Chocolate Swiss Roll Cake

This chocolate sponge cake is filled with whipped cream and coated in a thin layer of ganache to create the perfect chocolate swiss roll. All of your childhood dreams definitely just came true.

Side view of a chocolate swiss roll topped with chocolate ganache.
Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera

If you’re like me, your childhood was spent trying to convince your parents that eating a chocolate swiss roll from a plastic wrapper was a good idea.

At some point, I feel like every person on the planet should experience the satisfaction of peeling off a thin layer of semi-hardened chocolate ganache with their teeth before shoving an absurdly large hunk of soft, chocolate sponge cake and whipped cream into their mouth.

If you haven’t had a similar soulful experience, yet, we need to change that, because this might be one of the few throwbacks to childhood that won’t make you cringe. This homemade version is worth the couple of hours it takes to prepare, bake, and chill. Not only because it’s chocolatey and rich, but because it can be customized to add your favorite nuts, chips, or even fresh fruits.

What is a Swiss Roll Cake?

A swiss roll cake is made by rolling a sponge cake around a filling of some sort.

Here, I’m using a chocolate genoise sponge, which is airier and, well, spongier than a standard devil’s food cake. The filling is simple: a stabilized whipped cream, which holds its shape for a few days longer than regular whipped cream, is all thanks to the firming power of gelatin.

Like the famed Little Debbie Swiss Roll Snack Cake, it’s coated in thick chocolate ganache. This one, however, is yards better. Ganache, which is a mixture of semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream, creates a pliable shell that adds to the chocolatey flavor of this dessert. The rolled and coated cake is then refrigerated to allow the ganache to set up in the fridge until slightly firm.

Overhead view of a chocolate cake roll and a plate with a slice on it.
Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera

Why is it Called a Swiss Roll?

I have no idea where the name “Swiss Roll” came from.

Dozens of countries have their versions of a filled, rolled sponge cake, including Brazo Gitano, filled with guava paste. Here in the states, Swiss or jelly rolls are the most common names for this dessert. Basically, roll a thin sheet of cake around a filling of your choice and you, too, can have a Swiss Roll cake.

What I do know is that my European pastry chef instructor almost kicked me out of class when I argued that if a Swiss Roll didn’t originate in Switzerland, which he said it didn’t, we shouldn’t call it a Swiss Roll. We compromised and referred to it by the pastry term, roulade.

Tips and Tricks for Making a Swiss Roll

Here are a few tips and tricks that will help when making your swiss roll:

  • Make sure you warm the sugar in the oven while its preheating. When the warm sugar is whipped into the eggs, it helps them whip up fluffier.
  • You will need an 18 x 13 x 2-inch half-sheet jelly roll pan to bake this chocolate sponge cake.
  • Don’t grease the sides of the pan. Ungreased sides allow the cake to cling to pan and facilitate its rising during baking. Since this recipe has no chemical leavening agents, we need all the help we can get to get it to rise.
  • Gently tap the pan against the countertop to expel large air bubbles. Air bubbles may cause the cake to break while rolling it later.
  • It’s important to remove the cake from the pan after removing it from the oven to stop the baking process. Over baked cakes are more likely to tear during rolling.
  • Rolling up the cake while it’s still hot from the oven makes it pliable, which helps eliminate huge cracks in your final rolled cake.
  • To roll a tight cylinder, grip the tube of cake and pull back slightly. This tucks the cake into itself.
Side view of a chocolate swiss roll with ganache being poured over top.
Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera

 All Things Ganache

Here are some things to note when making the ganache:

  • Allow the ganache to cool for 12 to 15 minutes after melting and mixing. This will give you a thick, but still fluid consistency similar to maple syrup.
  • The ganache should firm up slightly once it hits the cold swiss roll but should hold swirls from your icing spatula when you swoop it.
  • If the ganache firms up too much, heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds to loosen it a bit.

 Filling and Flavor Suggestions

Make this chocolate Swiss roll your own unique version by adding a few of these ingredients. Combine one or two to make it really special, or just use one.

  • Flavor your whipped cream with different extracts, like almond, peppermint, coffee, or berry.
  • Fold melted (and cooled) chocolate or jams into the cream after whipping.
  • Sprinkle chopped fruits, nuts, coconut flakes, or crushed peppermint candies onto the cream before rolling up the cake.
  • Replace the vanilla extract in the ganache with cognac, brandy or dark rum.
  • Fresh cherries or berries arranged on the cream before rolling provide a different flavor and great-looking visual.
Side view of a chocolate swiss roll topped with chocolate ganache.
Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera

Swaps and Substitutions

If you’re not feeling very decadent, feel free to switch things up. With the swaps and substitutions, you can make a chocolate Swiss roll with what you have on hand.

