Monday February 10, 2014 | 09:32 AM

               Although I’ve been unable to research a culinary reason for it, the Franco-American and French Canadian cuisines includes a preference for cinnamon, in several ethnic recipes. This aromatically flavorful spice is “la cannelle”, in French. 

Un peu de cannelle (some cinnamon) is an ingredient we add to our family’s tourtiere (pork pie) meat filling. We include la cannelle in chicken ragout” (ragoût de poulet), which is like a cream-chicken recipe, but cooked in a brown roux.

La cannelle was a strong flavor in a ground meat poultry stuffing, probably familiar to many Franco-Americans who grew up eating it during les fêtes (the Holidays).

La cannelle is added to blueberry pie filling.

In addition to adding a distinct flavor to recipes, the delicious odor of food cooking in the kitchen with la cannelle, is a powerful appetite stimulant!

As a result of the apparent traditional fondness for la cannelle, I’ve been able to create variations of some popular recipes, by adding un peu de cannelle, to appeal to the Franco-American palate.

My recipe for Valentine Franco-American  Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Roll Cake is an example of adding la cannelle to the batter. Voila! C’est la Franco-Américaine!

This cake roll recipe requires several preparatory steps, but the labor is definitely worth the outcome. It can be prepared at least one day in advance of serving when stored in a cool location, after it’s assembled  (We put ours on top of our car in the freezing cold garage. Cut in half, a piece of it is also stored in our freezer).

I found the sponge texture of the batter made the cake roll-up rather easy to accomplish.

As a matter of fact, I recommend this recipe for any holiday or birthday, especially for Franco-Americans. Simply change the presentation to suit the occasion

La pièce de résistance, the most important part, is the delectable fresh cream filling, which retains its consistency as the cake is rolled and stored.

La cannelle is an optional ingredient in this recipe, but the addition created a refreshing taste and smooth flavor.

Valentine Franco-American Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Roll Cake was prepared and photographed especially for this blog.

Valentine Franco-American Chocolate Cinnamon Cram Roll Cake

Recipe for the chocolate cake (avec la cannelle):

¾ cup sifted cake flour

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa

½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

¼ teaspoon salt

4 eggs

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar - enough to dust the roll up towel and sprinkle over the finished cake-roll

Cream filling – a glass bowl is preferred for the cream preparation and place this in the refrigerator so it’s cold when mixing the ingredients.

            Recipe for cream filling:

            1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

            ¼ cup cold water

            1 cup fresh whipping cream

            2 tablespoons of powdered sugar

            1 tablespoon orange – zest or an orange flavored liquer

 Preparation:

            Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a jelly-roll 151/2x101/2x1 inch pan. Line the pan with waxed paper or parchment paper. Grease the paper and the sides of the pan (I use butter for the grease). Dust with flour.

            Combine the cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and set this mixture aside. Beat the four eggs in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at high speed about 5 minutes until thick and lemon colored. Add the granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating well at medium speed. Beat this mixture until thick and fluffy. Stir in the water and the vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture at low speed with the mixer until the batter is smooth. Spread this batter evenly in the prepared pan. 

French Chocolate cake batter in jelly roll pan

Spread cake batter in a butter greased jelly roll pan lined with waxed or parchment paper

            Bake for only 12 to 15 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

            Meanwhile, sprinkle a cotton towel with the powdered sugar. Loosen the cake edges and turn out the cake onto the prepared towel. Carefully peel off the paper. Roll up the cake with the towel inside, starting with the narrow end. 

Cool, seam side down, for 20 minutes on a wire rack. 

                 Now it’s time to prepare the cream filling (ingredients listed above). 

            Sprinkle the gelatin over cold water in a very small saucepan; let this stand for 1 minute to soften the gelatin. Heat slowly over low heat until the gelatin is dissolved, stirring constantly (this takes about 3 minutes). Cool this mixture to room temperature (this doesn’t take long either; about 3 more minutes). Beat the fresh cream with the powdered sugar, the orange flavoring, either zest of liquer, until stiff peaks form. Beat in the gelatin mixture at low speed. Cover and refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes. 

            Assembling the cake roll:

            Unroll the cake from the towel and spread the cream filling over the entire surface. Roll up the cake again without the towel. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Decorate with chocolate hearts or other festive candies.

Valentine Franco-American chocolate cinnamon cream roll cake slice served

Cinnamon cream roll cake for Valentine's Day or any special occasion

Bon appetite!

About this Blog

Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.

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