Swiss rolls are one of my favourites – soft, light and fluffy cake with yummy-licious whipped cream / buttercream inside. However I find making them very challenging – it seems so difficult and impossible and that I have the perception that only bakeries and pro-bakers can make them successfully.
I cannot really explain why I wanted to make a Swiss roll eventually. I guess it’s partly due to the fact that I’ve not eaten any good Swiss rolls recently – the cakes themselves were good, but the amount of whipped cream/buttercream the bakeries used was so pathetic that I can hardly taste it. And I guess a part of me wanted to try making something more challenging during this last school holiday before I enter into the workforce. Doesn’t really make much sense, does it?
I made a chocolate Swiss roll – using good quality cocoa powder and plain flour.
Surprisingly, Swiss rolls do not originate from Switzerland. They are suspected to originate from Central Europe, probably Austrian-inspired. Different countries have different names for this cake – some called it Swiss rolls, some called it roulades, and some called it jelly rolls. But they are all the same – a thin sponge cake rolled up and served in circular slices, revealing a spiral pattern. Some spread the cake with whipped cream, some spread with buttercream and some simply spread it with jam (and hence the name “jelly rolls”).
Sifting is very, very important! It’ll make it so much easier to incorporate the flour into the cake batter.
Swiss rolls are made with sponge cakes – and it only requires four to five ingredients. The main ingredients are eggs, sugar, flour and butter. While doing my research on Swiss rolls, I found two general methods that most people used to make Swiss rolls.
The first method consists of whipping the eggs until thick and airy before the flour is sifted and folded into the eggs, butter is subsequently folded in. The other method requires the separation of the egg yolks and egg whites. The egg yolks are beaten until they have thickened while the egg whites are whipped until stiff peaks formed. All other ingredients are then gradually folded in together.
I have yet to try to second method – I have always had trouble with cakes that require the whipping of egg whites. Therefore the first method appeals to me more. In addition, I’ve read that there is no need for the separation of egg yolks and egg whites if the whipped egg whites are eventually going to be incorporated into the egg yolks, though I’m not sure how true is that.
As sponge cakes do not have any leavening agents at all, technique is extremely important to ensure one gets a perfect sponge cake.
The first technique is sifting. The flour + cocoa mixture is sifted four times. Some finds sifting a hassle and a pain, but sifting is definitely necessary when making cakes, especially light, airy, fluffy cakes. Sifting helps to break up the lumps in the flour and cocoa. As Singapore is a very humid country, flour and cocoa tend to clump together, especially if one doesn’t store them in air-tight containers. I like to push the lumps through the sieve using a metal spoon. Sifting also helps to mix the dry ingredients thoroughly and it will ensure even distribution later on. A lightened flour mixture will be easier to fold into the cake batter.
So, moral of the story is: don’t be lazy, sift!
Tipping the cake out of the tin onto a parchment paper.
Whipping the eggs is another way to incorporate a great deal of air in the cake batter. It is important to ensure that the eggs are properly and sufficiently beaten.
I use cold eggs because in a Julia Child video that I’ve watched before, it was mentioned that it doesn’t really matter whether the eggs are cold or not. Once the sugar is added into the eggs, the eggs must be whisked immediately so that sugar lumps will not form. The eggs + sugar mixture is then heated over low heat (and constantly whisking at the same time) until the mixture is foamy and the temperature of the mixture is warm – like baby’s milk. Warming the eggs will help the sugar dissolves and give the mixture a more stable structure.
And this is only the beginning!
The eggs are then whipped with an electric mixer on high speed until the foaming has ceased and the bubbles have all disappeared. The eggs mixture should have tripled in volume and should be really thick and rich. A tip that I’ve learned from a book is that once the egg mixture is beaten until this stage, reduce the mixer to the lowest speed and beat for an additional minute. It will further help to stabilise the eggs.
The consistency that one should get is that a visible trail is left behind for a short while, before merging back with the egg mixture.
Peel the parchment paper off carefully.
