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
  • 1/4 cup (20g) 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, 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

105 Comments

  1. Could you use ice cream as a filling instead? If so how would you approach this? That’s the kind I remembered when I was younger 🙂

    1. Hi Sofia! I haven’t tried my cake rolls with ice cream as the filling, but let me know if you do! Make sure it’s pretty softened before spreading onto the cake.

  2. You make these look delicious Sally…..I’ve never seen them covered in ganache and sprinkles before!!!! Can’t wait to try them…

  3. Sally, these photographs are STUNNING!! I can’t stop staring. The cake look absolutely amazing and I’ve been thinking of a chocolate roll cake for a while and this is definitely a sign 🙂

  4. This “almost” looks to dangerous to make. I loved these as a kid and love that you have made us one that doesn’t have any weird ingredients in it. I also loved funny bones as a kid, which is a peanut butter version of this. I would normally not choose chocolate 1st but for one of these, I don’t think I could resist. Love that egg separator in the video, too cute!!

  5. Hi Sallly, this cake looks amazing & I can’t wait to try it. Question…is it me or is the video missing? I can’t seem to find it. I love watching how things are done. Thanks!

    1. Hi Tammy! If you temporarily pause any ad blockers, the video shows right up. It’s also on my youtube page!

  6. Looks amazing! A few questions:

    Can the finished cake be frozen?
    Is there a non-dairy alternative to the whipping cream? I have a decent one for the butter. Obviously, a whipped cream filling would be much better than a buttercream in order to keep the lightness of it all, but if I can’t find a good non-dairy alternative, I won’t be able to make this 🙁 (due to various dietary issues in my family, I also have to be careful of soy, legumes, and corn, so it’s a tough question, I know). I can make decent ganache with a different non-dairy cream substitute, it’s just the whipped cream filling I’m concerned about. My current non-dairy cream substitute doesn’t whip.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Amy! Have you ever whipped cream of coconut before? It’s a lovely alternative to whipped cream. Freezing instructions in the notes!

      1. Not sure how my eyes missed the note about freezing. Oops!

        I’ve never used cream of coconut – is that the canned coconut milk? I’ll check it out…

        Thank you!

  7. Last time I tried this I messed up the rolling part, but you’ve inspired me to try again! I’d really love to see a vanilla sponge version from you too, maybe one we could play around with with different jams and flavours. Ooo I could put cherry jam in this… excited!

  8. Hi Sally!
    I cannot wait to try this- the pictures are GORGEOUS.
    Does the coffee have to be hot when you add it to the batter? Hoping it does not so that I can take a tablespoon or two from work 🙂

  9. Because this recipe calls for whipped cream, and it is a lot of cake, I’ll have to wait until we are having company before I try it. It looks devine and I know my husband will love it, but he will have to wait!

      1. I will be sure to let you know. BTW, I baked the coconut cake last week and it is absolutely delicious. Some of it is still in the freezer!

  10. Sally, this looks sooooo good! I was wondering whether you’d ever post a chocolate cake roll recipe! LOVE that they can be made in mini size; it would be so cute to serve everyone their own individual cake roll! 🙂 Definitely making this!

  11. Hi Sally!
    This cake looks amazing! I love chocolate. And whipped cream. You’ve made perfection Will definetely try this. Thanks for the great recipe!

  12. This looks so good! I got a jelly roll pan for my birthday and I have been looking for a swiss roll recipe, so this is perfect timing! Do you think this recipe would work with a traditional jelly roll pan?

      1. I want to make this SO bad but I have to buy a sheet pan first and wait for an excuse to bake something because my husband is on a diet lol

        Maybe I’ll just make it anyway!

  13. I have had so much trouble making cake rolls in the past, the cakes kept cracking. I have pretty much given up on them but I think I’m going to give this recipe a try as I’ve never tried a recipe with melted butter. I am really hoping this recipe will work for me!

