Swiss roll

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This article is about the cake. For the term in electromagnetics and optics, see Swiss roll (metamaterial). For other uses of the term "jelly roll", see Jelly roll (disambiguation).
Swiss roll
Brazo gitano - cyclonebill.jpg
A slice of Brazo gitano, a Swiss roll
Type Sponge cake
Place of origin Central Europe
Main ingredients Flour, eggs, sugar, jam or buttercream
Cookbook:Swiss roll  Swiss roll

A Swiss roll , jelly roll, or cream roll is a type of sponge cake roll. A thin cake layer is made of flour, eggs, and sugar and baked in a very shallow rectangular baking tray, called a sheet pan. The cake is removed from the pan and spread with jam or buttercream, rolled up, and served in round cross-sectional slices.

The origins of the term "Swiss roll" are unclear. The cake originated in Central Europe, but not in Switzerland as the name would suggest. It appears to have been invented in the nineteenth century, along with Battenberg, doughnuts and Victoria sponge.

The shape of the Swiss roll has inspired usage as a descriptive term in other fields, such as in optics and blues music.


The earliest published reference for a rolled cake spread with jelly was in the Northern Farmer, a journal published in Utica, New York, in December 1852. The recipe was called “To Make Jelly Cake” but it reads: “Bake quick and while hot spread with jelly. Roll carefully, and wrap it in a cloth. When cold cut in slices for the table.” The description is for a Jelly Roll. The name Jelly Cake comes from another cake recipe that was made up of 5 to 6 thin layers of cake with jelly between each layer. It made a thick, high cake. Jelly Cake (layer cake) is an old English recipe.

In America for many years, there was no clear distinction between the name "Jelly Cake" and "Jelly Roll" to describe a rolled cake spread with jelly. During the period from 1852 to 1877 it was called: Jelly Cake (1852), Roll Jelly Cake (1860), Swiss Roll (1872), Jelly Roll (1873), and Rolled Jelly Cake (1876). The name “Jelly Roll” eventually became the common popular name in America.[citation needed]

The name "Swiss Roll" appears to be British, though the name may not have originated from there. A bill of fare dated June 18, 1871 for the Union Steam-ship Company’s R.M.S. Syria listed Swiss Roll. That bill of fare was published in the 1872 book A Voyage from Southampton to Cape Town, in the Union Company’s Mail Steamer “Syria” in London. So far this is the earliest British reference to a rolled cake. The 1872 The American Home Cook Book, published in Detroit, Michigan, listed a recipe for Swiss Roll.

In the 1894 American Pastry Cook, published in Chicago, there is an unusual arrangement of recipes. It started with Jelly Roll Mixture followed by Swiss Roll, Venice Roll, Paris Roll, Chocolate Roll, Jelly Roll Cotelettes, and Decorated Jelly Rolls. Each recipe utilized the basic Jelly Roll cake made from the Jelly Roll Mixture. In turn, each recipe was completed and finished in a different way thus distinguishing several European versions. In this cookbook, the Jelly Roll has a different name in each country. Several 1880’s to 1890’s cookbooks from London, England used the name Swiss Roll exclusively making it the popular name for the rolled cake recipe in England.[1]

Different countries[edit]

The Hong Kong swiss roll looks identical to its Western counterpart, except that it is much lighter in taste.

Hong Kong style[edit]

Hong Kong[edit]

Chocolate Swiss Roll

The origin of this pastry is likely from the UK, since Hong Kong was an integral British territory from the 19th century to 1997. The cake is never pre-packaged, as it is sold fresh daily in the Chinese bakeries. Overall, this cake has been sold next to other Chinese pastries well before the popularising of western-style bakeries such as Maxim. There are several popular variations.

  • Swiss Roll (Chinese: 瑞士卷 or 瑞士卷蛋糕). Cake layer is made of a standard recipe, and a whipped cream filling is standard.
  • Chocolate Swiss Roll (Chinese: 朱古力瑞士卷). Cake layer is made of egg in combination with chocolate flavouring. It also has a whipped cream filling.
  • Some bakeries offer their own variations, such as layers of egg and chocolate swirl. Other variations include strawberry, coffee or orange fillings.[2]
  • Another flavour popular in Hong Kong is the Mango version, which has a mango flavoured roll with a whipped cream filling.

Overseas Chinatowns[edit]

Most US Chinatown bakeries sell the basic Hong Kong Swiss Roll version. It essentially looks and tastes identical to the one sold in Hong Kong. A popular flavour in Chinese bakeries in the US is the Tiger Roll, which has a coffee-flavoured golden-esque striped outer appearance, and is chocolate-coloured or light-coloured, with traditional white cream inside. It is similar to the look of a Tiger Bread, or as known in northern California, the Dutch Crunch Bread.


In Japan Swiss rolls are called "Roll cake". They are filled with whipped cream and sometimes with fruits like strawberries.[3]


In India Swiss rolls are called "jam rolls".


