Sometime last year, I thought it would be fun to make a Swiss roll. Even though my family didn’t eat much cake when I was growing up, we did all enjoy these roulade cakes from the local Asian supermarket — usually plain, but also coffee or chocolate flavored. If you’ve never had one before, Swiss rolls are a light and fluffy sponge cake usually rolled up with whipped cream. They are a nice, not-too-sweet dessert that pairs well with coffee or tea.
Anyways, my first Swiss roll attempt was a flop. The cake broke when I flipped it out of the pan. It tasted ok, though the bake was a bit uneven (probably because I didn’t rotate the pan and slightly underbaked it). I didn’t try again until last week, when I was looking for a recipe to use up some whipping cream from my last cake.
Second attempt: also a fail. The cake made it out of the pan in one piece, but it stuck to the paper and broke when I tried to roll it.
At this point, it became less about actually wanting to eat Swiss roll and more about wanting to BEAT MY NEMESIS. I read a bunch of Swiss roll recipes and tips and decided to try a different baking method. I was really careful about measuring out all the ingredients ahead of time and prepping the various baking utensils and surfaces. And…success! The cake came out in one piece and actually resembled a roll when all was said and done. I tried again a couple days later just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and it worked again! Very exciting.
Some things I learned:
- Measure out all your ingredients ahead of time and read the instructions through to the end a few times. The batter isn’t hard to put together, but it does require you to move quickly so your batter doesn’t collapse.
- I highly recommend weighing your ingredients for best results.
- Watch the cake carefully at the end, checking every 30 seconds or so when it’s near the end. Because it’s so thin, it can go from underdone to overdone just like that. That being said, make sure the cake is completely done before you take it out our you’ll end up with gross mushy cake.
- I’ve tried to explain the rolling process below, but it’s easier to watch it. This video from Fine Cooking is helpful.
Chinese Swiss Roll
- 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 85g / 1/3 c milk, at room temperature
- 55g / 1/4 c neutral oil
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 100g / 1 c cake flour, sifted
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
- 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar
- 1-2 tbsp icing sugar
Filling & Garnish
- 1/2 c whipping cream
- 3-4 tsp caster sugar or to taste
- Icing sugar, optional garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Line a 13″ x 9″ inch baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, caster sugar and salt into a thick batter. Pour in milk and mix well. Pour in oil and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Sift in cake flour and baking powder into the batter and stir slowly into a thick batter. Do not overmix.
- In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until foamy. Slowly add in the caster sugar and beat to stiff peaks.
- Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk batter. When they are almost combined, add another 1/3 of the whites. When almost combined, add the final 1/3. Fold gently, but thoroughly. When you are finished, the batter should be a uniform color with no streaks of white remaining.
- Immediately pour batter into prepared oven and spread evenly with a knife. drop the tin on the counter several times to pop and large air bubbles. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-17 minutes, rotating pan once after 10 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, prepare a clean linen tea towel (larger than the cake) and measure out some icing sugar.
- As soon as the cake is done, run a knife around the edges. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Sift the icing sugar over the top of the cake. Spread the tea towel over the cake, and place a large sheet pan or cutting board on top of the tea towel. Invert the cake onto the towel. Gently remove the parchment paper. Starting on a short end, gently but tightly roll the cake up with the towel inside. Allow cake to cool completely inside the towel.
- When the cake is cool, beat the whipping cream and sugar to taste to stiff peaks. Gently unroll the cake and remove the towel. On one short end of the cake (whichever looks more curled), use a sharp knife to score three parallel lines about 1/2 a centimeter apart (this will help the rolling process). Spread the cream evenly over the cake, leaving about an inch around the edges so the filling doesn’t seep out. Starting from the scored end, gently roll the cake back up. Transfer seam side down to a serving plate, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.
- Slice the ends off the cake and dust with additional icing sugar if desired.