Monday, August 30, 2010

My Baking Nemesis - Chocolate Swiss Roll

Swiss rolls - probably my greatest nemesis among all cakes. It took me quite a while to get the hang of making the Genoise sponge; a whole egg foam cake commonly called for as the cake base for swiss rolls. To make a genoise sponge, it is a requirement to beat the whole eggs until they are well aerated and expanded in volume, about 4 times the original volume. When the beaters are lifted up, a trail of fallen batter is visibly left behind at the surface, which stays for some time before levelling back with the rest of the beaten eggs. Most books or recipes describe this process as beating the whole eggs until 'thick and fluffy' or the 'ribbon stage'.

What daunted me initially was the folding of the flour into the beaten whole eggs. The beaten eggs often end up deflating into a sticky mixture. Over time, I overcame this by using a wire whisk, which helps to prevent the beaten eggs from over-deflating. I picked up another neat trick from a book; Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft. When the eggs are beaten at high speed to the 'ribbon stage', the air bubbles held by the eggs are big. By beating the whole eggs further at low speed for say, 2 minutes; the bubbles are divided into smaller sized bubbles, thus stabilizing the beaten eggs and help prevent the eggs from deflating excessively.  

I realised that the genoise sponge behaves very different when baked in sheet pans and in round pans. Sheet pans have much larger surface area. Hence, the genoise sponge is done in a shorter time (8-12 minutes), resulting in a moist cake. The shorter baking time minimizes the amount of moisture lost due to evaporation. On the other hand, some genoise sponge when baked in round pans for use in layer cakes, turn out to be coarse and dry (based on my experience). The baking time is often much longer compared to using sheet pans (about 25-30 minutes). Then again, the recipe might be the culprit here. A possible remedy would be to increase the amount of melted butter or to use a simple/flavoured syrup to brush the genoise sponge if it is for use in layer cakes. Some sources (websites, books etc) seem to suggest that the genoise sponge tends to be dry in nature.

The other commonly called for cake base is the Separated Egg Foam/Sponge Cake. As the name suggests, the yolks and whites are separated. There are several variations on this. I shall list them as follows:
  1. Egg yolks are beaten to the ribbon stage. Egg whites are beaten to 'stiff peaks', glossy but not dry. Next, beaten whites are folded into foamed yolks. Lastly, the dry ingredients (flour etc) are folded into the egg mixture.
  2. Egg yolks are beaten to the ribbon stage. Next, the dry ingredients (flour etc) are folded into the beaten egg yolks. Lastly, egg whites are beaten to 'stiff peaks' and are folded into the egg yolk-flour mixture.
  3. Egg whites are beaten to 'stiff peaks'. Next, egg yolks are stirred into the beaten whites. Lastly, the dry ingredients (flour etc) are folded into the egg mixture.
  4. Egg yolks are mixed with the dry ingredients until smooth. Next, egg whites are beaten to 'stiff peaks'. Lastly, the beaten egg whites are folded into the egg yolk batter.
Out of the four mentioned variations, I have only tried 2 and 4. Perhaps, I might have missed out on some variations. In time to come, I would like to try out the rest of them.

When it comes to making swiss rolls, I am definitely not a pro. However, this attempt is very much better than my previous few, in terms of both taste and texture. I do need to improve on the rolling though. Next time, I will need to roll it more tightly.

Overall, I am very satisfied with my swiss rolls. Despite the cracks and less than perfect shape, the cake layer turned out softmoist and *slightly chewy (due to the cocoa powder) while the chocolate meringue buttercream; a favourite frosting of mine, turned out to be velvety without being overloaded with sugar (compare it to fudge frostings using loads of icing sugar). Yummy~

*For a less chewy cake, refer to notes below.

Chocolate Swiss Rolls ( Cake base recipe adapted from Elegant Swiss Rolls by Kevin Chai, chocolate buttercream recipe adapted from Chocolate Ephiphany by Francois Payard)
Serving size: 8 to 10 slices
Taste and texture: Cake base is soft, moist and *slightly chewy. Chocolate buttercream is smooth and chocolatey.
Equipment and materials:
1) 12 x 12 inch pan or 10 x 14 inch pan
2) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater
3) Spatula
4) wire whisk/balloon whisk
5) Mixing bowls
6) Heatproof bowl
7) Wire rack
8) Flour sieve
9) Parchment/baking paper
10) Brush for oiling pan
11) Weighing scale

Cake Base:
250g whole eggs, room temperature (about 5 eggs)
90g caster sugar
95g flour
20g cocoa powder
70g butter, melted

Chocolate Buttercream:
60g egg whites, room temperature
70g granulated sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened but still cold
30g cocoa powder (add more if desired to up the chocolate factor)

Making Cake Base:
Pre-preparation: Line the swiss roll tin with baking/parchment paper. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

Combine dry ingredients: Mix the flour and cocoa powder together in a large bowl to ensure they are evenly distributed.