  • Replace the cocoa powder and cornstarch with cake flour to make a plain yellow sponge cake.
  • Fill the roll with your favorite jam or even more chocolate ganache instead of the whipped cream.
  • Replace the stabilized whipped cream with regular whipped cream, buttercream, or your favorite custard.
  • Make a chocolate ganache with white, milk or dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet chocolate.

Make Ahead and How to Store

Swiss chocolate rolls need to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving, so I actually recommend making it ahead of when you’ll want to serve it.

You can prepare the stabilized whipped cream a day ahead and store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for 24 hours before using. If the cream has deflated slightly, re-whip it for 1-2 minutes on low speed to fluff it back up.

You can store the cake in the fridge for 2 days. Make sure you let the chocolate ganache firm up before covering it lightly with plastic wrap.

The cake must be refrigerated because of the whipped cream filling, but refrigeration causes cakes to go stale faster. Enjoy it as soon as you can, preferably within 2 days of assembly, but no longer than 4 days. Be sure to keep your swiss roll ends covered in plastic or press a piece of wax paper up against the cut slices to keep them as fresh-tasting as possible.

Overhead view of a chocolate cake roll.
Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera

More Decadent Chocolate Cake Recipes

Chocolate Swiss Roll Cake

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Chill Time 2 hrs 45 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 25 mins
Servings 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

  • For the chocolate sponge cake
  • 3/4 cup (100g) cake flour
  • 1/2 cup (56g) cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons (26g) cornstarch
  • 3/4 cups (170g) granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (58g) melted unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (for dusting the tea towel)
  • For the stabilized whipped cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon plain gelatin powder
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (50g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the chocolate ganache
  • 1 cup (170g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
  • Special equipment
  • Half sheet pan (18 x 13 x 2-inches)
  • Tea towel
  • Parchment paper

Method

  1. Sift the dry ingredients:

    Into a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, and cornstarch three times. Set the dry ingredients aside.

  2. Warm sugar in the oven while it preheats:

    Line the half-sheet pan with parchment paper, then sprinkle the sugar onto the paper in an even layer.

    Place the pan in the oven. Set the oven to 400°F. You’ll have the sugar in the oven while it preheats and remove it from the oven when it is warm to the touch, in step 4.

  3. Whisk the eggs in a stand mixer:

    While the sugar is warming, use a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to lightly beat the eggs, at low speed, until they look foamy with small bubbles, for 30 to 45 seconds.

  4. Add the sugar to the eggs:

    By now, the sugar should be warm to the touch. Remove the pan from the oven, hold the parchment paper by the sides and, while the mixer is still running, sprinkle the warm sugar into the eggs, followed by the salt.

    Once all of the sugar has been added to the eggs, increase the mixer’s speed to medium-high. Whip the mixture, until lemon-yellow and very thick, about 8 minutes.

    Whipping batter to make the best swiss roll cake recipe.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  5. Prepare the sheet pan:

    While the eggs are whipping, lightly spray the cooled half-sheet jelly roll pan with baking spray (be sure to not spray the sides). Line the bottom of the sheet pan with the sheet of parchment paper you used to hold the sugar (or a new one). 

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to make the best swiss roll cake recipe.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  6. Sift in the dry ingredients and add the butter and vanilla:

    Once the eggs have finished whipping, remove the bowl from the stand mixer and sift the dry ingredients into the mixer bowl with the eggs.

    Use a large rubber spatula, to gently fold the flour into the eggs. To fold in the eggs use the rubber spatula to scrape around the sides of the bowl, in toward the center of the bowl to encapsulate the flour in the eggs. You want to lift the egg mixture over the flour. Continue doing this gently, to avoid deflating the eggs too much, until no streaks of flour remain.

    When most of the flour has been folded in, add the melted butter and the vanilla. The mixture will go from voluminous to deflated but will still look thick and glossy after you’ve folded in the flour and butter.

    Mixing batter to make the best swiss roll cake recipe.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
    Adding butter to the batter to make a best swiss roll cake recipe.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  7. Pour batter into prepared sheet and bake:

    Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread and level out the batter in the pan. Give the pan three or four gentle taps against the countertop to expel any large bubbles. Bake the cake for 10 to 12 minutes. The cake will have doubled in size and will feel spongy when you press gently on the center.  

