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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Salt & Vanilla Extract: Add flavor.
- Baking Powder: For lift.
- 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. Melted butter was much better. I toyed with the amount, but was ultimately pleased with 4 Tablespoons. (3 Tablespoons of oil works too, see recipe note.)
- 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.
- All-Purpose Flour: I played around with 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!
- 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. This cake has rich chocolate flavor, much more intense than our similar yule log cake. (By the way, you can use this recipe and decorate as a yule log.)
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.
- 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!
- Beat egg yolks, brown sugar, & vanilla together: Beat these wet ingredients together until pale and creamy, which is usually around 2 full minutes.
- 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!
- Add wet ingredients: Pour the egg yolk mixture over the sifted dry ingredients, then add the melted butter and coffee. Beat it all together.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.)
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.
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.
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!)
More Chocolate Cake Recipes
- German Chocolate Cake
- Chocolate Cake
- Tuxedo Cake
- Chocolate Cupcakes
- Black Forest Cake
- Chocolate Lava Cakes
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.
- 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 (see note)
- 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”)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover leftover cake and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Butter or Oil: I usually use melted butter, but have found that 3 Tablespoons (45ml) of vegetable oil produces a lovely moist cake that isn’t as prone to cracking.
- 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.
- 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