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Swiss Rolls, Jelly Rolls, Sponge Cakes and Logs:
Perfect Results Every Time

A sponge cake or chiffon baked in a sheet pan and then rolled around a filling is called a roulade (for the French), a jelly roll (for the Americans), or a Swiss roll (for the English). Swiss Rolls are slightly different from jelly rolls or roulades; the sponge cake layer is thicker so it cannot be rolled as tightly. They look great, are inexpensive to make and although the recipes and hints are long, with a little practice they are quite simple to make. They always improve by sitting overnight before slicing, so plan ahead.

Sponge cakes are light and airy cakes made without a solid fat which contain more eggs and less fat or flour than butter cakes. Leavening comes mainly from the air whipped into the eggs, although some American sponge recipes do contain a small amount of baking powder. Often times corn starch (sometimes called corn flour) replaces some of the flour to make a sponge with a more delicate texture, finer crumb and tighter grain.

Fillings for the cake vary widely and could include plain or chocolate buttercream: fruit, coffee or liqueur-flavored whipped cream filling; English-style lemon curd. Seedless fruit purees, jams or jellies are also popular.

Should your attention wander and you overcook the cake layer to where you have a problem rolling it, it still makes great tea cakes or petit fours.

General hints:

  • Pan size matters! Too thick or thin a cake layer will cause you grif when rolling, so measure. The pan should be flat and shiny, with sides. Jelly roll pans come in a lot of sizes. A 17 inch (43 cm) x 12 inch (30 cm) takes a 4 egg recipe. 10"x15" (26x39cm) jelly roll pan takes 2-3 eggs.
  • Grease the pan, or spray with nonstick spray, line with parchment, and then grease and flour the parchment paper (or spray with Baker's Joy). Set aside. Use waxed paper, parchment paper or lining papare to line the top and sides. If you must overlap, allow a couple of inches, so the cake doesn't split at the paper seam when you remove it from the pan.
  • To make the batter, you may have to separate the eggs which is easier to do when thay are cold. But they beat MUCH better at room temperature, it takes about 20 minutes to get there.
  • Beating the egg yolks and egg whites separately produces a more flexible sponge cake that doesn't crack when rolled.
  • Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl. The small bowl is necessary to give maximum volume to eggs.
  • While adding the granulated white sugar to the yolks, beat on high speed until pale, thick and fluffy. I add about a tablespoon at a time. This will take 5-7 minutes. When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons. The mark from a spoon dragged through the mixture doesn't disappear.
  • Add your flavoring or extract to the egg yolks, but only after they are beaten thick.
  • Use cake flour or other soft, low gluten flour. If not available, add corn starch to prevent the cake from breaking up when it is rolled. Substitute some portion of flour with corn starch, to a maximum of 1/3 of flour.
  • Sift before measuring, sift all together, and then sift into the egg mix.
  • Replacing some of the cornstarch/flour mixture with ground sliced and toasted almonds gives the sponge cake a pretty speckled effect with a subtle almond flavor. Cool toasted almond slices completely, grind with 1 tablespoon of flour to prevent clumping.
  • Put the eggs in a larger bowl to add the flour. Sift the flours over the egg mixture, use a spatula to lightly fold the flours. Fold the egg mixture and the flour mixture together very gently, you are trying not to knock any of the air out of the eggs. Heavy handling at this stage will give a flat, tough sponge.
  • Spread the cake batter with a spatula, lightly, so you don't press out the air. It should be very flat or even a bit higher at the sides than in the middle.
  • ALWAYS fully preheat the oven. It only bakes about 7-20 minutes, and the oven needs to be exact.
  • Check the sponge is cooked by carefully running your hand over the top. It is cooked if your hand leaves a slight mark, which disappears quickly and springs back. Don't try to judge by color.
  • When cooked, the sponge will come away from the sides of the tin very slightly. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean. An under-baked roll will be sticky and will be easily damaged in the process of rolling and unrolling. An overbaked roll will crack when you roll it; it can still be cut into squares and iced to make fine petit fours or tea cakes.
  • When the cake finishes baking, immediately remove layer from the pan, remove the lining paper and let cool on wire racks. Otherwise, moisture will be trapped in the cake, resulting in a wet, damp texture.
  • When cool, flip or slide the cake layer onto a large piece of lining (wax) paper. You may sprinkle this with sugar. Do NOT use foil. Do not leave the cake too long after it has completely cooled. If you do leave it, the cake will become too dry and break during roll up.
  • An alternate cooling/ rolling trick, if you are anxious about flipping the cake onto the clean lining paper: turn out immediately onto a cake rack covered with a clean dry dish/tea towel (non-terrycoth dish towel) lightly sprinkled with 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, peel off the lining papers. When cool you can use the towel to move or roll the cake layer.
  • If the parchment paper sticks to the cake, lightly brush the back of the paper with a little warm water, allow to stand for a few moments, then peel the paper from the cake.
  • Trim away the crusts/edges which are thinner and more dry, they interfere with the rolling.
  • Cut a few slits at one edge of the cake, along the edge that will be at the center of the roll. Be careful to cut the slits half-way through the cake only. This increases the flexibility of thyis center strip.
  • Use the towel or lining paper as a lifter or guide to roll up the cake from the slit edge.
  • Once you have filled and rolled it, stand the swiss roll, still wrapped in the towel or lining paper, for at least 30 minutes to make sure that the swiss roll will not unroll later.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight to set the filling and make it easier to slice. However, since it tastes best if served at room temperature, remove to room temperature at least one hour before serving.
  • Cut the cake into slices using a serrated knife.

