Brazo Gitano Acaramelado

Custard-Filled Jelly Roll with Meringue and Caramel

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At least 2 hours in advance, make the natilla (custard) filling: In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, combine the milk with the cinnamon and lemon zest. Bring the milk just to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and set aside.

With an electric mixer or whisk, beat the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until pale yellow. With a slotted spoon, remove the cinnamon and lemon zest from the milk. Gradually add the hot milk to the eggs, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is quite thick, 6 to 8 minutes. It will continue to thicken as it cools, but remember that to be a filling it should be spreadable. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the natilla into a bowl, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface so a skin won’t form on top, and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours.

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Ingredients

For the Natilla (Custard) Filling

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
  • 1 (1⁄4-inch-wide) strip lemon zest
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Meringue

  • 1 cup sugar
  • Coarsely grated zest of 1 lime
  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Cake

For the Caramel

  • ½ cup sugar

Method

Make the meringue: Combine the sugar, cup water, and the lime zest in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, occasionally swirling the pan by the handle, but not stirring. When the liquid turns from cloudy to clear, cover the pan and reduce the heat to low.

Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at low speed until they start to become foamy. Add the cream of tartar and salt, and gradually increase the speed and beat until the whites stand in soft peaks. Stir in the vanilla.

Remove the lid from the sugar syrup and boil over medium-high heat until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 238°F. and a few drops of syrup drizzled into a bowl of cold water holds a soft but definite shape. Slowly pour the hot syrup through a coarse strainer into the egg whites while beating at medium speed; discard the lime zest. Continue to beat until the meringue stands in stiff peaks and the outside of the mixer bowl is barely warm to the touch, about 10 minutes.

Fill the cake: Gently unroll the cooled cake. Evenly spread the natilla over the cake, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges uncovered. Carefully roll up the cake, using the towel to help you, and place it seam side down on a work surface. If necessary, use a sharp knife to trim off about ½ inch at each end of the roll to neaten the edges. Carefully transfer the jelly roll to a serving platter.

With a spatula, frost the cake with swirls of meringue, covering the sides and top. If desired, use a pastry bag to add decorative touches. Set aside in a cool, dry place until ready to serve. (The cake can be made ahead up to this point and frozen until firm, then carefully tented with aluminum foil to protect the meringue. The cake will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. Remove it from the freezer and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.)

Make the caramel: Place the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan by the handle until the sugar melts and turns a light amber color. Remove from the heat and use a spoon to drizzle the hot caramel in decorative lines over the meringue. Slice the cake and serve.