In Indonesia, the Swiss roll cake is called Bolu Gulung. Most bakeries sell Swiss rolls daily, and they are filled with butter cream, cheese or fruit jam. It is also very common for Swiss rolls to be sold by the slice, but some shops sell by both slice and roll.

Latin America[edit]

Argentine Piononos
Cut Argentine Pionono

In Colombia, a Swiss roll is called either pionono or brazo de reina, where it is filled with dulce de guayaba (guava jam) or arequipe. In Argentina and Peru, it is also called pionono, where it is filled with dulce de leche manjar blanco. In Chile, it is called brazo de Reina. In Venezuela it is known under the same name as in Spain, but there is a vast array of fillings that include cream, chocolate truffle, dulce de guayaba (guava jam), dulce de leche manjar blanco, combined with fruits.


Varieties produced in Malaysia include kaya, pandan, blueberry, strawberry, sweet potato, taro, vanilla and even local fruits like durian, cempedak and mango.[4]


In the Philippines, it is called pianono, and has been adapted into several variations which use native flavors, such as ube and macapuno. A similar roll is the Brazo de Mercedes, Spanish for "Mercies´ arm. It however is composed of a soft meringue body and a custard core.


In Portugal, desserts called "tortas" are commonly found on restaurant menus. Such desserts are not tarts, nor are they similar to German torte. They are simply Swiss rolls with jam filling.


In Spain, the dessert is called brazo de gitano (literally translated as gypsy's arm) and is commonly filled with cream or chocolate truffle.

Sweden and Finland[edit]

In Sweden and Finland, the Swiss roll is called rulltårta, respectively kääretorttu (both meaning roll-cake), and it is commonly served with coffee. The filling often consists of butter cream and strawberry jam. The base of a chocolate version, called drömrulltårta (dream roll-cake), is made mostly of potato flour, instead of the typical wheat flour, and it is filled with butter cream. More elaborate versions of the Swiss roll can be found in bakeries, with, for example, whipped cream and a whole banana rolled in the middle, or with a thin marzipan coating that resembles a birch log.


Despite its name, the Swiss roll did not originate in Switzerland. Swiss rolls are called Biskuitroulade or Roulade in Swiss German, gâteau roulé or roulade in French, and biscotto arrotolato in Italian.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK, the Swiss roll is popular for tea time or as a dessert. A variety of Swiss rolls are available on sale in supermarkets in the United Kingdom, such as the chocolate Swiss roll, lemon Swiss roll or the jam Swiss roll; these Swiss rolls will have different colours. The jam Swiss roll will be filled with jam and also possibly cream as a filling, and sugar covers it on the outside. The chocolate Swiss roll is made in Great Britain in a similar way to the United States version. Jam Roly-Poly is a similar dessert, but made with suet pudding rather than cake, filled with jam and served hot with custard.

United States[edit]

Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls

The most common method of making a Swiss roll is to use a basic sponge cake recipe. Chocolate Swiss rolls called Ho Hos were made in the same way, but cocoa powder is substituted for some of the flour, and the cake is filled with either whipped cream or with butter cream, and sometimes flavoured with vanilla, chocolate, or a chocolate-flavoured liqueur. A chocolate Swiss roll is sometimes called a chocolate log. Swiss rolls in the United States are usually called jelly rolls.

In other languages[edit]

  • Bahasa Indonesia: Bolu gulung (literally rolled cake)
  • Bosnian: Rolat
  • Catalan: Braç de gitano
  • Chinese: 瑞士卷
  • Croatian: Rolada
  • Czech: Roláda
  • Danish: Roulade
  • Estonian: Rullbiskviit
  • French: Gâteau roulé or Roulade or Rouleau Suisse
  • Finnish: Kääretorttu
  • German: Biskuitrolle, or Biskuitroulade (Austria)
  • Greek: κορμός (literally "tree trunk")
  • Hebrew: גלילה (gəlēlah)
  • Hungarian: Lekváros tekercs, or Piskóta tekercs
  • Icelandic: Rúlluterta or rúllukaka
  • Italian: Tronchetto (literally "little trunk" (of the tree))
  • Japanese:ロールケーキ (Roll cake)
  • Lithuanian: Vyniotinis
  • Norwegian: Rullekake or rullade (Roll cake)
  • Persian: کیک رولت (Rolet Cake)
  • Polish: Rolada
  • Portuguese: Torta (Portugal), Rocambole (Brazil)
  • Romanian: Ruladă
  • Russian: Рулет or Рулетка
  • Serbian: Ролат
  • Slovenian: Rolada
  • Spanish: Brazo de Gitano (Spain), Pionono (Latin America), Brazo de Reina (Chile)
  • Swedish: Rulltårta (Roll cake)
  • Thai: เค้กโรล
  • Turkish: Rulo pasta (Roll cake)
  • Ukrainian: Рулет
  • Vietnamese: Bánh bông lan cuốn

See also[edit]


External links[edit]