Vanilla Swiss roll is made with a light and moist sponge cake, filled with fresh whipped cream, and then rolled up into the classic shape. Change the fillings or toppings for distinct holiday rolls. Included in this post are detailed step-by-step directions to achieve the perfect roll.
If you follow my blog, then you know I am a chocolate girl. In fact, so many of my baking posts are chocolate-based, from my most decadent Cadbury Mini Egg chocolate cake to something easier like my chocolate banana cream pie. However, I wanted to switch it up this week and make something lighter in flavor.
It took numerous endeavors to develop the perfect recipe. This cake is light and fluffy with a soft vanilla flavor. I must admit, the final recipe was so good I ate the entire roll in one day. I did not save a bite for my husband, and I don’t feel bad about it.
Specific Ingredient Notes
- Grapeseed Oil – A light and flavor-neutral oil. This oil allows the vanilla to be the star of the show.
- Whole Milk – Adds full richness to the cake sponge.
- Clear Vanilla Extract – Vanilla is the star of this show.
- Cake Flour – Cake flour is finely milled and lower on the gluten spectrum. What that means is cake flour helps achieve a lighter and fluffier cake sponge.
- Milk Powder – This is milk in a concentrated form. Bakers use milk powder to add flavor without adding liquid to the recipe.
- Egg Whites – Egg whites are this cake’s leavening, or rising, agent. Egg whites keep the texture light and fluffy. Before whipping egg whites, always clean your mixing bowl and beaters with a dab of vinegar. This simple step removes unseen fat, which kills attaining peaks with your egg white.
- Cream of Tartar – Speeds up the creation of foam and stabilizes the bubbles in egg whites. The result is a lighter cake sponge texture.
How To Video
Achieving the perfect roll is all about timing and technique. Don’t let the rumors scare you; it is easier than you might have heard. Follow these steps to create a perfect roll.
- Baking Sheet: Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and liberally grease both sides of the paper. This is necessary for the cake sponge to release effortlessly.
- Preparing the Roll: Select either a lint-free tea towel or parchment paper as an insert. Lay the insert flat and generously dust the top with powdered sugar. This step keeps the cake from sticking to the insert.
- Invert Cake: Remove the cake from the oven. Then, flip the cake onto the dusted insert and out of the baking sheet. After flipping, peel the baked parchment paper off the bottom of the cake.
- First Roll: Slowly and gently roll the cake with the insert inside the rolls. Allow the cake to cool while rolled up fully; this can take between 1 -2 hours.
- Second Roll: Once the cake has cooled, gently unroll it. Spread your filling across the cake, leaving a 1-inch parameter around the edge. Roll the cake back up without the insert on the inside. Wrap it in a towel or parchment paper to help the cake hold a tight roll while setting. Place in the refrigerator for four hours before serving.
Substitutions and Alternatives
Grapeseed Oil – If you do not already have grapeseed oil, I do not recommend buying it for this recipe. As an alternative, you can use avocado oil, almond oil, canola oil, or olive oil.
Clear Vanilla Extract – Any vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste can be used as a substitution.
Cake Flour – This can be costly and not readily available. Use all-purpose in its place.
Milk Powder – Substitute with flour to keep the dry ratios consistent.
Cream of Tartar – Swap 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice for every 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
Fillings and Toppings
Much like cakes, swiss rolls can have a large variety of different fillings. I think it is fun to have a topping bar so that everyone can make their perfect dessert. Suggestions include:
Holiday Decoration Variations
Swiss rolls are easy to alter for a holiday theme. Change the filling, topping, or both. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.
- Christmas – Mix 2 – 3 drops of red gel food coloring in with the cake batter. Crush red and green M&Ms and mix in with whipped cream. Add whipped cream on top, and sprinkle additional red and green M&M’s for color pops.
- Saint Patrick’s Day – Add 2 – 3 drops of green gel food coloring and mix in with the cake batter.
- Easter – Mix 2 – 3 drops of pastel gel food coloring in with the cake batter. Place whipped cream on top, and decorate with chocolate Easter bunnies and eggs placed in the whipped cream.
- Fourth of July – Mix mini red, white, and blue M&Ms with whipped cream. Place additional whipped cream on top and sprinkle M&M’s for color pops.
- Halloween – Add 2 – 3 drops of black or orange gel food coloring with the cake batter. Top the roll with black or orange whipped cream and place spooky chocolate candies (eggs, spiders, etc.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Most likely, you over-mixed the batter, causing the air bubbles in the egg whites to deflate. To avoid this, fold the ingredients together instead of stirring.
Folding technique: thoroughly mix the egg yolk mixture until smooth. Then, place about 1/3 of the stiff egg whites on top of the mixed egg yolk batter. Sightly tilt your bowl and, using your spatula, cut through the center of the egg whites. Scrape your spatula along the curve of the bowl, gently scooping up the batter and egg whites. Fold the batter over on top of the egg whites. Turn the bowl a 1/4 and continue to fold. Add the rest of the egg whites and continue folding.
Stop when there is more batter to fold. The mixture might not look fully incorporated, and that is okay.
Swiss roll is a sponge cake with a filling rolled inside it. Roulades are made of pastry or cake; they can be sweet or savory. In a nutshell, swiss rolls are roulades, but not all roulades are swiss rolls.
