Chocolate Cake Roll (Swiss Roll)

A nod to the classic childhood favorite, this chocolate cake roll combines light chocolate sponge cake with sweet vanilla whipped cream and chocolate ganache. Rich and totally irresistible, this dessert is for chocolate lovers everywhere. Follow this carefully explained step-by-step recipe and video tutorial for success.
Chocolate Swiss roll cake

It’s no secret that childhood classics are some of the best foods. Who else enjoyed gushers, push-up pops, fruit-by-the-foot, dunkaroos, those cracker “sticks” and spreadable cheese (lol those were so good), juice boxes, bagel bites, and dinosaur chicken fingers?

Just to name a few…!

I’m constantly inspired to recreate these favorites. We’re talking brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts, animal cracker cookies, and, of course, oatmeal creme pies! Today we’re adding another nostalgic favorite: chocolate cake roll aka ho hos, swiss roll cakes, and yodels.

Chocolate Swiss cake roll on white plate

This cake roll required more testing than usual because I was SO torn between using butter vs oil, cocoa powder vs melted chocolate, as well as the perfect amount of flour. I’m not kidding… I must have made at least 8 or 9 different chocolate cake rolls. (I lost count after #3!) Despite all the mediocre cakes filling up my brain (and freezer), the recipe testing process was incredibly enlightening. I learned that it’s a VERY thin line between rubbery chocolate sponge cake and good chocolate sponge cake. A line so thin that tightrope walkers would be nervous. Luckily I made all the mistakes so you don’t have to!

This *successful* chocolate cake roll is:

  • Light with a rich chocolate flavor
  • Moist & sweet
  • Filled with vanilla whipped cream
  • Topped with dark chocolate ganache

Ok, let’s see it some together in a video tutorial.

Chocolate cake roll

Video Tutorial: Chocolate Cake Roll

You can also make mini chocolate cake rolls which are closer in size to the Hostess or Little Debbie snacks we love. Regardless of the brand, a homemade mini or giant version is just as tasty as you remember. But as a bonus, it’s completely fresh from your own kitchen!

Mini chocolate Swiss roll cakes

Chocolate Cake Roll Recipe Ingredients

A little of this, a little of that. These basic ingredients wear very important hats in this Swiss roll cake recipe. Unless where noted, avoid making substitutions.

  1. Separated Eggs: Eggs are the workhorse of this recipe, mostly providing structure and moisture. You need 4 separated eggs. Both the yolks and whites are used.
  2. White Sugar & Brown Sugar: You can use all white granulated sugar to sweeten this cake roll, but where’s the fun in that? Use some brown sugar for (1) moisture and (2) flavor.
  3. Salt & Vanilla Extract: Add flavor.
  4. Baking Powder: For lift.
  5. Butter: As I tested this recipe, one of my main avoidances was a dry sponge cake. Creamed butter wasn’t ideal because when mixed with cocoa powder, the cake tasted awfully dry and bland. Oil weighed down the cake, but melted butter proved successful. I toyed with the amount, but was ultimately pleased with 4 Tablespoons.
  6. Strong Coffee or Espresso Powder: A bit of strong coffee deepens chocolate flavor; coffee is actually a common ingredient in many chocolate desserts! This cake roll does not taste like coffee at all– trust me, my husband who detests coffee would have noticed. And there’s so little that I wouldn’t be concerned serving to kids.
  7. All-Purpose Flour: My biggest headache! I played around with so many different amounts of flour, as well as testing out cake flour. Cake flour was too light, 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour was too much, 1/3 cup was too little, so 1/2 cup it is!
  8. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: Since it’s not acting as an acid in this recipe, you can use dutch-process cocoa powder or natural cocoa powder.

Ingredients in bowls

How to Make Chocolate Cake Roll

You can watch each step in the video tutorial above. You need a few bowls, a sifter/sieve, and a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

  1. Whip egg whites & white sugar into stiff peaks: Whipping the egg whites and sugar into stiff peaks takes at least 5 minutes, so don’t get discouraged if you think it’s taking too long. Keep beating!
  2. Beat egg yolks, brown sugar, & vanilla together: Beat these wet ingredients together until pale and creamy, which is usually around 2 full minutes.
  3. Sift dry ingredients: One of the most important steps in this recipe is to sift the dry ingredients together. Pick up a large sieve. If you bake often, it will come in handy!
  4. Add wet ingredients: Pour the egg yolk mixture over the sifted dry ingredients, then add the melted butter and coffee. Beat it all together.
  5. Fold in egg whites: Using a rubber spatula, fold in the egg whites. Do this slowly and gently as you don’t want to deflate the batter.
  6. Bake: Spread the batter into the baking pan, then shimmy the pan on the counter to smooth out the batter. Bake for only around 10 minutes. This is a very thin cake!
  7. Invert the warm cake: No time for cooling! Immediately invert the warm cake onto parchment paper or a clean thin kitchen towel dusted with cocoa powder.
  8. Cool in rolled up shape: Gently roll the cake up with the parchment/towel. Let it cool in the rolled up shape so when it’s time to roll it up with the whipped cream filling, it’s already “familiar” with the rolled up shape. (And won’t resist or crack!)
  9. Assemble: Add whipped cream, roll back up, then top with ganache.

