Cocoa-rich and tangy

The slightly bitter richness of dark chocolate is emphasised when paired with chilli. It is a combination that I am very enthusiastic about.

The Mexicans add chocolate to their moles (sauces) resulting in a complex piquant.

I decided that if this partnership is so successful in a meat sauce, maybe chilli could be a taste sensation in a chocolate roll.

I tried it and it is very good. It is not really chilli hot, nor does it disguise any of the other flavours, but it does add depth and a little sweet heat. If the idea of chocolate and chilli does not appeal, simply leave the chilli out.

The apricot filling, sour-sweet and tangy is the perfect foil for the cocoa-rich darkness of the chocolate cake that surrounds it.

This is a straightforward cake to make, the only tricky part is separating the eggs. I am not a gadget person but I do have a handy little device which makes separating the whites from the yolks much easier.

Position it over a small bowl and crack the egg into it. The white drains into the bowl below and the yolk stays in the device. Not surprisingly it is called an egg separator and the cost is around $3.

Adding cream of tartar when beating egg whites helps prevent overbeating. When overbeaten the foam becomes dull rather than glossy. It clumps, separates and begins to leak some liquid. This is quite undesirable when the aim is to incorporate air into the whites to lighten them into an airy cake.

Chocolate chilli roll can be made up to two days ahead of serving. Store well wrapped in the refrigerator. Add the filling 2-3 hours before serving and then ice the top of the cake.


Chocolate chilli roll with apricot conserve

Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Makes 12 slices




40g cocoa powder 1/8 to ¼ tsp hot chilli powder (optional)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
5 large eggs (size 7), separated
½ tsp cream of tartar
150g caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla essence
extra caster sugar for sprinkling


cup apricot jam
3 Tbsp Cointreau or orange juice
100g New Zealand dried apricots, finely sliced


2 Tbsp orange juice (more if needed)
20g dark chocolate chips
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
4 Tbsp cocoa powder, sifted



Beating the egg whites to a foam before creaming the yolks and sugar eliminates the washing of the beaters. However, egg whites do not hold their stiffness for long so it is necessary to have all the ingredients weighed and measured ready to be added when needed.

Preheat the oven to 180degC. Line a sponge roll tin, either 26cm x 33cm or 24cm x 36 cm with non-stick baking paper.

To make the cake.

Sift the cocoa powder, chilli powder and ground cinnamon together into a bowl. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together in a clean grease-free bowl until stiff and glossy. Set aside.

Put the egg yolks and the caster sugar into a medium-sized bowl and using the same beaters (no need to wash) beat until thick and creamy. Add the vanilla essence and then stir in the cocoa and spices.

Using a metal spoon, fold a few tablespoons of the beaten egg whites into the yolk and sugar mixture to loosen it then add all the remaining egg whites and carefully and thoroughly fold through.

Gently spread the mixture into the prepared tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until springy to the touch and the edges are firm. Meanwhile, spread out a clean tea towel and sprinkle it with caster sugar.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Invert the cake on to the tea towel. Remove tin and peel off the baking paper. While still warm, starting with the short side, roll up the cake like a sponge roll, enclosing the tea towel. The cake is rolled with the tea towel so that it can be easily rolled up or unrolled without sticking. Cool seam side down on a wire rack.

While the cake cools, make the filling.

Place the apricot jam, Cointreau or orange juice and the dried apricots in a small saucepan and slowly bring to the boil and simmer, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.

Remove from the heat and cool until lukewarm.

Carefully unroll the cake, remove the tea towel and spread the apricot filling over the cake. Reroll and transfer to a serving platter.

Do not worry if the roll splits or cracks as you are unrolling or rolling it up. The apricot filling helps to hold it together and the icing can disguise any not quite perfect bits.

To make the glaze, place the orange juice into a small saucepan and heat until just simmering. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips. They will soften and start to melt. Add the sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder and mix until smooth, adding a little more orange juice if necessary to make a thick icing. Spread it over the top of the roll and down the sides. Serve just as it is or with cream or yoghurt, but fresh summer fruits served alongside are delectable; try strawberries, raspberries or slices of fresh apricots, nectarines or peaches.


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