  14. Sally……….did your photography skills just exceed your baking skills? Your pictures are FANTABULOUS! Looks so good I want to bake it now. But wait, every recipe I have made of yours is always so perfectly delicious……..so my bet is that you have exceeded your very best intention of getting the perfect ginormous Ho Ho recipe out to your forever grateful baking family! Thank you for the time and effort………we all benefit!

  15. This seems pretty easy, with your extensive instructions! I think most people who have trouble with them may have a too thick cake, try to roll after cooling and don’t cool in a rolled state. I used to help my mother in law make these at Christmas into a Yule log, and she would add finely chopped maraschino cherries to the whipped cream – SO good! She made a big one, full sheet, to serve anywhere from 12-20 people! Wish I had pulled her recipe books before they went to the estate sale, but I didn’t think the family would have parted with such a history of the family! I was so wrong and now so sad. I have notes written in all my cookbooks telling the family to keep them even if they don’t think they will want them, because I know they will someday, or can pass them to the next generation!

  16. Hey sally I struggled mixing the egg yolk part with the egg white any suggestions? It’s SO thick that you can’t really fold it in it seems to stick to the bowl and I’m afraid to deflate my egg whites.

  17. Hi Sally!

    Can i use your PB butter cream frosting for these? or would it be too thick for filling? I’m thinking of a Reese’s roll with chopped Reese’s in the filling and on top!

    1. Yes absolutely! Make sure the whole cake is sufficiently chilled before slicing. The colder the actual cake, the less it will squish and fall apart with that thicker filling.

  18. Hi Sally, this recipe got me thinking of my childhood favorites growing up in Baltimore, and I have a request/suggestion for you, since I know you’re a peanut butter fan. Can you recreate peanut butter tandy cakes? (I guess they’re called Kandy Kakes now.) I can’t get them in Boston, but more importantly, I don’t think they’d taste as good as I thought they did when I was 10!!!!! BTW….I remember packing Dunkaroos in my daughter’s lunch when she was in preschool; even at a very young age she was a sprinkles fanatic!

    1. YUM!! I absolutely LOVE peanut butter kandy kakes! I’ve actually thought about making a homemade version, but I’d really need to play around with the recipe. I feel like a cupcake inspired by them would be good too.

  19. Yumm, this looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it! My only question is if you were to switch the flavor of the roll cake, how would you go about doing that ? Not that there’s anything wrong with chocolate, but I’d love to experiment with some other flavors.

      1. Oh, okay, Thank you! Sorry, I’m new to your website so I didn’t know there were other options. They sound delicious will definitely give them a try.

  20. Silly question but the recipe does not say how much water to put with the 1 tsp espresso powder. In the video it looks more then ! tbsp of coffee when you pour it in. My batter was super thick. Help!!!
    Thank you

    1. Hi Jaclyn! If using espresso powder, you do not need to add liquid to it. Use either 1 Tbsp liquid strong coffee or 1 teaspoon espresso powder (dry). Tested with both and the taste and texture do not vary!

    1. Hi Judy, Do you see the subheading “Video Tutorial: Chocolate Cake Roll” It looks like a picture immediately under those words but if you click on the picture it’s the video. If you still don’t see it let me know what browser you are using!

  21. When I was a child, a local ice cream store sold ice cream cakes – chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream – which were so good. I’m going to try your cake recipe with softened vanilla ice cream. Bet it will be delicious!

  22. I made this over the weekend and it was a big hit with everyone. I made the smaller ones which sliced beautifully and were a perfect size after a heavy meal.

  23. Looks delicious. What if I can’t use any type of coffee? Do I just omit it completely? Thanks, can’t wait to try this.

  24. I would love to try this but have to make it dairy free, is it better if I use oil or melt marg for the cake?

  25. This was my first time making a Swiss roll. My cake came out a little bit dry and was cracked when I unrolled it. I will definitely try this recipe again, maybe bake the cake for only 9 minutes and roll the cake more loosely.

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