A Christmas Eve Ode to Martha Stewart
I have, like so many, have admired her and been inspired by her since I was young. (That’s before the internet.) Her magazines came first, they were the first of their kind and then the TV shows, again the first, she was and is a pioneer and she’s an exceptional recipe writer and cook. Her recipes, tips and advice are accessible to all skills levels and unlike so many internet recipes today, they actually work and don’t make you feel like you messed up.
In the over twenty years as a culinary instructor, one of the complaints I hear most is how often recipes fail. Often times people blame themselves, but more often than not it’s because recipes weren’t tested, were rushed or made by a novice cook or someone who can cook but can’t convey the recipe in writing- a skill of its own that takes me a lot of effort. I am often asked what recipes should I use, there are so many choices. I say without any hesitation- Martha Stewarts. Her recipes are well known to work and people learning to cook or cooking new things need recipes that work. Just like I do when it comes to baking.
I was joyfully reading the December issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine, gathering ideas and inspiration, as I have since I was 20. I ran across a recipe that caught my interest– Coffee- Caramel Swiss Roll. I had long wanted to make a Yule Log cake using mangoes but hadn’t really thought of how exactly id make it work. I loathe chocolate and mangoes (sorry), so I knew it wasn’t going to be a chocolate version.
Martha’s Coffee-Caramel Roll used what seemed to be a basic sponge cake recipe that was syrup brushed and layered with caramel in the center. The cake was then frosted with a marshmallow merengue that was torched to make it looked burnt. I had a moment of clarity, looking at the photo- I knew that was the vision of my cake. Now I just had to change a few things to make it mango-centric.
I used the same cake recipe, but added lime zest, and brushed it with a mango-pit lime syrup. The decided to fill the cake with vanilla whipped cream and mango curd and cover it with the same frosting. I knew since I was using her cake recipe and the basic idea that was tried and tested by her (or her staff – I don’t pretend that she’s in the kitchen for everything) everything would work out, and it did. I was pleased.
I changed the marshmallow merengue technique a bit because I have a way that works for me that seems easier and harder to mess up and because I don’t have electric beaters, which her version called for.
All in all I’m pleased with the outcome and I know it’s because I used a recipe that would work; techniques, tips and general ideas that have been tested, time and time again. I’m not a baker by nature or practice, I need to have guides and expertise to help me and Martha’s recipes do just that. My advice, listen to Martha. ( One day, I will tell you all a story about my late father and how he wrote to Martha Stewart on my behalf, as all stories about my father, it’s a good one!)
My ode to Martha….
The Night Before Christmas in my Kitchen
‘Twas the night before Christmas,
and my creature Inca was stirring.
The stockings (for Svea & Ivin) were laid by the chimney without care
I knew St Nicholas wasn’t coming,
so I stuffed them myself, with stuff for their hair.
Inca was the only thing snug in his bed,
Visions of opening the presents surely danced in his head.
I had settled onthe couch with Living magazine on my lap.
Of course I was drinking a potent night cap.
I saw the Coffee-Caramel Swiss Roll and got an idea in my head
I knew since it was Martha’s recipe, I wouldn’t be misled.
Her recipes always worked and were never a ruse.
I knew in a flash; my cake would be mango and Martha’s its muse.
Mine was chubbier and rolled with too much “jelly”.
I laughed when I saw it, it reminded me of Santa’s belly.
Then a vision came, Martha giving a nod and a wink.
All my cooking fears dissipated in a blink.
I knew that because I used Martha’s recipe everything was to be all right.
Here is my cake.
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Mango Roll Cake with Marshmallow Merengue Frosting
Adapted from Martha Stewart
I made this cake in two stages on two different days, making it much easier and less pressure filled. I made the cake, syrup and curd on day one and the assembly and frosting on day two. The remaining egg whites from day one, can just go in the refrigerator overnight because we cook them they don’t need to be room temp.
For the cake
¼ cup canola or olive oil , plus more to grease the pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons corn starch
Zest of 2 limes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup hot water
¾ cup sugar
5 eggs, separated, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Powdered sugar, for dusting
For the syrup
1 mango pit
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
Zest of 1 lime
For the filling
1 cup cubed mango
Juice of 2 limes
¼ cup water
½ cup sugar
4 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups (16 ounces) heavy whipping cream, cold
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the frosting
4 egg whites
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the cake
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a 13 X 18 inch baking sheet with oil and line it with parchment paper. Brush the top of the parchment paper with oil as well.
Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and lime zest. Whisk together hot water and sugar in a large bowl until the sugar is full dissolved. Add the oil, the egg yolks and the vanilla and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until combined.
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment beat on (medium-low) the egg whites until frothy (about 3 minutes). Add the cream of tartar and turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes.
Fold the egg whites into the batter gently until well combined and no streaks of white are visible.
Pour the batter onto the lined baking sheet and spread evenly using an offset spatula (ideal) or regular spatula.
Place in the oven and bake for about 16 -19 minutes. It will be golden brown on the top and spongy and pulling away from the sides. Cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes.
Lay a clean kitchen towel (thin material) flat on the counter and dust generously with powdered sugar. Flip the cake onto the towel and gently remove parchment.
Face the cake horizontally in front of you on the towel and roll it up into the towel. Place the seem side of the cake down, and let rest (in the towel) for at least an hour. I left mine over night.
For the syrup
Place the ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Cool, strain and chill.
For the curd filling
Combine the mango, lime juice, sugar, salt and water in a blender and blend until totally smooth and creamy.
Make a double boiler by placing a small stainless steel bowl atop of a saucepan of a little water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Combine the mango puree and the egg yolks and whisk. Whisk slowly for about 8-10 minutes or until the curd becomes very thick. Take off heat and add butter, one tablespoon at a time. Cool and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
For the vanilla whipped cream
Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, beat the cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form.
Unroll the cake. Brush the cake with the mango-pit lime syrup.
Place the whipped cream evenly across the cake using an offset spatula, leave a little border around the entire cake. Next add a thin layer of the mango curd, evenly.
Roll the cake up, the same way you initially rolled it up but without the towel. Gently place the cake seam side down on a serving apparatus that will fit inside the refrigerator. Also make sure the plate or serving piece can withstand some heat from the torch.
Refrigerate about an hour before frosting.
For the frosting
Place a little water in the bottom of a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer. In a bowl that fits on top of the sauce pan ( makeshift double-boiler) whisk the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar, making sure the bottom of the boil doesn’t touch the water, it will cook the eggs. Continuously whisk for about 4 minutes or until the temperature hits about 140 degrees. I sue a thermometer to be sure.
Quickly and carefully transfer the egg white mixture to a stand mixer with whisk attachment and beat on high until stiff peaks form. This process will take 6-7 minutes for sure.
Remove the cake and frost it with the marshmallow merengue. Place the cake back in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours.
Gently torch the cake using a hand held kitchen torch before serving.