Tired of a plain strawberry Swiss roll cake? Try my autumn inspired cinnamon Swiss roll! My step-by-step guide will give you tips and tricks to achieve the perfect roll cake with a cinnamon spice twist.
What is a Swiss Roll Cake
A Swiss roll cake is essentially a light and airy rectangular sponge cake, which is then rolled with cream filling to create a log shape with a spiral of cake and cream inside.
Swiss roll cakes are often called jelly roll cakes in the US and sometimes known as roulades or simply roll cakes. The traditional Christmas Yule Log cake is an example of a type of Swiss roll cake.
Making Cinnamon Swiss Roll
- Eggs, separated into whites and yolks. You'll be making a meringue with the whites, so be sure these are well separated.
- Sugar - both superfine granulated sugar for a glossy stiff meringue and light brown muscovado sugar for the base of the batter.
- Flour and cornflour - the combination of flour and cornflour in this recipe mimics cake flour, which is a common ingredient in classic American cake recipes. Cake flour doesn't exist in the UK. Using a reduced amount of plain flour with a couple of tablespoons of cornflour (AKA cornstarch) will provide the same light flour effect. If you have access to cake flour, you can substitute with one cup of cake flour and leave out the plain/all-purpose flour and cornflour.
- Baking powder and cream of tarter.
- Spices - both cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg.
- Vanilla extract.
- A few tablespoons of water.
Roll Cake Pan Preparation
The first thing you want to do in making the cinnamon Swiss roll or any roll cake is to line the bottom and sides of your pan. I used a quarter sheet pan for my cakes, but this recipe can also be made in a slightly larger conventional jelly roll pan (the timings may vary a bit).
Use a bit of butter or oil to grease the pan and line with a layer of parchment paper.
The trick here is to use the grease to stick the parchment paper into the tin (so that this doesn't move about). Do not grease or flour the top of the parchment paper. This is because your roll cake will be super light and airy. It is a greaseless cake and you don't want any butter or oils to come in contact with the actual batter.
Once lined, set aside the pan, preheat your oven and make the batter.
Method for Cinnamon Swiss Roll
So the method for a Swiss roll cake batter is really in three stages:
- Making the meringue.
- Making the base for the cake batter.
- Bringing it all together.
Stage 1: Making Egg White Meringue for Cake
Many traditional sponge cakes are leavened using eggs. In particular, the inclusion of an egg white meringue can contribute to a light and airy cake.
The process to making a meringue is all down to whisking.
First, add the egg whites and cream of tarter to a large bowl. Cream of tarter isn't strictly necessary in meringues, but it does help to add stability and strengthen the final product.
Whisk for a couple of minutes until you reach soft peaks. Your mixture will become frothy and full of bubbles.
Then add your caster sugar one tablespoon at a time while continuing to whisk. Increase the speed to high and whisk until glossy and stiff peaks. The classic test for stiff peaks is to hold the bowl of meringue over your head - the meringue should be stiff and shouldn't budge.
Set the meringue aside while you make the base batter.
2. Making the Base Cake Batter
In order to make the base batter for a cinnamon Swiss roll cake, first combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. These are the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and spices.
Meanwhile, add the wet ingredients - the egg yolks, vanilla and water - to a jug and whisk together.
Add the wet to the dry and whisk to combine.
3. Putting it All Together
To bring the cake batter together, add a spoonful of the meringue to the cake base to loosen this. Once you've stirred this through, add the rest of the meringue and gently fold to incorporate.
Your goal is to preserve as much of the air from beating the meringue as possible, but you also want this to be well folded so that there aren't patches of pure egg white meringue in the batter.
Baking Swiss Roll Cake
Pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan. This is best achieved by pouring into one place in the middle of the pan and then spreading gently into the corners with an offset spatula to even.
Bake at 350°F (175C/155C Fan) for about 20-25 minutes, watching for the cake to be well risen and lightly golden. If you touch the cake lightly, it should not be sticky, and should be beginning to spring back lightly.
Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tray for 5 minutes. During this time, the cake may sink back onto itself a little bit (like the second image below). This is expected and is what you are looking for to ensure a roll-able sponge cake.
Rolling a Jelly Roll Cake
So, making the roll for your cake is a process which is probably far easier to do than it is to explain! But, basically, the key equipment you will need here is patience, parchment paper and some powdered icing sugar (or confectioner's sugar).
After allowing the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, sprinkle the top with icing sugar.
Place a sheet of parchment on top of a wire rack and invert this over top of the cake pan. Holding the wire rack tight against the top of the cake pan (with the parchment sandwiched between), flip this over so that the cake pan is now inverted over the top of the rack.
Remove the cake pan, which will reveal the cinnamon sponge cake still in the parchment paper lining from tin. Slowly peel this off.
