The Jelly Roll Failure Files

My mom has a yummy Christmas dessert that she has been making since I can remember. Chocolate Mint Yule Log (I know, very 80’s). It’s a chocolate jelly roll filled with minty whipped cream and crushed candy canes, topped with chocolate ganache and more candy cane bits, and served semi-frozen.

And I cannot veganize it yet. I’ve been trying every few weekends for a while now.

Traditionally, jelly rolls are made with sponge cake sheets, as the high egg content makes them stretchy and a little less soggy upon prolonged contact with filling.

The first two attempts, I didn’t take photos. First, I tried mom’s recipe, which used both egg yolks and egg whites. I tried some weird custard powder-aquafaba-psyllium powder mixture from the yolk. The egg whites were made from Aquafaba with Xantham gum added in. I recall that this version stuck to the paper like the dickens, and had large holes. I figured I would next try something that didn’t require egg yolks.

So I tried a modification of a “hot milk sponge” recipe from Joy Of Cooking, with Aquafaba egg white whipped stiff, sugar whipped in, and then a dry mixture of flours and baking powder mixed in.  The second version had no xantham gum added to the “eggs”, and fell flat while folding in the dry powders. It also was crunchy on the top once baked.

The third time, I called my gramma and got her recipe (similar to the Joy of Cooking one). It’s lemon, rather than chocolate, but I figured I’d start with the lemon recipe and go from there. It didn’t collapse when folding in the dry ingredients, but I had upped the Xantham gum. It stayed relatively high, but the op of the cake almost seemed caramelized. Once flipped over for filling, it was full of very large air holes.


A few nights ago, I tried gramma’s recipe again, but with some of the flour subbed out for cocoa, and I decided to follow the recipe more closely by using mostly granulated sugar instead of instant-dissolving sugar. However, I goofed and used four times the amount of hot milk – so the batter collapsed as soon as I added it. Undaunted, I baked it anyway, and was rewarded by a thin, gummy sheet. Mme. Minty tried it and said it gave her a stomachache.


I decided to take a different tack and try an already vegan recipe, and make it more like the cake I remember eating in years past. I took the “Wacky Cake” recipe from How it All Vegan and modified the oil and water ratios and added some psyllium powder. It’s a cake that uses leavening from vinegar and baking soda, in addition to baking powder. It baked into the perfect thickness. However, I tried rolling it up before it was cool enough, so it broke. I also think that I need to fold in a little bit of “egg white”, to give it a bit more elasticity.

So here I am, five cakes later and not as far ahead as I had hoped. At least the last attempt tastes and looks good; I just need to make it a bit more durable. Have any of you, dear readers, ever made egg-less sponge cake? Have any suggestions? I’m hoping to have a recipe up here soon that will actually work!!

Fruitcake is Awesome


I know, lots of people hate fruitcake. If you’re that type of person, give me two minutes to try to convince you. You’re probably used to some kind of brick-like item, filled with tough raisins, gummy coloured bits of questionable origin, and bitter walnuts.

This is where my fruitcake defies that stereotype. I do add raisins, candied fruit, and walnuts, but it’s a boozy, moist confection. It contains a majority of dried fruits that actually resemble their natural form. There are three types of nuts and just enough candied cherries to make it look festive.


This is great made several weeks ahead and practically marinated in brandy. It is equally delicious made at least a week in advance and allowed to “settle” in the refrigerator – this gives it time for the moisture from alcohol-soaked fruit to penetrate the rest of the cake.

A note about fruit choice: all of the fruit proportions are relatively flexible. Hate apricots? Use dried pineapple instead. Dried tropical fruits unavailable or too expensive? Use more dried cranberries and dates. Hate non-organic or artificially coloured fruits? Use dried natural ones exclusively. Part of the reason it has taken me years to blog this, after perfecting it in 2012, is that I kept forgetting to write down how much of what I used, so that you’d have guidelines to work from. The combination of fruits I have included here are what I prefer, but as long as they equal the same total volume of fruit, experiment away! All measurements of larger fruits are after they have been chopped and packed into a measuring cup.

Boozy Semi-Traditional Fruitcake – An original Agent Minty recipe

Makes 4 4×8″ loaves. Halve the recipe if you wish, with no problem!


  • 1/3 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau, Triple Sec, or Grand Marnier), or brandy
  • 1 1/2 cups golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups brown raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried currants
  • 2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped dates (try to buy them whole and cut them yourself)
  • 1 cup citron cubes
  • 1 cup mixed peel cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped red and green candied cherries
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried papaya
  • 1 cup slivered blanched almonds
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup + 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 lb (340g) room-temperature Earth Balance hard margarine or butter
  • 3 cups (packed) brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup corn syrup or cane syrup (I use Rogers brand) – Dark fruitcake lovers can use Molasses here
  • Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • Grated zest and juice from 1 orange
  • 1 cup brandy (the cheap stuff will do)
  • Parchment paper
  • Extra brandy or rum


Prepare the Fruit and nuts:

  1. Combine the raisins, currants, and chopped apricots in a bowl with the orange liqueur, and allow to soak.
  2. Chop up the rest of your fruit. I like to keep about 20% of my candied cherries intact, but it’s really just and aesthetic choice.
  3. Combine all chopped and soaked fruit, chopped nuts, and 1/2 cup flour in a very large bowl until evenly coated in flour.


