Simple Swiss roll: A recipe for an old favourite

It’s so simple, it’s a mystery why no one bakes this old-school jammy treat anymore

Let’s do something we all love but nobody makes anymore. Even people who have no interest in baking often lament the demise of the Swiss roll.

It’s the type of cake you could drop into an elderly neighbour who will put it ceremoniously on a china plate and eat it with a fork. They may reminisce about a point in time where ladies competed for the annual prize for the best Swiss roll, the type of event that also had a prize for bonniest baby. There was even a special Swiss roll baking tin with right angled sides which was in constant use in our home for flapjacks, caramel squares and shortbread.

A classic Swiss roll is a thin, light sponge cake rolled while hot around a raspberry jam filling. It is known as a jelly roll in the US, in France as a gateau roulé, in Germany as biscuitrolle and in Spain as brazo de gitano. Fillings vary and I like adding whipped cream – lemon curd and buttercream are popular too.

At the heart of a great gateau lies a moist, light and airy sponge. The traditional method for making sponge is to whisk eggs and sugar together by hand in a bowl over hot steam until the mixture leaves a ribbon-like trail. To make this task less laboursome, I am happier using my electric whisk to beat the eggs and sugar together until fully aerated but it’s important that the eggs are at room temperature when you start, not chilled.


The nicest thing about a Swiss roll is that it bakes in 12 minutes flat. The trickiest thing is rolling it up without the sponge cracking, which is best done when the sponge is steaming hot and still pliable. Because I like to complement the jam filling with whipped cream, it has to be given a “memory” roll, so that when it is cool you can unravel it like a poster, fill it and reroll. It can also double as a dessert and because it is fat free (butterless), it is best eaten the day it is made.

Swiss roll with raspberry jam and cream

Serves 8


4 large eggs, room temperature
125g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp vanilla extract (or seeds from a vanilla pod)
100g self-raising flour
100g raspberry jam
200ml cream, firmly whipped


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan. Grease and line a 25cm x 35cm rectangular baking tin with baking parchment.

2. Using an electric whisk on a high speed setting, whisk the eggs and caster sugar together in a large bowl for 5 minutes until the mixture is voluminous and pale and the whisk leaves a ribbon-like trail. Add in vanilla.

3. In two batches, sift the self-raising flour and fold it evenly through the batter with a metal spoon until no flour pockets remain (take care not to overwork it, or the sponge may become tough).

4. Pour into the tin guiding the mixture into the corners, and tap the tin twice on the counter to level the mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 mins when the sponge should be firm to the touch.

5. Create the dummy roll so it does not crack as follows: while still hot out of the oven, sprinkle caster sugar over the sponge and immediately cover with a clean damp tea towel before flipping it on to a flat surface. Carefully remove the tin and peel back the paper from the sponge. Using the tea towel begin to roll it up tightly. Keep it rolled up until it comes to room temperature.

6. To add the filling, carefully unroll and spread the surface with jam, followed by the whipped cream and reroll before adding the final polish with a dusting of sugar.

For a smaller portion, why not roll up half and freeze the remaining sponge.  Leftover sponge cake can be easily turned into low fat mini-trifles, attractively layered in glasses with fresh fruit, yoghurt and a few toasted flaked almonds.  Kids love mini ice-cream cakes, made by sandwiching raspberry ripple ice-cream between two layers of sponge.