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 cut into slices

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.

slice of 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.

sliced 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!

2 images of mini chocolate Swiss roll cakes and a mini chocolate Swiss roll cake on a white plate

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.

Chocolate Swiss roll cake ingredients

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.)

2 images of chocolate Swiss roll cake batter in bowls

Chocolate Swiss roll cake batter in baking pan

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.

spreading whipped cream filling onto 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

slice of chocolate Swiss cake roll on white plate

Eat your heart out!!

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

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sliced 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. Hi Sally! This is my first roll cake. Making the minis for my great niece. I made and rolled the cake last night and stored in fridge. As I unrolled it this morning, the first half was beautiful but the second half broke. What do you think I did wrong? Roll too tight? Not let it sit at room temp long enough? I did get 4 good minis and I pieced together 4 more. Abstract art (ha).

    1. Hi Clare, It’s definitely possible that it was just still too cold when you unrolled it since it was in the refrigerator overnight. I’m sure it was frustrating but I hope she still loved them!

  2. Hi Sally, looks sumptuous.
    I would love to try this out, unfortunately I don’t have parchment paper can foil be used in it’s place.

    1. Hi Cate, you can use a clean thin kitchen towel dusted with cocoa powder instead of parchment paper. Enjoy!

  3. Thanks for responding.

  4. I made this cake yesterday for my sons birthday. I added some cinnamon to the cocoa powder that you put on the parchment paper. What a delicious cake! We all loved it. As usual, your directions and video were great. Thanks for another recipe I know I’ll be making again!

  5. Made this today to celebrate my boss’s one month of not smoking!! Amazing cake! Super easy and very delicious! Making it this weekend with some fresh raspberries for the family Will post a photo!

  6. I made this cake yesterday for my Hubby’s birthday today, WOW! This is my first experience making a roll sort of cake. The recipe was easy to read and follow. I did as instructed, cake is perfectly swirled and balanced layers of sponge and cream. I let the cake chill over night on the rack to set the chocolate ganache and I added almond slices for texture and design. This morning I cut off the ends to give it a smooth and perfect finish. I sampled the ends and this is the most delicious Swiss cake roll I have ever enjoyed in my life! I can’t wait for my loves to enjoy this evening. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Hi, can I make this in a 13x9in pan?

    1. Hi Esther, you can, but you won’t be able to roll the cake since it will be thick. If you want a chocolate quarter sheet cake, I recommend following the recipe note for my chocolate cake recipe.

  8. Hi Sally,
    I’ve currently got this cake roll in the oven for the third time (always perfect!), but this time I used intense black cocoa powder. The batter was incredibly delicious! Like a smooth, velvety Oreo! I can only recommend you to try it!
    Lots of love,
    Jazz

  9. Can I substitute this chocolate sponge in your Vertical Yellow Cake recipe? Want to make an interesting Yule Log this holiday season.

    1. I can’t see why not!

  10. Thanks Sally! I also found the video on YouTube. I’m making 25 of these for a fundraiser. I am a high school culinary arts teacher and my class is raising money to compete in a culinary competition. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

  11. Would you freeze the chocolate roll in plastic wrap or would it get freeze burnt this way packaged? Do you have any suggestions?

    1. I usually freeze cake rolls in a layer of plastic wrap, plus a layer of aluminum foil. Always does the trick!

  12. Can ice cream be substituted for the whipped cream?

    1. Yes, soften the ice-cream so you can spread it and then re-freeze after it’s rolled up. YUM!

  13. Thank you! Can’t wait to make it

  14. If I chose to add espresso powder to the recipe, how much do you recommend I add?

    1. I recommend 1 teaspoon.

  15. Andrea Doukakis says:

    Hi Sally. I followed the directions exactly as follows but my sponge came out sticky and cracked when I unrolled after chilling. I’m baking at altitude (which doesn’t help matters). I baked for one minute extra because my cake still seemed too soft and pliable after the ten minutes. Do you think it was under baked, since it was sticky and cracked? Any advice would be appreciated! I’ve been struggling making cakes at altitude

    1. Hi Andrea! I’m going to assume the cake wasn’t finished baking. You may need to adjust the ingredients for high altitude baking. Unfortunately, I’m not at high altitude and don’t have any tips for that but there’s a wonderful chart on King Arthur Flour’s website for high altitude baking conversions. I think it will help!

    2. Andrea- Did you ever figure out a solution to this? I am also at altitude. I’ve tried twice to make this, but it cracks each time. Let me know if you figure it out!

      1. Hi Anna- I baked it a little longer when I made it the second time but it still cracked. I’m wondering if I had it too cold when I went to unroll it? I did the parchment method once and the towel method the other and had the same result

  16. I’m at high altitude and had no problems. It turned out great, but I wanted to say that if my roll were to look like those in the photos, I’d have had to double the amount of cream fillling. Not sure how you got such a nice balance of swirl with just one cup. Next time, I’ll double it. But it was a huge hit with everyone, so there will certainly be a next time.

    1. I’ve made this recipe twice this month. I agree with Holly and thought I would double the filling next time. I came back to look at the comments because my cake broke each time as I was unrolling it. I do believe it was under-baked. I was still able to make it work and thank goodness the ganace hid my mistakes! The recipe is fun to make and absolutely delicious! I sprinkled white peppermint chocolate pieces over the top which was super yummy!

