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Thai Tea Swiss Roll

This fragrant, pillowy roll cake is totally worth the effort.

We’re crazy about Thai tea desserts. We can’t resist that deep, almost floral fragrance of cha yen (its Thai name), especially in the form of a light-as-air Swiss roll. This cake has all the milky, tannic richness of a glass of Thai iced tea, but its texture is ethereally light. Making it requires a bit of baking experience and patience, but don’t let that put you off. It’s so yummy. Make sure you treat this cake gently, especially while whisking the egg whites into the batter. And work quickly as you spread the cream filling onto the sponge, because while the condensed milk whipped cream is light and lovely, it doesn’t hold up well to heat. So give this baby plenty of time to set in the fridge — you can make it a day ahead. And keep it well chilled until ready to serve. 

Ingredients:

For the condensed milk cream filling:

1½ cups whipping cream*

3 Thai tea bags or 3 tbsp loose Thai tea leaves

3 tbsp condensed milk

*Avoid French brands of whipping cream as they tend to be less stable when infused with tea (they may not whip up). We used Millac Dairy Whipping Cream, from Phoon Huat.

For the cake:

3 Thai tea bags or 3 tbsp loose Thai tea leaves

⅓ cup hot water

¼ cup corn or canola oil

5 egg yolks

¼ tsp salt

60g + 75g caster sugar, separated

115g cake flour

1 tsp baking powder

6 egg whites

¼ tsp cream of tartar

 Method:

For the condensed milk cream filling:

1. Make the cream filling several hours ahead by bringing the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and steep the Thai tea in the hot cream. Allow to infuse for at least 1 hour, then strain and discard the tea leaves or bags.

2. Place the cream in a covered container in the fridge until well chilled, at least 2 hours.

3. Transfer the cream to the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk at medium speed till medium peaks form. Add condensed milk and whisk only till it is evenly incorporated, till nearly stiff peaks. Do not over-mix.

4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate till ready to use. You can do this up to a day ahead of making the cake. 

For the cake:

5. Steep the tea leaves or bags in the hot water until it cools completely to room temperature. Strain and discard the tea bags or leaves. Set aside.

6. Pre-heat oven to 180°C and position the grill on the centre rack. Line the bottom of a 26cm x 36cm shallow baking pan with parchment paper.

7. Place the oil, egg yolks, salt, 60g of sugar and tea mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk till wellblended and foamy. You can use a hand whisk for this.

8. Sift in the flour and baking powder, and whisk gently till evenly incorporated. Set aside.

9. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean, dry bowl of a standing mixer. Using a clean, dry whisk attachment, whip the mixture on medium-high speed till foamy, then gradually add the remaining 75g of sugar with the machine running.

10. Continue whisking till stiff peaks form (when you lift the whisk from the mixture, the peak should hold the approximate form of a bird’s beak).

11. Transfer one-third of the egg white mixture to the tea batter and whisk gently by hand to incorporate it smoothly.

12. Add the remaining egg white mixture and again, whisk gently and slowly to incorporate the mixture evenly without deflating the egg whites too much. Remember to scoop from the base of the bowl so that you mix all of the batter.

13. Pour the mixture into the parchment-lined baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. To test if the cake is cooked, gently press its centre with your finger. The cake should spring back to the touch.

14. While the cake is baking, prepare a clean damp dishcloth. When the cake comes out of the oven, run a knife around the sides of the pan to unmould it. Place the baking pan on top of a cooling rack and cover with the damp towel. Then place another cooling rack on top of the damp towel, upside down (with its “legs” facing up).

15. Holding on to both cooling racks, carefully flip the baking sheet upside down. Remove the top cooling rack and the baking pan. Gently peel the parchment paper off the cake.

16. Roll up the warm cake with the dishcloth and leave it covered in its rolled-up shape until it cools completely.

17. To fill, unroll cake and place it on a large piece of plastic wrap. Spread the cream filling evenly over the cake, leaving an 8cm gap at one opposite end. Roll it back up. Seal the filled roll tightly with the plastic wrap.

18. Chill cake for at least four hours and up to one day before serving.

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