Prepare the cake batter:

  1. Combine remaining flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  2. With a stand mixer, beat Earth Balance until creamy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add in brown sugar and beat until fluffy, another 2 minutes.
  4. Add syrup or molasses, orange juice and zest, and lemon juice and zest, and beat again until mixed in.
  5. Min in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then add half of the brandy.
  6. Repeat adding in 1/3 of the flour followed by the remaining brandy.
  7. Add in the last of the flour and stir until it is relatively consistent.
  8. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to stir a few times, making sure any ingredients on the bottom have been mixed in well.
  9. Add half of the fruit mixture to the batter and stir by hand until partially incorporated.
  10. If you have a large enough stand mixer bowl, add the rest of the fruit and finish stirring it in by hand.
  11. If your mixer bowl is too small, add the batter-fruit mix to the bowl remaining fruit and stir well.

Prepare the pans

  1. Set oven to 300F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Don’t bother doing this earlier, as from my experience the first steps will take way longer than the five minutes needed to preheat an oven.
  2. Coat all loaf pans (even non-stick!) with cooking spray.
  3. Line all pans with parchment paper. This seems like overkill, but $30 worth of fruitcake stuck to a pan two hours from now won’t feel like a joke).
  4. Tear off a sheet of tinfoil for every pan you plan to use.
  5. Fill each loaf pan 1/2 to 2/3 full maximum. If you fill the pans more than 2/3, you WILL have fruitcake batter dripping onto the bottom of your oven.
  6. Evenly distribute the four loaves on the middle rack of the oven and place a sheet of tinfoil over each one. This prevents the tops from singeing.
  7. Every hour, shuffle the arrangement of the loaves so that no loaf spends the entire time in the same spot in the oven.
  8. Bake for 2 1/4 to 3 hours. After 2 1/4 hours, start checking the cakes for doneness. The middle should still be slightly soft, but passes a toothpick test. The edges should not be burnt!
  9. Remove to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.


Store and marinate

  1. Remove the cakes from the plans. Running around the edge of the cake with a knife can help. If a chunk of cake breaks off, you can stick it back where it came from.
  2. Store cakes in a tightly sealed freezer bag for two weeks at room temperature, or up to three months in a refrigerator.
  3. At least once a week, brush cake with a generous amount of brandy to increase deliciousness.
  4. Try to flip cake upside down every other time you add brandy, to improve liquor penetration.

Even if you don’t like fruitcake, why don’t you listen to a hilarious story about it. I can’t link to it, but if you have iTunes, Look up Vinyl Cafe, and the Episode “Rashida, Amir, and the great gift-giving.” You’ll be thankful that you don’t have to fight a squirrel for this fruitcake!

Christmas Ice Cream – Candy Cane Crackle

Canadian readers will probably be familiar with President’s Choice Candy Cane ice cream. It came out in 1995 and was immediately my favourite ice cream ever. Rich vanilla ice cream with chunks of candy cane and ribbons of hard chocolate that crackled when you scooped some out. Our whole family looked forward to eating it for dessert in December. It underwent a redesign about five years ago and hasn’t been the same since – now the ice cream is minty, there are red and green globs of candy instead of broken candy canes, and the ice cream itself isn’t as rich. I don’t have a picture of the old version, but here’s what it looks like now:

PC brand - little red paperclip

I have tweaked the recipe over the past two years until it is as creamy and crackly as I remember. It is with pride that I’m sharing it with you now… hopefully it will be a Christmas favourite with your family, too!


Christmas Crackle Ice Cream

The vanilla base is modified from the French Vanilla ice cream in Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan a la Mode, but the rest of the ideas are my own. Note that this recipe makes a large batch of ice cream – lots to share!


  • 5 1/2 Tbsp Bird’s custard powder (for whiter ice cream, use half custard powder and half corn starch)
  • 1 cup soy milk or almond milk
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • pinch salt
  • 1 can gold (high-fat) coconut milk, left in a cool place to separate
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla paste, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp vodka
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil, or shortening
  • 6 Tbsp chocolate chips
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of crushed green and red candy canes (red only is fine, the addition of green is just prettier to me)


  1. Whisk the custard powder and 1 cup of milk in a saucepan until thoroughly dissolved.
  2. Stir in the sugar.
  3. Slowly warm the mixture on low to medium heat, whisking the whole time.
  4. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring heat to medium.
  5. Add in remaining almond milk and salt.
  6. Stir until the mixture thickens.
  7. Meanwhile, scoop out fatty portion of coconut milk (should be 1 1/4 to 1 2/3 cups) and microwave for 30 seconds to soften.
  8. Once the mixture on the stove is the consistency of a light pudding, take off the heat.
  9. Stir in coconut milk and vanilla.
  10. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.
  11. Add in vodka.
  12. Cool for at least two hours, stirring occasionally to break up the “skin” that forms.  If you forget to stir, just whiz the mixture for a few seconds with an immersion blender before freezing.IMG_2533
  13. Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze until the ice cream is quite stiff.
  14. Meanwhile, melt together the chocolate chips and coconut oil
  15. Add the crushed candy canes and mix in the ice cream maker for only about one minute. Adding the candy canes too early will allow them to bleed – you’ll get grey ice cream!
  16. Scoop out about half a cup of ice cream, drizzle melted chocolate in thin strings on top. Aim for thin layers!IMG_2543
  17. Repeat until all of the ice cream is used up. You’ll have a little chocolate left over.
  18. Freeze for at least two hours.

Enjoy! Merry Christmas!

ice cream closeup