Best pan to use: 12×17 inch half sheet pan. A larger pan yields a much thinner cake, while a smaller pan creates a cake that’s too thick. Either sizes would be difficult and almost impossible to roll out, so make sure you use the correct size. (Note that my pumpkin roll calls for a smaller pan and is thicker.)

Chocolate sponge cake batter

Chocolate Swiss roll cake batter

How to Assemble Swiss Roll Cake

The cake cools in the rolled up shape. It can cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I usually cool cake rolls in the refrigerator for about 2-3 hours. Once completely cool, unroll the chocolate cake and fill with homemade whipped cream. You only need 3 ingredients: heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Since the chocolate ganache is pretty dark, I use a bit more sugar and vanilla extract compared to my usual whipped cream recipe. You can use confectioners’ sugar or granulated sugar in the whipped cream– see my recipe note. You can even add some store-bought marshmallow creme (“fluff”) for marshmallow flavor.

The whipped cream is billowy and soft with deliciously sweet vanilla flavor– a lovely and light contrast to the deep chocolate cake!

Roll the cake back up (without parchment this time), then set it aside as you prepare the chocolate ganache.

Whipped cream filling for chocolate Swiss roll cake

Chocolate cake roll with whipped cream filling

And for the mini size: If you’re making the mini size, cut the cake into 4 equal pieces. Roll each up, then slice in half to yield 8 mini cake rolls.

Cutting mini chocolate Swiss roll cakes

Pouring chocolate ganache on mini chocolate Swiss roll cakes

Chocolate Ganache Topping

The only thing easer than homemade whipped cream is homemade chocolate ganache. Simply combine warm cream with finely chopped chocolate, then mix the two together until completely smooth. I like to add a teaspoon of corn syrup for an extra glossy finish, but that’s totally optional.

I have two chocolate ganache success tips for you:

  • Use real chocolate such as Baker’s or Ghirardelli baking bars found in the baking aisle. Avoid chocolate chips.
  • Chop up the chocolate into super fine pieces. The smaller the pieces, the quicker the ganache comes together and smoother it tastes.

Drape it all over the chocolate cake roll. Chill the cake roll so the chocolate ganache sets, which makes slicing a bit neater. (Though there’s still plenty of lick-your-finger moments!)

Chocolate Swiss roll cake with whipped cream filling

Chocolate Swiss cake roll on white plate

Eat your heart out!!

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

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Chocolate cake roll

Chocolate Swiss Roll Cake (Regular & Mini)

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 40 minutes
  • Yield: 10-12 slices
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Rich and totally irresistible, this chocolate cake roll is for chocolate lovers everywhere. Follow this carefully explained step-by-step recipe and the video tutorial above for success.


Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup (65g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (65g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) strong brewed coffee *or* 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (62g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3 Tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder, plus 2 Tablespoons (10g) for rolling*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup (240ml) cold heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • 3 Tablespoons (38g) granulated sugar or confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • optional: 2 Tablespoons marshmallow creme (“Fluff”)

Chocolate Topping

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • one 4 ounce bar (113g) semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • optional for glossy shine: 1 teaspoon light corn syrup

