If this recipe looks too daunting at first blush, you might consider making it in stages. The syrup for the praline mousse can be made two days in advance, and the cake can be made the day before the dessert is assembled. Or tackle just the cake the first time, and serve it with some strawberry jam and a little whipped cream on the side. Then imagine how good (and beautiful) the cake will be with the mousse on the inside. I prefer to assemble the roulade in the morning and give it all day to get moist and flavorful in the refrigerator. Some sliced ripe strawberries or peaches send it over the top.
For an easy dessert, try the mousse on its own with shortbread cookies and some fresh strawberries. Gelatin tends to thicken on standing for even a few minutes. If the mixture seems too thick and granular when you stir in the rum, you might want to place the bowl over hot water to keep the gelatin liquid.–Susan Spicer
Pecan Roll Cake with Praline Mousse
For the cake
- 7 ounces (about 1 cup) pecans lightly toasted
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 7 eggs separated (be careful not to get any yolk in the whites)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the praline syrup
Make the cake
- Line an 12-by-18-inch baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment or spray it with nonstick spray. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Pulse the pecans in a food processor until you have a coarse meal. Transfer to a medium bowl and toss with the baking powder.
- Whip the yolks with 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar in an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale. Stir into the nut mixture. Using a clean beater and a clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Whip at high speed until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Stop the mixer and pull the beater out slowly: If the whites leave stiff peaks in the bowl, the mixture is ready (it should be stiff but not dry).
- Fold the whites into the yolk mixture one half at a time. Avoid the urge to overmix. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
- Bake until light golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and immediately cover with a damp towel; cool completely.
Make the praline syrup
- Put the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over high heat. Stir to combine. Put the cream in another small saucepan and bring it just short of a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and then down to a steady simmer. When the liquid turns amber, swirl the pan. This will help it caramelize evenly. When it reaches a deep amber color, remove it from the heat and very carefully whisk in the cream. It will bubble up and steam, so watch those fingers! Return the pan to the heat and whisk to dissolve all the caramel. Refrigerate 1 cup of the Praline Syrup for the mousse filling. Add the vanilla and bourbon to the rest and use later as a drizzling sauce when serving the roulade.
Make the praline mousse
- Cream the cream cheese by hand or in an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Slowly add the reserved praline syrup, scraping the bowl frequently. Add the vanilla. Place the gelatin in a small bowl with about 1 tablespoon warm water. Add the rum to the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Fold a bit of the Praline Syrup-cream cheese mixture into the gelatin, then fold the gelatin mixture back into the Praline Syrup-cheese mixture. Fold in the whipped cream, one half at a time.
- Run a paring knife around the outside of the cake to release it from the sides of the pan. Lift the edges carefully, feeling under the cake to loosen it. Sift a thin layer of confectioners’ sugar onto the top of the cake. Lay a piece of parchment the size of the cake across the top, then turn the pan over to release the cake onto the parchment. With the cake lying on the counter, carefully peel the parchment that is now on the top off the cake.
- Spread the mousse on the cake, stopping 1/2 inch from the long edge. Starting with the long edge closest to you, begin rolling the cake up jelly-roll style, using the parchment for support. Tuck the rolling edge of the cake in as you go to make it a little tighter and neater. Place the cake back on the baking pan and refrigerate to firm it up.
- To serve, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, cut the slices about 1 inch thick, and serve with a generous drizzle of the remaining Praline Syrup. Garnish with fresh strawberries or peaches, if desired.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a great dessert. I served it at a dinner party this past weekend, and everyone loved it. I garnished it with fresh strawberries and blackberries. It wasn’t that difficult for me to make, although it is a bit time consuming. I wouldn’t recommend this recipe to novice bakers since there is quite a bit of advanced technique involved.
I used two recipe approved substitutions. I used low-fat cream cheese and dark rum because I had those on hand didn’t want to go to the grocery store. The result was great and its gluten free, a bonus for several people in my office. I took this to a late holiday party and it was very popular. The texture improves the longer you let it sit and although there are many steps none are terribly difficult. This is a special occasion cake, worthy of special occasions.
Originally published June 23, 2007