Beating whole eggs: In a mixing bowl, beat whole eggs with 90g caster sugar on medium speed untill eggs are well aerated and have expanded about 4-6 times in volume. The beaten eggs should be thick and fluffy. When the beater is lifted, the falling batter leaves a ribbon like trail that does not level with the rest of the batter immediately (ribbon like trail will remain for about 20 seconds before levelling with main bulk of mixture). This is know as the 'ribbon stage'. Continnue to beat the foamed eggs on low speed for abother 2-3 minutes. This is to stabilize the egg mixture.

Folding dry ingredients into beaten eggs: Sift half the dry ingredients into beaten eggs. Fold using a balloon whisk, gently and gradually, untill the dry ingredients are incorporated. Repeat the same for the remaining half of the dry ingredients. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a flexible spatula every now and then to incorporate flour that is stuck to the sides and that which have sunk to the bottom. We want the beaten eggs to deflate as little as possible in the folding process.

Adding the butter: Scoop a small portion of the flour-egg batter and mix it with the melted butter in a medium bowl until smooth. This makes it easier to fold the butter into the main flour-egg batter. Add this butter mixture to the main bulk of the flour-egg batter. Fold gently to obtain a evenly mixed foamy batter.

Baking the cake: Pour cake batter into lined tin and bake at 200 degrees C for 8 to 12 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted at the middle comes out clean. The top skin of the cake should be springy when pressed and moist and sticky to the feel. Once done, remove cake tin from oven and place on a wire rack. Cover the surface with a sheet of aluminuim foil or baking paper to maintain the moistness.

Preparing the Chocolate Buttercream:
Dissolve sugar in egg whites: Place 60 egg whites and 70g granulated sugar in a heatproof bowl. Sit the heatproof bowl on a saucepan filled with water. The base of the bowl should not be in contact with the water. Bring the water in the saucepan to a slight simmer. Use a balloon whisk and stir the egg whites and sugar constantly until the sugar has fully dissolved (no gritty feel when rubbed with your fingers) and the mixture is warm to the touch (test by inserting a finger).

Beating egg whites: Remove the heatproof bowl and beat the warm egg white mixture on medium high speed to obtain stiff peaks using an electric beater. At stiff peaks, the beaten egg whites will not budge when bowl is overturned. When the beaters are lifted from the beaten egg whites, the surface of the egg whites should form stiff upright peaks (not drooping peaks). The beaten egg whites should be cool to the touch (room temperature), not warm like when it was removed from the saucepan.

Adding butter and cocoa: Beat in 125g butter into the beaten egg whites in 3 batches, ensuring each batch is incoporated before adding the next. The mixture will become watery at one point in time. Continue beating and the mixture will turn into a sturdy, creamy and fluffy buttercream. Lastly, sift in 30g cocoa powder and continue beating to obtain a smooth chocolate buttercream.

Turning the cake out: Turn the baked sheet cake onto a piece of baking/parchment paper. Slowly peel off the attached baking/parchment paper from the cake.  

Rolling the cake: Apply buttercream over the surface of the sheet cake. With the shorter side/breadth facing you (if using 10 x 14 inch pan), roll the cake up tightly to form a swiss roll.

1) When the cake is done, I placed it in the refrigerator immediately to firm it up as the entire cake is very soft (plus the amount of filling is alot). To serve, slice the entire roll into small servings and allow it to soften at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.
2) Due to the moistness of the chocolate cake base, the top skin will peel off when come into contact with any surface, eg your hands, baking paper etc.
3) The amount of buttercream filling is quite thick. If you prefer less filling, use half or two-thirds of it and save the rest in the refrigerator. The remainder can be used to decorate cakes, frost cupcakes etc.
4) To frost a 9 inch triple layer cake, triple the quanity of chocolate buttercream.
5) *To get a less chewy cake, stir the cocoa powder into the melted butter instead and blend well. Fold it into the beaten whole eggs untill well mixed.
6) The finished swiss roll may experience cracks. This does not affect the taste and texture at all.


  1. hi bakertan i also baked something chocolate today haha your swiss roll look nice practice makes perfect so gambette!

  2. What a coincidence! I baked swiss roll today.
    I don't mind whether is crack or no skin, what matters is the taste, right!

  3. Your swiss roll looks so delicious! Can I have some??

  4. Hi, I agree with Jess! Practice makes perfect. Although it had a bit of crack but I bet the taste is still very good with the chocolate butter cream. I miss swiss roll a lot. Will look for a chance to make it.