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 12×17 inch baking pan with nonstick spray or grease with butter, so the parchment paper sticks. Then line it with parchment paper so the cake seamlessly releases. Spray or grease the parchment paper too. We want an extremely nonstick surface for this cake roll!
  2. Make the cake: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and granulated sugar together in a medium bowl on high speed for 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks, brown sugar, and vanilla extract together until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Sift the flour, 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl bowl. Pour the melted butter, coffee, and egg yolk mixture over the dry ingredients. Beat everything together on medium speed until completely combined. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold in the egg whites until completely combined. Avoid over-mixing and deflating those whites! Batter will be very light.
  4. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. It will be a very thin layer. Shimmy the pan on the counter to smooth out the top. Bake for 10 minutes or until the top of the cake gently springs back when touched with your finger. Do NOT over-bake!
  5. Roll the cake: As the cake bakes, place a piece of parchment paper (larger than the cake) or a thin kitchen towel flat on the counter. Sprinkle with a light coating of cocoa powder. Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately invert it onto the parchment/towel. Peel off the parchment paper that was on the bottom of the cake as it baked. Starting with the narrow end, slowly and gently roll the cake up with the parchment/towel. The cake will be warm. Allow the cake to cool completely rolled up in the parchment/towel. Place in the refrigerator to speed it up, about 2-3 hours.
  6. Remove the cake roll from the refrigerator and allow to sit on the counter for a few minutes to warm up as you prepare the whipped cream.
  7. Make the whipped cream: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. Then beat in the marshmallow creme, if using.
  8. Slowly and gently unroll the cake. Spread whipped cream evenly on top, leaving about a 1/2 inch border around the cake. Gently roll the cake back up, without the parchment/towel this time. Place on a wire rack set on a baking sheet (to catch the extra ganache). Set aside on the counter or in the refrigerator as you prepare the ganache.
  9. Make the ganache topping: Place chopped chocolate and corn syrup, if using, in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it begins to gently simmer. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil– that’s too hot!) Pour over chocolate, then let it sit for 2-3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate. Slowly stir until completely combined and chocolate has melted.
  10. Pour ganache all over cake roll. Feel free to spoon up any dripped ganache and spoon over the cake again. Refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing and serving.
  11. Cover leftover cake and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can prepare the cake through step 5 and chill the rolled up cake in the refrigerator for up to 1 day before continuing with step 6. Prepared cake roll, with filling, freezes well for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before topping with ganache and serving. For best taste and texture, I don’t recommend freezing with the ganache topping.
  2. Mini Chocolate Cake Rolls: Follow the recipe exactly as written. After spreading the whipped cream on top of the cake in step 8, cut the cake into 4 (approx 6 inch X 8.5 inch) rectangles as shown in the photo above. Starting with the narrow end, roll each mini roll up. Slice in half to make 8 mini cake rolls. Continue with the recipe. Top with sprinkles if desired.
  3. Brewed Coffee or Espresso Powder: A bit of coffee deepens chocolate flavor in desserts. This cake roll does not taste like coffee at all. You can use either liquid brewed coffee or espresso powder. I tested with both and was pleased with both.
  4. Sugar in Whipped Cream: Some bakers swear by granulated sugar in whipped cream; others swear by confectioners’ sugar. If you’re only working with a couple Tablespoons of sugar, it doesn’t really make a difference. Use either.
  5. Optional Marshmallow Creme: For a little marshmallow flavor, beat marshmallow creme into the whipped cream. This is totally optional. Taste testers didn’t really notice a difference!

Keywords: roll cake, whipped cream, ganache

262 Comments

  1. Worked perfectly. No cracks & rolled easily! Delicious.

  2. Got a new stand mixer for Mother’s Day so we wanted to test it out. My cake didn’t turn out the same rich brown that yours did, but it tastes good and it didn’t break when rolled! Phew! We did not chill it in the fridge after rolling, just left it out on the counter.

    1. The cocoa powder you used might not have been as dark as Sally’s : )
      Also, her beautiful photos are treated (contrast/color balance/saturation etc.) so the shots look even nicer!

  3. Wendy Colton says:

    Brilliant, I sprinkled a bit of sugar on the Teas towel before rolling as I didn’t use the gnash but a Nutella butter cream instead, will use this recipe again, thanks Sally

  4. Wendy Colton says:

    Finished product is stunning, the actual Swiss roll is light, flavoursome and moist

  5. This cake was excellent, and very fun to make. Being an amateur baker, this felt like a very fancy, yet delicious cake. It is extremely light and flavorful, and I enjoyed making this cake.

  6. I think I underbaked my cake as it cracked but was able to cover up cracks very well with ganache! Delicious cake! Next time I’ll let it bake for 1 – 2 minutes more! Otherwise, just delicious!

  7. Made this over this past weekend for Father’s Day. After reading through several comments on this recipe about the cake cracking or not, I made it on Saturday, rolled it up slowly and carefully right out of the oven and let it cool on the counter most of the day, made up the cream that evening, very slowly and carefully unrolled it. I did get 2 very small cracks, put in the cream and slowly rolled it back up which made the cracks a little bigger. Refrigerated overnight, topped with ganache Sunday morning. The ganache covered up one of the cracks that was visible. So delicious and didn’t last long, I’ve been asked to make it again and will do so, easy and yummy!

  8. Do you think this sponge would be good for chocolate petit fours?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carolyn, Pound cake has an ideal texture for petit fours because it won’t squish when you layer or cut the tiny cakes. You can certainly try it, just keep in mind this is a pretty moist cake. This is our recipe for Lemon Berry Petit Fours, we don’t currently have a chocolate version.

