my first cake roll

cake roll 1

Few things remind me of childhood bliss like swiss cake rolls. Every day after school we would go to our uncle’s house who had a kitchen full of sugary treats. There we would watch TV and load up on sweets while we waited for mom to pick us up on her way home from work. Among my favorites was the swiss cake roll.

I was one of those kids who would meticulously peel apart the roll, dissecting it before eating it layer by layer. First, I’d peel off and eat the outside chocolate shell, trying my hardest to keep it as one solid piece. Following that, the cream was scooped out, and once all of the cream was consumed, I moved on to the chocolate cake, which i would eat section by section. When I was super young, I refused to eat even the cream, which is probably what prompted the development of the dissection process – just a way to remove the cream before devouring the chocolate parts. (Yes, apparently my crazy developed at an early age…)

Naturally, my heart was filled with that very same childhood glee when I saw this post on Smitten Kitchen. I immediately linked it to my BFF exclaiming that this cake was in my very near future because, of course, “IT’S LIKE A GIANT SWISS CAKE ROLL!” Those of you who have spent the majority of this post not knowing what a swiss cake roll is grew up in a Hostess household and called them “ho-ho’s”… and I feel a deep sadness for you. Ho-ho’s don’t stand a chance against Little Debbie’s swiss cake rolls- which really doesn’t matter because both will taste like overprocessed garbage compared to this divine treat. I’m pretty sure they are both medium unacceptable to consume once you’re a grown up, anyway…

bonus treat – chocolate covered strawberries, yum!

Although I’m usually much more intrigued by “mini” versions of things, I could not get this “giant” swiss cake roll out of my head. “Don’t do it,” BFF warned me, “you’ll have a series of heart attacks when it cracks!” … Even SK talked about how she often ends up with “cake chips” instead of a “cake roll”, but I didn’t care. I wanted my giant swiss cake roll, cracks or not. Worst case scenario I could have a swiss cake roll trifle… 😉

Yes, it cracked and yes, my heart hurt watching it. I could see the sympathy in my BF’s mom’s eyes as she tried to help me gingerly unroll the cake, but the end product was SO worth it! The chocolate cake (Which has no flour or leavening agents aside from egg whites) comes out super light and airy, despite that it looks dense and brownie-like. After filling it with vanilla bean whipped cream, I covered it in chocolate ganache to finish off the “swiss cake roll” appeal.

This cake went straight to work with BF tthe next day. I knew if it went to work with me, my coworkers would never see it. Not only would they never see it, but I would be covered in chocolate and crying tears of shame at my computer before lunch time even rolled around. It’s that good. After I transferred the remaining cake to a container, I dragged strawberries through the ganache that was left on the cake plate. So. Good.

(As pretty as the roll is, I think next time I’ll save myself the trouble and just slice it into a few rectangles and turn into a layer cake instead)

Chocolate Cake Roll  [Adapted from SK]

Lots of stars means lots of TIPS – read them!

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Cake layer:

  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips*
  • 3 Tbsp espresso or coffee
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 C sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, divided


  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

Ganache (optional)

  • 8 oz chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ C heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp butter (optional)

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 10-by-15-inch jellyroll pan and line it with parchment, allowing a little to hang over the edge.

Melt chocolate with water or coffee in a small saucepan (*see notes) over very low heat until it is mostly melted. Remove from heat and continue stirring until it is smooth. Set aside to cool.

Beat egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until yolks are pale and ribbony. Gently stir a little bit of the cooled chocolate into the yolk mixture*, then stir in the rest.

In a new bowl with CLEAN beaters, beat egg whites until foamy, add salt and continue to beat until they hold stiff peaks.* Stir 1/4 of egg white mixture into the chocolate  mixture to lighten it. Then, gently fold the remaining whites into the cake batter in three additions.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, or until dry (but very soft) to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. It may still seem a little underbaked, don’t worry – we still gotta roll this guy…** (or do we?)

Transfer to a cooling rack and cover the top with a light damp towel or two layers of damp paper towels for 10 minutes. Gently remove towels (don’t worry about the cake crumbs stuck to them) and loosen the edges of the cake from the pan with a thin spatula or knife.

Sift one tablespoon cocoa over the top of the cake and cover the cake with a thin tea towel or flour sack towel that is a little longer than the pan. Place the back of a baking sheet, cutting board, or a large flat tray over the towel and invert the cake onto it. Gently peel back the parchment from the new “top” (that was just the bottom) of the cake. Sift the remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder over this side of the cake. Using the towel underneath to help, lift and roll the cake from short end to short end with the towel inside. Let cool completely while rolled and encased in its towel.

Once cool, make your filling. (see below)

Gently unroll chocolate cake and remove tea towel. (Try not to cry as it cracks). Spread whipped cream filling evenly over cake. Gently use waxed or parchment paper once again to reroll cake. Place on serving platter, seam side down.

Drizzle with ganache, if desired.


For the filling:

  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

Whip cream with cold bowl and cold beaters until it gets bubbly. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and continue beating to desired consistency, voila.

*You could add some cocoa, peanut butter, liquer, or even a bit of jam to make a variety of flavors for your filling


For the ganache:

  • 8 oz chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ C heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp butter (optional)

Bring heavy cream and butter (if using) just to a boil in a pan or the microwave, then pour over chocolate. Let sit a minute, then stir with a nonstick spatula until it’s smooth. Set aside to cool briefly, and pour while still fluid over chilled cake.


*You may used chopped chocolate or chocolate chips, but chocolate chips don’t melt as nicely or quickly because they contain stabilizers to keep them in “chip” shape.

*You can melt your chocolate in the microwave on 50% power, just check it every 30 seconds or so to make sure it doesn’t burn!

*I add a little bit of chocolate first, that way if it’s still warm the egg yolks don’t get scared and scramble. Adding a little bit of the mixture will raise the temperature just a bit before adding the rest, this is called “tempering” the eggs.

*It’s IMPERATIVE that your bowl and beaters be clean of any and all fat or your whites will not whip no matter how hard you try! “Stiff peaks” means, when you pull the beaters out, the tip of the whites will stay pointing straight up.

*You could add some cocoa, peanut butter, liquer, or even a bit of jam to make a variety of flavors for your filling

*I had a hard time finding that size jelly roll pan, and I don’t really have a surplus of tea towel laying around – I finally found ‘flour sack towels’ and the correct size jelly roll at Bed Bath & Beyond.

**As pretty as the roll is, I think next time I’ll spare myself the trouble and just cut it into 3 or 4 layers and make it into a layer cake 🙂