  17. OMG so good! (I did skip the chocolate coating though ). I had trouble folding the chocolate into the egg whites since the chocolate was so thick, so I just whipped it up with the beaters (which might have deflated it a bit, IDK). It spread in the pan just fine and baked and turned out and rolled up ok. But it did crack when I unrolled it to fill it. When I made a pumpkin cake roll a few days ago, I filled it while still a bit warm and rerolled it, and that was fine. So I might try just leaving it on the counter for a few and then filling it, so it’s more flexible. Like I said, it tastes great though so I’m happy!!!

  18. My cake cracked as I unrolled it. Maybe too cold? I don’t think it was overbaked. The ganache covers all imperfections but I’d still like it to not crack. Tastes amazing though and it’s the second time I’ve made it! Thanks

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy the taste, Dana! Did you cool the cake in the refrigerator? If so you can let it come back to room temperature by letting it sit on the counter while you prepare the filling. That should help!

  19. I would like to use ice cream as the feeling… Any suggestions of how best to do this and do you think it will be OK?… Thank you

    1. Absolutely! I recommend softening the ice cream by leaving it out on the counter. Once it’s soft enough to spread fill your roll and then store the entire thing in the freezer until you are ready to slice and eat. Enjoy!

  20. Hi Sally.
    I made this and had a really difficult time with the cake – folding in the egg whites was extremely difficult because my batter turned out VERY thick and sticky. It was pretty much impossible not to over-fold the whites, so my cake was rubbery and cracked in a few places.
    I’ve had great success with everything else I’ve made from your site (particularly your Pumpkin Roll, sooo good!) so I’m wondering where I went wrong. Two possibilities are that I am at altitude and I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa instead of regular. Would that make the batter stiffer or drier? I want to take another crack at it – should I add a tablespoon of milk if the batter turns out super thick again? Or use different cocoa? Thanks, appreciate any advice.

    1. Hi Meaghan! I’m just seeing your question now, my apologies. You can see in the video tutorial that the chocolate batter (before the egg whites) is thick and takes several turns to mix in the folded egg whites. It could be an issue of high altitude and unfortunately, I can’t help there since I have no experience at higher altitudes. Some readers find this chart very helpful though: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/resources/high-altitude-baking

      Try adding 1-2 Tablespoons of milk. I know high altitude can dry out baked goods, so a little extra liquid wouldn’t hurt.

  21. As I read the reviews, it seems that I can make this entire roll, wrap it in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and freeze it…is that correct? Also, when making pumpkin rolls, I often grease the baking pan before putting down the parchment paper then grease the top of the parchment paper before pouring batter into the pan. Would that be helpful (or detrimental?) with this roll? I can;t wait to try this recipe! Yum!

    1. Hi Lynn! Yes, The prepared cake roll, with filling, freezes well for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before topping with ganache and serving.
      I do spray twice. First 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!

  22. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a Buche de Noel for Christmas this year, and thank the heavens for this recipe. It was my 5th try and the only recipe to hit the mark on all fronts (delicious cake, moist and tender, rolls/unrolls without falling apart). The one change I made was to do 30 g of melted butter and 30 g of melted coconut oil (I thought it might add some plushness to the cake). Oh, and powdered sugar shifted on the parchment instead of cocoa. I feel so much more prepared for the holidays

  23. Hi Sally!
    I’m just wondering, would an 18×11 inch tray be alright? It’s the only one I can find in the UK
    Thanks x

    1. Your cake will end up a bit thicker and thus be more difficult to roll, but you can certainly try it. Let me know how it turns out!

  24. I’m thinking about spreading a thin layer of raspberry preserves before filling with whipped cream. Thoughts?

    1. YUM! That would be delicious!

  25. My 12 year old boy prepared it last night, for the second time (no comments about the first time) and it didn’t look great but it tasted super delicious!

  26. I’m wanting to make 2 of these cakes this week for family events… Do you think I could double it in a full sheet pan? I’d probably cut it in half before rolling it. Thanks for the amazing recipe!!

    1. Hi Leigh! I do not recommend doubling this recipe. For best success, making the batter twice separately.

  27. Not happy with this recipe at all. Just made it twice and both times the cake broke so badly when rolling it up straight from the oven that they were both unusable. I’ve made rolled cakes before and never had a recipe turn out like this.

  28. Hi Sally –
    Made this for the family and they FLIPPED out. So freaking good! I’m thinking about making this for Christmas and “holidaying” it up with peppermint extract and crushed candy canes. I think it would be so festive and good! Wondering if you have any suggestions on how much and if I should put it in the cake or whipped center only?

    1. Hi Lisa! I recommend flavoring the whipped cream with the peppermint– you can keep the cake as is. Add 1/2 teaspoon to start, taste, then add a splash more if desired. It’s potent!

  29. I know it’s the holidays and you may not see this in time to respond…but I’m hoping to bake this for my husband’s birthday this weekend. I went and bought a 12×17 pan today, only to get home and notice that on the bottom of the label it says “interior baking surface: 11×16.” Is this still considered a 12×17 pan? It says 12×17 in big, bold type at the top of the label so I didn’t think to look any closer at it. My other option, besides running out and buying a second new pan, would be to just remove some of the batter.

    1. Hi Angelica! Don’t worry, you can use the baking pan you have. The bake time may be a minute longer.

  30. Is it impossible to roll if using a 15 x 10 typical jelly roll pan? I want a little thicker roll filled with ice cream. I know you recommended a 2/2 sheet pan
    Thanks

    1. Hi Sari, I recommend sticking with a 12×17 inch half sheet pan for this particular recipe. When I tested it in a smaller pan it was almost impossible to roll out, so make sure you use the correct size.

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