You know those ultra fluffy and delicious swiss rolls from Asian bakeries? How good are they! I love the simplicity of it, it’s essentially 2 components but they do it so well. I have to say besides the usual flavours like coffee, chocolate, matcha, and even taro, one of my favourite flavours is pork floss, where you have a plain sponge with shallots, and it’s filled with a sweet mayonnaise and pork floss (that’s sweet, salty, and meaty all at the same time). The best thing is how versatile they are. Once you have a master swiss roll cake recipe, you can make any flavour combination imaginable.
Which is why I’ve been trying to replicate these swiss rolls at home. For a long time, I’ve always used a recipe that’s quite similar to how you would make a chiffon cake – combine the dry and liquid ingredients, then fold in stiff meringue mixture. The cake itself is fine, it’s fluffy like a chiffon, but I’ve always had to pre-roll the cake while it’s still hot so that it doesn’t crack later. However, I find that a huge disadvantage of pre-rolling is you end up with a sponge that is slightly deflated, and not as fluffy.
Then, on my hunt for baking books while I was in Taiwan early last year, I came across a book by Takako Inata on swiss rolls.
The swiss rolls in this book looked ridiculously perfect, but it was in Chinese and I unfortunately can’t read Chinese. I bought it regardless hoping to have it translated. About a year and a half went by and the book sat on the shelf untouched, until a few weeks ago I finally got one recipe translated.
I was HUGELY sceptical of this recipe, because it calls for a stiff meringue to be made, then yolks whisked into it. This was completely foreign to me, as I thought whisking fat into a meringue was a big no no. The other somewhat different component to this recipe is the addition of thickened cream that had been heated – again, not something I had seen before, but I guess not that different to adding your typical diary ingredients like milk, just with more fat.
Despite my reservations, what I ended up with was an incredibly soft and flexible cake, that was so easy to roll when cold. No pre-rolling when hot, and no cracks when rolled cold!
I really love the flavours in this cake, and without sounding too up myself, I do think this is better than the swiss rolls in the Asian bakeries. Big call I know! But I just love the coffee and chocolate together, and the salted caramel oozing out, and the mascarpone!
I added the meringue purely for decoration really. I don’t think it adds anything extra to the cake, just extra sweetness. I think the cake is perfect eaten by itself, and oh by the way, it’s better the next day, because the flavours are intensified.
So here’s the recipe for what I think is the perfect swiss roll and I hope that it comes out perfect for you too!
p.s. don’t be stingy with the salted caramel.
Makes 2 swiss rolls.
225g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
150ml thickened cream, gently heated so it is warm
2 teaspoons sea salt
Chocolate Sheet Cake
50g plain flour
20g corn flour
20g dutch processed cocoa powder
6 egg whites (room temperature, approx. 180g)
140g caster sugar
6 egg yolks (room temperature, approx. 90g)
60g thickened cream (heated in the microwave so it is warm)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 teaspoons hot water
2 tablespoons coffee liquor (Tia Maria or Kahlua)
Coffee Mascarpone Cream
125g mascarpone cheese
200ml thickened cream
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180g caster sugar
60g glucose syrup
7g bicarbonate of soda
Swiss meringue (optional)
3 egg whites (approx. 90g)
135g caster sugar
- Make the salted caramel. In a heavy based saucepan, heat the sugar over medium heat. Swirl the sugar around the pan occasionally to get the sugar melting evenly. As the sugar starts to brown on the edges of the pan, use a spoon or spatula to gently stir the sugar around so the edges don't get burnt. If you get any small hard lumps of sugar, you can turn down the heat slightly, keep stirring and just let it melt. When the caramel reaches a dark amber colour, add the butter, and whisk until incorporated. Pour in the cream, and whisk until smooth. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the salt. Pour into a heatproof bowl or container and leave to cool.
- Make the chocolate sheet cake. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan forced). Grease and line 2 baking trays with baking paper (I used 22cmx32cm swiss roll pans). Sift the plain flour and corn flour together six times. Then sift the cocoa powder into the flour, and mix until dry ingredients are combined. Place the egg whites in a clean and dry stand mixer bowl, and whisk on high speed until frothy. With the mixer still on, gradually add the sugar. Continue mixing until stiff peaks. With the mixer still on, add the egg yolks, one at a time and mix until well incorporated (not long, about 30 seconds after the last yolk has been added). Fold in sifted dry ingredients using a spatula, followed by the heated cream, and vanilla extract. Divide mixture between trays and level with an offset spatula. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. It's really important that you don't over bake the cake, as it will become dry, and more likely to crack when rolled. The cake is ready when it springs back lightly when touched. Once baked, take the trays out of the oven, lift the cakes out of their trays (with the baking paper still attached) and leave on cooling racks. Once the cakes have cooled slightly, cover the top with another piece of baking paper, then cover with cling wrap (you're trying to keep the cake moist as it cools).
- Make the coffee syrup. Dissolve the instant coffee in the hot water. Once cooled, stir in the liquor.
- Make the coffee mascarpone cream. Combined thickened cream with sugar, instant coffee, and vanilla, and whip until stiff peaks. Fold in mascarpone cheese. You want the final mixture to be stiff, and thick enough to spread easily on the cake. If it's too soft, simply whip until the mixture thickens further.
- To assemble. Remove the cling wrap and baking paper from the sheet cake. The cakes should be skin side facing up (the same as when you removed it from the oven). Using another piece of large baking paper, flip the sheet cake on to the new piece of baking paper so that the skin side is now facing down. Peel the original baking paper off the cake, then flip the cake back onto another piece of baking paper so that it is skin side facing up again.
- You will be rolling the cake from the shorter sides. Using a serrated knife, trim the edge of one of the shorter sides of the cake diagonally, so that this side is slanted (like a trapezoid instead of a rectangle).
- Brush the cake with half of the coffee syrup, then drizzle salted caramel over the cake. Be generous and make sure the entire cake is covered. Spread the mascarpone cream over the cake.
- Gently roll the cake, starting with the trimmed edge. Using your fingers to tuck the end in as you roll the cake, away from you. Wrap the roll in cling wrap and keep in the fridge. Repeat with the other sheet cake. When ready to eat or decorate, cut off the ends of the swiss roll.
- Decorate as desired.
- To make the honeycomb (if desired). Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the sugar, glucose syrup and water in a large heavy based saucepan and cook over high heat until the mixture reaches a caramel colour. Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk quickly (it will bubble and expand in volume). Pour into the prepared tray and leave to cool. Once cool, break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
- To make the swiss meringue (if desired). Place the egg whites and sugar in a very clean and dry stand mixer bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and while whisking, heat until hot to the touch (about 75°C). Remove from the heat and whisk on high until stiff and mixture has cooled to room temperature. It must be used immediately.
Keep the cake refrigerated and it's best served cold (nobody wants to eat warm mascarpone cream!).
The cake is best eaten the next day, to allow the flavours to intensify.
When cutting the cake, use a very sharp knife and wipe the knife between cuts.