  5. Your chocolate swiss roll reminds me of looks like a good moist log cake :) I fare better in making sponge cakes or swiss roll using the whole egg method than making chiffon cakes using separate eggs method. I finds it easy to fold in flour to the egg batter. I read somewhere that using the separate eggs method is better for making rolled cakes as the sponge layer will not crack easily upon rolling, I have not tried it though.

  6. Your swiss roll looks so rich and delicious! I have the same problem with dry genoise too and your tips are really helpful! Thanks for sharing :)

  7. ZY, as long as the cake is yummy, doesnt matter it cracked a bit! compared to mine, my 1st attempt of swiss roll cracked terribly, cant even form to be a swiss roll. But I will not give up, I will come back again hahaha... Thanks for the tips!

  8. Oh wow! I love chocolate Swiss rolls! But seeing all the hard work put into making it is quite a challenge huh... long way for me to go!!!

  9. I actually love method 2. A lot easier to handle.

    At first glance, I tot it was chocolate featherbed from Rose's Heavenly Cakes :)

  10. ZY, this roll looks so chocolatey. Love it.

  11. Hi Bakertan,

    I bet yr swiss roll is delicious! It took me quite sometime to get my swiss roll right too. *^_^*

  12. Haha! Very technical indeed! Very informative, too, I'd say. I've only tried methods #2 and #4 also.

    I do my Swiss rolls differently when it comes to rolling the sheet cake. I roll the cake up when it just gets out of the oven, i.e. when it's still hot. Once rolled tightly, I let it sit there to set its shape and let it cool away. Btw, I haven't tried using genoise to make Swiss rolls -- only chiffon. Prefer the latter anytime. I got my genoise lessons via making kasutera and steamed banana cake.

    Wanna know more? Continue later. Haha!

  13. Your Swiss roll looks chocolatey and moist. I can eat at least half of it.

  14. Hi Jess,

    I totally agree. Need more practice on rolling my swiss rolls and it should get better..


    Hi DG,

    Look forward to see your post on the swiss rolls. Yup, taste is indeed the most important. Looks good but don't taste good also quite pointless.


    Hi Eelin,

    I wish I could pass you some of it =]


    Hi Grace,

    I love the taste and texture, especially the buttercream. Very smooth for a frosting.


    Hi HHB,

    If its a log cake, the cracks can be covered up easily, haha. I actually fare better using separated eggs. I must try out the separated egg method and see if it is better for rolling.


    Hi Allie,

    Thanks! glad the tips were helpful. I read it from some bake books

  15. Hi Jess,

    My first few attempts also cracked very very badly. The sponge was even sticky and yucky. Now its a lot better.


    Hi full-time mummy,

    Dun be daunted by it. I am sure you can do too in time to come =]


    Hi Wendy,

    I love method 2 also. Works really well when used for layer cakes. H

    How i wish it was the chocolate featherbed cake, no need to roll it up. I can't do the original recipe for chocolate featherbed cake though, my oven cannot accomodate the 17 1/4 inch x 12 1/4 sheet pan.


    Hi Edith,

    Thanks, I love any kind of chocolatey cakes.


    Hi Cathy,

    Thanks alot! I shall make more practice out of swiss rolls and get better looking swiss rolls in time to come.


    Hi Pei-Lin,

    I read about ur rolling method on some blogs and books. Some people make slits on the cake too. I haven tried using chiffon cake base yet. should try it soon.


    Hi Anncoo,

    Thanks alot for the kind words =]

  16. I have actually tried method 1,2 & 4 for making sponge cake and I have to say method 4 works best for me, less risk. No worries about this crack or that, indeed a few more practice and you'll be there. Furthermore I did not like the taste of cake flour vs plain flour in Swiss rolls. I find it a little too bouncy / chewy. Anyway, good luck and hope you get a good roll next time. :)

  17. This look very moist and delicious. I can eat the whole roll...mmm. Yours look very chocolatey.

  18. Even though it cracks, i bet it looks yummy! Not to worry, practice more and you'll get used to rolling. :)

  19. I prefer the chiffon method as I don't have much luck with whole eggs recipes. I've had my fair share of cracks and lousy rolling too!

  20. Hi BeeBee,

    Thanks for being so supportive =]. Yup indeed I think I will do better with more practice. I must observe and see what the is the difference between cake flour vs plain flour in swiss rolls.


    Hi Marymoh,

    thanks for the kind words. I love swiss rolls too..=]


    Hi Aimei,

    thanks for the encoruragement. Yup, will attempt to do better next time round =]


    Hi blessed homemaker,

    I have yet to use a chiffon base for my swiss rolls. Will try it out when i have the opportunity.


Dear readers, thanks for visiting my humble little blog. Feel free to leave a message so that I can learn and be a better baker. Its a great feeling to share our culinary experience and adventures in the kitchen.

Thank you and have a nice day! Cheers =]

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