)

Hi Maki,

since you said the amounts for the cake need to be weighed pretty carefully I was wondering how much a block of unsalted butter is? 250g? Cause even here in the US, there are different sizes of butter. Thank you for your help!

The package should say how many ounces or grams it has.

If it's not too much trouble, I would like some clarification on this as well, please. ^_^ Butter in the US most readily comes in packages of four 4oz/113g sticks. How much would you say does this recipe require?

Well, it needs 50g, or 1.75 ounces. So if you were going to just cut that from a stick of butter, it would be 3.5 tablespoons. However, since you do have to weigh the other ingredients anyway, you should really weigh the butter too. This is a somewhat tricky recipe since the cake part uses no, again, I would urge that anyone trying this recipe does so with a kitchen scale at the ready.