No, you don’t have to gnaw on a real gypsy’s arm. This popular Catalan Swiss Roll-style chocolate dessert is such a treat. It appears in Emma Warren’s wonderful new book The Catalan Kitchen: From Mountains to City and Sea – Recipes from Spain’s Culinary Heart (Smith Street Books). Great for afternoon tea or your next dinner party. (Remember: If you invite any gypsies, tell them to keep their elbows off the table, just to prevent any confusion.)
Known by many different names around the world, but commonly referred to as the Swiss roll, this cake is by no means indigenous to Catalunya, nor is it Swiss. The name ‘gypsy’s arm’ may have come from a travelling monk who brought the cake back to Spain from Egypt, naming it the ‘Egyptian’s arm’. As the Spanish word for gypsy (gitano) is derived from ‘egiptano’ (Egyptian) it makes sense that the name changed over time to gypsy’s arm. Another theory suggests that gypsies pedalling copper and metals through towns and villages were compensated for their work with this cake and would happily leave with their materials in one arm and the cake, comfortably resting along the elbow down to the wrist, in the other.
Butter, for greasing
200 g (7 oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
80 ml (2½ fl oz/¹∕³ cup) espresso coffee
6 large eggs, separated
150 g (5½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1 tablespoon pure icing (confectioners’) sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon Pedro Ximénez or sweet sherry
185 ml (6 fl oz/¾ cup) thickened (whipping) cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F) fan-forced. Line a 29 x 24 x 3 cm (11½ x 9½ x 1¼ in) Swiss roll (jelly roll) tin with greased baking paper.
Place the chocolate and espresso in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or electric beaters, beat the egg yolks and sugar until fluffy and pale. Fold through the melted chocolate and coffee mixture until well combined.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then gently fold through the chocolate and egg mixture.
Pour onto the prepared tray and bake for 12–15 minutes, until cooked through. Turn the oven off, leave the tray inside and keep the oven door slightly ajar to let the moisture escape. Allow the cake to cool in the oven for 10–15 minutes.
Combine the cacao powder and icing sugar in a small bowl, then sprinkle onto a sheet of baking paper just larger than the cooked sponge. Turn the sponge out onto the prepared baking paper and peel off the top piece of paper. Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle over the alcohol.
Whip the cream and vanilla bean paste in a bowl until firm, then evenly spread it over the sponge. Roll up the sponge, using the edges of the baking paper as a guide. Wrap the gypsy’s arm in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1–2 hours before slicing and serving.
From The Catalan Kitchen: From Mountains to City and Sea – Recipes from Spain’s Culinary Heart by Emma Warren.
Photography © Rochelle Eagle | Food styling © Lee Blaylock (Smith Street Books, October 2018 – AU$ 55, NZ$ 65)