    Spreading chocolate batter on a baking sheet with a offset spatula.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  8. Sift cocoa powder over a tea towel:

    Lightly dust a clean tea towel by sifting the cocoa powder over it.

  9. Flip cake out onto tea towel:

    Once the cake has finished baking, remove the pan from the oven. Use a knife to separate the cake from the sides of the pan and immediately flip the cake onto the cocoa-dusted towel. Holding the pan from a low position will minimize cocoa spraying everywhere when you flip the cake out.

    Loosening swiss roll cake from the pan.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  10. Roll the cake and cool on rack:

    Quickly, but carefully, it is still hot, starting with the long edge, roll the cake into a tube shape. You don't need to remove the parchment paper. Allow the cake to cool in this shape on a cooling rack for 45 minutes. 

    Using a tea towel to roll up a chocolate swiss roll.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
    A baking sheet with a cooling rack set at an angle and a swiss roll cake wrapped in a tea towel on top.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  11. Combine water and gelatin to make stabilized whipped cream:

    Toward the end of the cooling time, prepare the stabilized whipped cream. In a 1-cup microwave-safe bowl, combine the cold water and powdered gelatin.

    Heat the mixture in the microwave for 15-20 seconds on high. Once the mixture bubbles, remove it from the microwave and allow it to cool, but not firm up. The mixture will be runny and the gelatin will have dissolved.

    Softening gelatin to make stabilized whipped cream.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  12. Whip the heavy cream:

    Pour the heavy cream into a mixing bowl. Use an electric hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set it to medium speed for 2 minutes or until the beater leaves behind ribbons in the cream.

  13. Add in the gelatin, powdered sugar, and vanilla:

    Reduce the mixer’s speed to low and drizzle the gelatin in slowly. Once all of the gelatin has been added, add in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

    Adding gelatin to a bowl of whipped cream for a chocolate swiss roll.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  14. Finish the whipped cream:

    Begin mixing again, this time on medium-high for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the whipped cream holds stiff peaks when the beaters are removed from it, the cream should stand straight up.

    If the cake is not yet cool to the touch, store the cream in a covered container in the fridge until you’re ready to fill the cake.

    Overhead view of a bowl of stabilized whipped cream for a chocolate swiss roll.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  15. Unroll the cake:

    Once the cake has cooled and is no longer warm to the touch, carefully unroll it and remove the parchment paper.

    Unrolling chocolate swiss roll cake.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  16. Spread whipped cream on cake and reroll the cake:

    Spread a 1/8 to 1/4-inch layer of the whipped cream onto the cake, leaving a 1-inch margin on one of the short ends. Beginning on the cream-covered short end, tightly roll the cake back into a tube. Use the towel to roll the tube tightly toward the other end.

    Spreading whipped cream over swiss roll cake.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
    Cocoa covered tea towel under a chocolate swiss roll.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  17. Wrap cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate:

    Wrap the tube snugly in plastic film. Twist the ends of the wrapping to create a tight cylindrical shape. Refrigerate the chocolate swiss roll for at least 2 hours to allow it to set.

    Chocolate swiss roll wrapped in plastic wrap.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  18. Prepare the chocolate ganache:

    An hour before you plan to serve the Swiss roll, prepare the chocolate ganache. To make the ganache add the heavy cream to a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl. Place in the microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds, or until it begins to steam. You can also do this in a pot on the stove. You just want it to warm through, not boil.

    Add the chocolate chips and vanilla to the bowl and shimmy the bowl slightly so that all of the chips are covered by the cream. Allow the chocolate to sit in the cream for 3 to 4 minutes.

    Whisk the cream and chocolate together until smooth. If chunks remain, heat the ganache in the microwave for 20 seconds, before whisking again. Allow the ganache to cool at room temperature for 12 to 15 minutes and firm up slightly.

    Chocolate chips in a bowl of heavy cream for a swiss roll cake recipe.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera
  19. Unwrap and glaze the chocolate swiss roll:

    Remove the swiss roll from the fridge and remove the plastic covering. Place the roll on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan.

    Pour the ganache over the top of the roll and use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to cover the roll evenly in the chocolate. If you want to double the ganache, to use up all of the ganache, scoop up the excess from the pan underneath and repeat the pouring steps.

    Transfer the cake to a platter and refrigerate it until the ganache feels slightly tacky to the touch, or 20 minutes.

  20. Serve:

    Slice and serve. Store leftovers covered in the fridge and enjoy within 2 days.

    Overhead view of a chocolate cake roll and a plate with a slice on it.
    Simply Recipes / Marta Rivera