This smooth side, which had been the base of the cake in the pan, will be the outside of the roll cake.
Allow the sponge cake to cool on the wire rack for another 5 minutes. Then, lightly dust with powdered sugar and cover with a clean piece of parchment paper. Carefully use this to invert the cake again (so that the side which was the top of the cake in the tin is now again on top).
Be sure that this is again dusted lightly with powdered sugar. You will be rolling the cake from the short edge nearest you. Fold a bit of the parchment paper over the short edge and then continue to use the parchment paper to help you roll (ensuring that there is parchment continuing to be rolled between the cake as it rolls, so that this doesn't stick to itself).
Once rolled, leave aside to cool while you make the homemade cool whip filling.
Homemade Cool Whip Filling
Now, if you're looking for a quick cheat to this recipe, you can just use a standard 8oz tub of Cool Whip if you have that available. In the UK, however, there is no Cool Whip, so any stabilised whipped toppings have to be homemade.
This is actually far easier than you might think!
This recipe is adapted from my basic stabilised whipped cream recipe, but with added gelatine to provide a firmer set to the filling. This helps to provide better structure for a roll cake.
All you need for this recipe is:
- Heavy whipping cream or double cream.
- Powdered icing sugar or confectioners sugar.
- Vanilla - for this recipe, I have chosen to use the scraped seeds from a vanilla pod, but you could also use 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract.
- Unflavoured gelatine powder.
Making Homemade Cool Whip Filling
In order to incorporate the added gelatine to a cold cream, you will first need to soften this and then liquify it.
Sprinkle the powdered gelatine overtop 1½ tablespoons cool water in a heatproof bowl. Allow it to soak for 10 minutes to soften.
Meanwhile, scrape the vanilla seeds out of the vanilla pod and add these to the cream in a large mixing bowl. Place this in the refrigerator to chill until you're ready to use.
Add a small amount of recently boiled water to a saucepan over a low heat, so that this stays warm. Once the gelatine has fully softened, place the small bowl into the centre of this warm water bath. This will make the gelatine melt and turn to a runny liquid.
Once liquified, remove from the water bath and set aside.
Return to your cream. Take this out of the refrigerator, add the powdered sugar and begin to whisk using either a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a handheld electric beater.
Once you reach a soft peak stage, where the beaters are leaving tracks in the cream, pause the whisking. Take a small spoonful of the cream and add this to the liquid gelatine. Stir this to combine.
Then, returning to whisking, slowly pour the liquid gelatine into the cream. Beat until you reach stiff peaks, but try to avoid over-beating.
Assembling Cinnamon Swiss Roll Cake
By the time you have finished making the cream, your cake will be cool enough to fill.
Carefully unroll the cake, leaving the parchment paper underneath.
There will be some cracks and creases on the inner side, but these will be covered by filling, so shouldn't be too problematic. Avoid stretching the cake back as this can cause it to crack more significantly and break.
Spread the cream in an even layer over the cake and then add some fruit sauce. I used a couple of tablespoons of my spiced plum sauce, but you could also use a jam. My spiced blackberry jam or cherry jam would compliment this roll nicely.
Carefully re-roll. You can use the parchment paper to help you do this gently and to give a bit of support.
Wrap the cake in cling film and refrigerate to allow the gelatine to firm up a bit and set before slicing.
Tips to Avoid Cracks in Roll Cake
So the key to a roll cake is unsurprisingly the roll itself! I'll be honest, I've long been terrified of roll cakes and nervous about cracks. But, with these few tips, you can avoid roll cake disaster!
- Don't over bake! The number one rule of a roll cake is to not over bake it. Baking the cake too long will mean this is too dry to roll.
- Use parchment paper instead of a towel. Conventional roll cake recipes will often call for a clean tea towel. In my experience, using a towel is unnecessarily problematic. A towel will stick worse than parchment paper, leading you to need too much icing sugar to avoid this (see point 3). A tea towel is also more likely to leave fibre in your finished product and is just generally less hygienic.
- Avoid using too much powdered sugar! Yes, you will want to dust your parchment paper and cake in powdered icing sugar to help keep this from sticking. Too much icing sugar, however, will lead to the cake drying out and will cause this to crack. Try not to overdo it!
- Be sure to roll while the cake is still warm. By rolling the cake while it is still warm, you will help to form muscle memory in the sponge. This will help to keep it from cracking too much when you are assembling the finished product.
- Don't leave the cake to cool too long before assembling. Once you have rolled the fresh baked cake for its muscle memory, you can start making the whipped cream. By the time the whipped cream is ready (about 30 minutes), this will be suitable and cool enough to assemble. Waiting too long can result in a cake that splits when being unrolled and will be more difficult to manipulate.