Another skill that requires a lot of practise is the folding of flour. I’ve always disliked folding because I have the tendency to over-mix. Over-mix is the most common “death” for sponge cakes. Generally, there are two methods: one is the figure-of-eight method (using a metal spoon) and the other is the cutting-in-through-the-centre-and-letting-the-batter-fall-on-top method (using the biggest rubber spatula one has).
In general, the lighter mixture is folded into the heavier one. It is required to fold gently to prevent the batter from losing too much volume. The lighter mixture is also folded in batches. Generally, I like to add my flour mixture in three parts. I’ve found a video that teaches how to fold egg whites into the cake batter – it is the most relevant video that I can find so far.
Rolling the cake seems a bit difficult at first, but one will get the hang soon enough. But the cake is hot, so be careful!
Many sponge cakes require the addition of either vegetable oil or melted butter. Many suggested drizzling the oil/melted butter over the cake batter and fold in gradually. I tried it before and it wasn’t easy to mix in the oil/melted butter at all. As the oil/melted butter is denser, it will sink to the bottom of the cake batter before you even know it and it’s difficult to mix it properly with the cake batter.
Hence, another tip that I’ve learned is to add some cake batter into the oil/melted butter first. Mix the batter and the oil/melted butter thoroughly before pouring it back into the cake batter. It will less likely to sink and it will be easier to mix them together.
Cake is rolled with the parchment paper, when cooled, unroll the cake, spread it with your favourite filling and roll again!
After the sponge cake is baked, I tipped the cake out on a parchment paper that was dusted with icing sugar. I read the recipe wrongly and used caster sugar instead. What a huge blunder! The icing sugar will help prevent the surface of the cake from sticking onto the parchment paper. A blogger mentioned that one can also wrap the cake using a damp tea towel and it will not stick at all! Have not tried it, but will try one day and see if it works.
The cake was then rolled tightly and then let cool completely before rolling it up again with whipped cream or buttercream or jam. Well I didn’t manage to roll it up perfectly – the whipped cream wasn’t distributed evenly. But it was my first try… so I guess it’s pretty alright? d:
Some of the “skin” of the cake came off because I dusted it with the wrong sugar ):
Chocolate Swiss Roll
- 100 – 150 ml whipping cream
- Icing sugar, sifted
- Grease a 9×15 inch sheet pan (0.5 inch in height), and line the bottom and the sides with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- Sift the flour and cocoa powder together thrice. Set aside.
- Place the eggs in a metal pot. Whisk in the sugar until combined. Set the pot over gentle heat and whisk constantly, until the mixture is foamy and the temperature is warm, that of baby’s milk. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl.
- Whip the mixture with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is no longer foaming and the bubbles disappeared. Whip until the mixture has tripled in volume and is thick and rich. Switch to the lowest speed and whip for 1 minute, until the mixture leaves a trail for a short while, before merging with the mixture.
- Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture in three parts, gently folding the flour into the egg mixture until thoroughly combined. There shouldn’t be any flour pockets visible and do not over-mix.
- Pour a couple tablespoonfuls of cake batter into the hot, melted butter and fold until the butter has been incorporated into the cake batter. Pour the mixture back into the cake batter and fold it in gently.
- Transfer the cake batter into the sheet pan. Tilt the sheet pan so the batter spreads out evenly and drop it several times on the counter top to burst the uneven air bubbles.
- Bake in the middle rack for 10 to 15 minutes until the cake springs back when touched gently and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out dry.
Whipped Cream and Assembly
- While the cake is baking, prepare a parchment paper and dust it generously with icing sugar. Turn out the cake onto the parchment paper and peel away the parchment paper used to line the sheet pan. Roll the cake tightly (be careful, it’s hot) and leave it on a rack to cool completely.
- While the cake is cooling (or when the cake is cooled), beat the cream with icing sugar (till your desired sweetness) until stiff peaks form. You can flavour the whipped cream with vanilla, melted chocolate, coffee paste etc.
- Unroll the cake and spread the cake with the whipped cream, and rolled it up again. Dust the top with icing sugar (optional) and serve in slices.