    2. Powers Angel says:

      Can this be frozen?

  9. I tried this one out a couple different times. Couldn’t get the cake batter to come out right at the outset, before adding the egg whites. It’s almost like there’s a portion of liquid missing or something. Gonna try looking elsewhere for a different recipe.

  10. Rebecca Myers says:

    Can I use this recipe with ice cream as the filling?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, definitely!

  11. This didn’t work for me either. The chocolate mixture was far too thick so when i added the egg whites it didn’t fold in properly and therefore lost all the bubbles. Very disappointed as was for my daughters birthday.

  12. So good! The cake roll cracked but we just fixed it up with some ganache glaze. We replaced the filling with ice cream and it turned out amazing! Would definitely recommend!

    1. Can I use chocolate frosting instead?

  13. Savannah Parks says:

    Hi Sally!

    I have a question: I am using a 11×17 baking pan, and if I were to just not use that much of the mixture so it wouldn’t be too thick, would it work?Thank you and also I love all your baked goods-they always come out right!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Savannah, Yes, if using a smaller pan you would need to use less batter. Your bake time would also be slightly less for a smaller cake.

      1. Hi Sally, would I use the same recipe if I wanted a plain one without all the chocolate?

  14. love love this cake soooo much. my children and I enjoyed making this. we got 2 failures with the vanilla whipped cream but it was because it wasn’t too cold to be whipped. tried the 3rd time and it worked perfectly. yahoooo… wish i could post the photo. we are just sooo proud to be able to to this nicely. aaaahhwwww thank you sally, all your recipes are perfect and easy to follow, my kids love that they come out perfectly all the time. we already did 7 of your recipes and more to follow. mmmuuuaahhh. — love from Philippines…

  15. Can you use Dutch Process Cocoa instead of unsweetened?

  16. Cheri Parker says:

    I tried to whip the egg whites and sugar together twice and it never would mix together. I finally tried a third time just egg whites no sugar and ended up adding the sugar to the batter before baking.

  17. I am making this for my 4 year old and wondering if I should still put coffee/espresso in it. If not, should I substitute it with anything else?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sandra, A small amount of coffee deepens chocolate flavor in desserts, it does not taste like coffee at all. You can certainly leave it out – it completely depends on what your comfort level is for your child 🙂

  18. Hi Sally!

    Can I make and roll the cake the day prior to filling, covering and leaving it in the fridge overnight?

    Thank you!
    Sarah

    1. I’m so sorry, I see that you answered my question in the notes 🙂

  19. This was beautiful to look at but a little blah. I followed every step of the recipe exactly, although only had a slightly smaller pan (in dimension) so baked one minute longer. Even though it was a bit thicker, it still rolled perfectly with no cracks. I just didn’t get as many swirls. So pretty. And if it tasted just as good as it looked this would be my go-to impress company cake.
    The ganache and cream were divine. The cake itself was a bit tough and flavorless, even though I did add the espresso powder, and did not over beat. Added in the stiff egg whites gently. I don’t know what happened. It was good, we ate it, but I was hoping for something better.

  20. I love Sally’s blog for the very reason that her recipes are clear and easy to follow. This recipe was so easy to make. I never imagined myself making Swiss rolls. They came out so yummy and moist.

  21. Diana Rose Perez says:

    Can I add cocoa powder to the filling? How much? Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Diana, We haven’t tested it, but I have seen other recipes that use one 1 TBS of sugar and then use 1 TBS of cocoa powder with the 1 cup of cream. Let us know if you try it!

  22. Jessica Flanscha says:

    This was the first time we’ve ever made a swiss roll and we were a little apprehensive, WOW! Loved the video directions and thorough instructions within the recipe.
    It turned out spectacular! Ganache was smooth, rich and had a beautiful shine. Whipped cream was light, fluffy, and had the perfect amount of sweet, cake was delicious, amazing and awesome! The cake cracked very little but was easily covered by the ganache.
    This will be a regular when we want to impress people or have a super tasty treat!
    Goes great with morning coffee 🙂
    my 3 daughters and i LOVE your site and books, theyve never let us down!

  23. I made this for my husbands birthday and he said it was the best roll I have made yet! When it was baked it looked a little strange, (bubbles and indentations on top). My other recipe didn’t do that but the taste was really good, only cracked a little and when Sally says don’t overbake it, don’t. Mine was on the verge because I used a smaller pan and let it go a little longer. I don’t see how you get that amount of batter in a 12×17 pan. I added the marshmallow creme to the whipped cream and it was delicious! Overall, a very good cake. Thank you Sally for all your wonderful recipes! You are my go to for all my baking!

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