- When all else fails, don't forget a nice frosting or ganache can save the day if you have cracked the cake roll!
FAQs for Cinnamon Swiss Roll Cake
Fully assembled and wrapped in the clingfilm, this cake can last for a couple of days in the refrigerator and is a handy make ahead dessert.
The homemade cool whip can be made a day in advance of assembling the cake and kept in the refrigerator.
You cannot make the cake layer alone in advance of completing the roll cake as this needs to be filled and re-rolled while as fresh as possible.
Yes, a Swiss roll cake can be frozen for about three months. In order to freeze, assemble the cake as described in this post and refrigerate for a few hours to fully set up. Then wrap in a layer of aluminium foil or place in a freezer bag and transfer to the freezer.
Most likely you've over-whisked the cream. This isn't a seriously problem in a roll cake. Since the cream is a filling, you can smooth it out as much as possible in a layer over the cake and it will still roll well and hold shape.
See above for my tips on roll cakes cracking. If it has split, it will still be delicious! But if you're looking to present it, maybe try a dark chocolate ganache or a frosting over top to hide the crack?
If you like this recipe, you might also like other retro classics:
Or some more cinnamon spiced inspiration:
Cinnamon Swiss Roll Cake
- A quarter sheet pan, 9"x13" sheet pan or jelly roll pan
- Parchment paper
- Handheld electric whisk or stand mixer
- Small saucepan
Ingredients for Cinnamon Roll Cake
- 4 eggs separated into yolks and whites
- ½ teaspoon cream of tarter
- ¼ cup caster or superfine granulated sugar
- ¾ cup light brown muscovado sugar firmly packed
- ¾ cup plain or all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch or cornflour in the UK
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 tablespoon cold water
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Ingredients for Homemade Cool Whip Filling
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream or double cream
- 1 vanilla pod or vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1 tablespoon powdered icing sugar or confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon unflavoured gelatine powder
- 1½ tablespoon cool water plus extra boiling water for liquifying gelatine
- fruit jam or sauce such as plum sauce or blackberry jam
Instructions for Cinnamon Roll Cake
- Preheat an oven to 350°F (175C/155C Fan) and prepare your baking tin. Grease the base and sides and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl with the cream of tarter. Whisk this together using a handheld electric beater until you reach soft peaks.
- Slowly add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time, continuing to whisk on high until glossy stiff peaks form. Set aside while you make the cake batter base.
- In a separate large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, corn starch, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- In a jug, whisk together the egg yolks, water and vanilla extract. Add this to the bowl of dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
- Add a spoonful of the meringue to the cake batter base and stir to loosen the mixture. Then add the remaining meringue and fold through gently to combine.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and spread carefully into the corners, smoothing the top evenly.
- Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until well risen and beginning to lightly brown. The sponge should not be sticky and should spring back lightly to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for five minutes.
- Dust the top of the cake with powdered icing sugar and invert onto a piece of parchment paper on a wire cooling rack (see the blog post for step by step tips).
- Peel the parchment paper lining carefully off of the cake and dust lightly with powdered sugar. This side will be the outside of your finished roll cake. Allow to cool for five minutes.
- Flip the cake onto a clean sheet of parchment paper, adding another light dusting of powdered sugar if needed. Use the parchment paper to roll the cake from the short edge nearest you ensuring that parchment paper is between the cake in the rolling to avoid the cake sticking to itself. Set aside while you make your cream filling.
Instructions for Homemade Cool Whip Filling
- Sprinkle the unflavoured gelatine over top the 1½ tablespoons of cool water in a small heatproof bowl and allow to soak for 10 minutes to soften.
- Meanwhile, scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add these to a mixing bowl along with the cream. Place in the refrigerator to chill down while waiting on the gelatine.
- Pour a little recently boiled water into a shallow saucepan. Once the 10 minute soaking time is done, place the small bowl in the centre of this hot water bath and place over a low heat. The softened gelatine should quickly liquify in a minute or two. When liquified, remove from the hot water bath and set aside.
- Return your attention to the cream. Remove this from the refrigerator, add the powdered sugar and begin to whisk with either a stand mixer or a handheld electric beater.
- When the beater begins to leave tracks through the cream (approaching soft peak stage), pause the mixer to take a spoonful of the cream. Add the spoonful to the liquid gelatine and stir. Then slowly pour the bowl of melted gelatine into the cream while continuing to beat. Beat until stiff peaks form, but avoid overmixing.
- By the time the cream is ready, your cake will be cool enough to fill.
Instructions for Assembly
- Carefully unroll your cake. The inside may crack a bit, but this will be coated in filling, so don't worry.
- Carefully re-roll and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to set up before slicing.