Go to the Sponge Cake Page for the actual cake recipes.

petit fours
AKA Jelly Roll Rescue

A 15"x10" sponge cake makes about 60 petit fours. Let the cake layer age 1 day before cutting for best results.
petit fourss Fours can be cut from a single layer of cake, or if the layer is thin, several layers of sponge cake can be sandwiched with marzipan, jam, or pastry cream. They can be cut into squares or shapes, such as diamonds, rounds, ovals, triangles, or hearts. The size of a petit fours for should be one or two bites, no more than 2 inches along the longest measure. The glaze should cover all sides.

10"x15" sponge cake

12 ounces apricot, pineapple or seedless raspberry jam for EACH 10x15"layer of jam you need
OPTIONAL BUT TRADITIONAL 12 ounces marzipan (makes one layer for top of 10"x15"cake)
Spread apricot jam over cake and trim off about 1/2 inch of cake on all sides. Roll out the marzipan and cover the top of cake. Cut the cake into 1 1/2-inch squares.

Uncooked icing or glaze
4 tablespoons grenadine syrup (did you know this is pomegranate?)
16 ounces confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
shelled nut pieces, crystalized violets or any other chunky bits to be used for decorating
Stir the grenadine syrup and confectioners' sugar together well; stir in the corn syrup and stir until well blended. (Icing should run off the spoon.) Place half the marzipan-covered sponge cake squares on a rack and pour half the icing over. Repeat with the other half. Decorate each petit fours Fours with your nut piece or other chunky bit before icing is set. For example you might use a crystallized rose petal for a flower and pistachio halves for leaves. Let stand until icing sets.

Uncooked white icing or glaze
To match a color scheme, you may tint this white icing any color with food coloring. Make half white and tint the second half?
4 tablespoons hot water
16 ounces confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
flavoring powder of choice (brown vanilla extract is not the best choice)
powdered icing color of choice
Stir the water and confectioners' sugar together well; stir in the corn syrup and stir until well blended. (Icing should run off the spoon.) Place half the marzipan-covered sponge cake squares on a rack and pour half the icing over. Repeat with the other half. Continue as outined above.

Decorations for after the icing has set

  • Pipe a flower outline with dark melted chocolate. Fill in the outline with melted milk chocolate. Pipe a dab of white icing in the center.
  • Pipe two lines of white icing down the length of the petit fourss Fours.
  • Use a small tinted, molded marzipan flower. Pipe a flower stem with melted chocolate, or decorate with piped lines of melted chocolate.
  • Pipe delicate lines of melted chocolate and decorate with a quartered candied cherry. Sprinkle with ground pistachios.
  • Dip one side of a walnut or pecan half in chocolate. Dip the chocolate-covered half in ground pistachios.
  • Pipe a delicate lattice pattern of diagonal melted chocolate lines, using both dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Decorate with candied coffee bean.
  • Pie melted chocolate for flower stem and one leaf. Use a crystallized violet petal for the flower and a pistachio half for the other leaf.
  • Use a tinted, cut-out marzipan flower.
  • Decorate with clusters of crystallized violet petals.
  • Decorate with a piece of candied orange peel and piped lines of melted chocolate.
  • Place halved candied cherry in center and surround with dots of melted chocolate.
  • Place a whole hazelnut in center and sprinkle ground pistachios around hazelnut. This works best while the glaze is still wet.
  • Pipe geometric lines of melted chocolate off-center around a previously placed chocolate-coated coffee bean.