A jelly roll is the US name for a Swiss roll. The US versions often include jelly or jam fillings.
No one really knows where the name or the cake came from. They believe it originated in Central Europe, most likely Austria, but not Switzerland. That is about all anyone knows.
A Swiss roll tin is known as a quarter baking sheet (9×13) in the US. This baking sheet is small and shallow, only an inch deep.
Countertop Instructions: If using a non-dairy filling, store in an air-tight container for 1-2 days in an airtight container. Note, that at room temperature, the filling can bleed into the sponge.
Refrigerator Instructions: If using a dairy-based filling, store the roll in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Freezer Instructions: Cut individual slices of the cake, wrap each slice in cling wrap, and freeze for up to three months.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know below with a rating, or take a picture and tag me on Instagram!
Vanilla Swiss Roll
- 9×13 baking sheet
- Hand or stand mixer
- Parchment paper or tea towel
- Small, medium and large mixing bowls
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 and ½ tablespoons (30g) sugar
- ¼ teaspoon (1g) grapeseed or other light oil
- 2 tablespoons (30g) whole milk
- 1 tablespoon (15g) clear vanilla extract
- ½ cup (60g) cake flour all-purpose as a substitute
- 1 tablespoon (15g) milk powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon (5g) vinegar optional
- 3 egg whites, room temperature separate cold
- ¼ teaspoon (1g) cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons (30g) sugar
- 3 cups (201g) whipped cream
- ¼ cup (45g) sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15g) vanilla
- Prep: Preheat oven to 325F/165C. Grease the bottom of a 9×13 baking sheet. Then line the baking sheet with parchment paper and grease the sheet.
- Wet Ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, oil, milk, sugar, and clear vanilla extract until smooth.3 egg yolks, 2 and 1/2 tablespoons (30g) sugar, 1/4 teaspoon (1g) grapeseed or other light oil, 2 tablespoons (30g) whole milk, 1 tablespoon (15g) clear vanilla extract
- Dry Ingredients: In a small bowl whisk flour, milk powder, and salt for even distribution of ingredients.1/2 cup (60g) cake flour, 1 tablespoon (15g) milk powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Combine Wet and Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine wet and dry ingredients together. Whisk until smooth.
- Egg Whites: Before adding the egg whites to the medium mixing bowl, clean the bowl and beaters with 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to remove any unseen remaining fat. Place the egg whites in the mixing bowl. Mix at a low speed, working up to a medium speed, until the egg whites are foamy. Add cream of tartar. Mix until the egg whites form bubbles. Then SLOWLY add sugar in small increments. Continue mixing until stiff white peaks have formed.1 teaspoon (5g) vinegar, 3 egg whites, room temperature, 1/4 teaspoon (1g) cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons (30g) sugar
- Folding Together: Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and fold them together. Add the rest of the egg whites and continue to fold until the mixture is combined. *See notes on how to fold together ingredients without deflating the egg whites.
- Bake: Transfer the batter to the prepared baking sheet. Gently smooth out the top. Lift the baking sheet about an inch and drop 3 – 5 times to release any air bubbles. Bake in the preheated oven 15 – 17 minutes or until golden brown.*Use caution not to over-bake, the cake needs to have spring in order to roll without cracks.
- Pre-roll: While the cake is in the oven, prepare to roll the cake as soon as it is done baking. Select a tea towel or parchment paper and dust it with powdered sugar.
Whipped cream filling
- In the bowl using a handheld mixer, add the heavy whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Start mixing at a low speed. Once the mixture starts to increase in volume, increase the speed to medium-high until you can see thick traces in the cream.3 cups (201g) whipped cream, 1/4 cup (45g) sugar, 1 tablespoon (15g) vanilla
- First Roll: Remove the cake from the oven and go around the edge with a knife to loosen the cake. Then flip the cake onto the dusted tea towel or parchment paper. Peel the baked parchment paper off. Slowly and gently tightly roll the cake up in the towel/parchment paper. Let cool for one hour.
- Spread the Filling: After the cake has cooled, gently unroll it. Spread a thin layer of your filling evenly across the cake leaving a one-inch parameter around the outside.
- Second Roll: Gently roll the cake back up. Wrap the cake in a tea towel or parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator for 4 hours to set.
- When ready, remove the cake from the refrigerator and cut off the ends. Decorate as desired.
- Any fat remaining in a mixing bowl can diminish the volume of egg whites. To avoid this, always clean your mixing bowl with a squeeze of lemon or teaspoon of vinegar. Then whip clean with a paper towel, prior to mixing egg whites.
- Place about 1/3 of the egg whites on top of the mixed batter. Then slightly tilt your bowl. Take your spatula and cut through the center of the egg whites. Scrape your spatula along the curve of the bowl, gently scooping up the batter and egg whites. Fold the batter over on top of the egg whites. Turn the bowl a 1/4 turn and repeat the folding process. Add the rest of the egg whites and continue folding the eggs.
- Repeat until you no longer see any liquid batter when you scoop-and-lift. It is critical to stop here. If you continue or stir, you will deflate the egg whites, and your sponge will become rubbery.
- Note: The mixture might not look fully incorporated, and that is ok.
- You can insert a toothpick or knife into the center. If it comes out clean the cake is done baking.
- Lightly press your finger into the cake. If it springs back, the cake is done baking.