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

118 Comments

  1. I made this today and it is delicious! I noticed that my cake was a little lighter in color than show . Maybe because of the type of cocoa powder? It also did crack slightly. I might have made it a little too thick and not spread it out quite enough. All that aside though, amazingly delicious moist cake. 10/10 will make again.

  2. Does chocolate go with lemon? Do you think lemon frosting will work? For example, from your lemon cake frosting?

    1. Hi Lana! I’m not sure that I would personally choose that flavor combination, but if you like it then you definitely can try it out!

  3. I made three of these (as I was making a wedding cake) and every. single. one tore horrible when I tried to unroll them. I’d put down a ton of cocoa powder, and flour on one, and let them cool completely, but every single was destroyed. I think the weight measure for the cocoa powder is way, way off. The recipe says 1/4 cup=42 grams, but then also says 2 tablespoons= 5 grams, so one is clearly off. Your own measuring 101 says 1/2 a cup of cocoa is 41 grams.

    Your lemon curd recipe turned out grea! But now I need to drink because I’m down 16 eggs, a bunch of cocoa, and a full day of baking on operation wedding cake.

    1. Hi Deanna! The 1/4 cup measure should read 20g and 2 Tbsp = 10 grams. Not sure how that happened, my sincere apologies. Did you base the cakes off of the weight measurements? Please let me know if you ever try it again.

      1. Unfortunately, I weighed everything. Since they take awhile to cool, I didn’t check the cakes until they were all baked. I’ll try again today since I really wanted to do a vertical layer cake. I should have known something was off since the chocolate was so, so thick and looked like more than 1/4 cup, but live and learn.

      2. Hi Sally,
        I also noticed there might be a mistake in the ml measurements for the heavy cream in the whipped cream (1 cup) and ganache (1/2 cup), but both say 120 ml. I used the cup measurements though and both turned out great. Unfortunately my cake also cracked, but I think it’s because I tried to roll it back out when it was too cold from the refrigerator, as it seemed fine when I rolled it up first thing out of the oven. I took it out while I made the whipped cream, but that only took me about 5 minutes, and your red velvet roll recipe (which I read after attempting this one) suggests that the cake shouldn’t be rolled out while still cold as it might crack. It might be worth adding that note to this recipe (for other cake roll first-timers like me) as I think it might take a bit longer to come to temperature than the time it takes to make the whipped cream. Otherwise it was super delicious and I’m making it again tomorrow, but I’ll let it cool at room temperature so I don’t crack it so badly again. Thanks for all your wonderful recipes!!! I visit your site almost daily =)

  4. I made this recipe today but tweeked it to be lower carb and sugar free. For the flour I used Carbalose Flour plus 1 T vital wheat gluten. And for the sugars I used Pyure Stevia/Erthritol blend. (This is double sweet so only use half as much). For the rest, I followed your recipe exactly. This came out SO GOOD!! Definitely pinning and will make again.

    1. That should have been 1 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten in case anyone else would like to make it lower carb and sugar free. Again, thanks for sharing your recipe.

  5. Thank you for posting this recipe! I’m going to make it tomorrow for my husband, who loves swiss rolle 🙂 I’m sorry if this question has been asked before but can I use foil instead of parchment paper for the cake to bake on? I know its crinkly surface might not be as smooth on the bottom of the cake, but I don’t have any parchment paper, so I was just wondering what your thoughts were on that and how non-stick it would be. Thank you so much, I appreciate it! 🙂

    1. I really recommend parchment paper for lining the pan. This cake is pretty delicate and crinkly foil just isn’t the best choice.

  6. What’s up with all the cracking it was a disaster. Although I did just finished rolling it with the cracks and served it to my family. Won’t make again though. Really good but the amount of cracking was enough to scare me away.

    1. Hey Lizy! So the cake roll is going to crack if it’s over-baked. This is a very delicate cake and even 30 seconds of over-baking could risk it drying out enough to crack. So sorry you experienced trouble with it!

  7. I’ve made this twice, both times delicious. However the cake has cracked both times. I’m not sure why this is happening? It doesn’t cook longer than it should, both times right at 9 minutes. It cracks at the end that was started after it came out of the oven, if that makes sense. So when I unroll it, it cracks at the very end, the smallest part.

    1. Hey Andrea! That’s a common spot for cake rolls to crack (the very start of the roll). You can try reducing the flour by 1 Tablespoon if you decide to try the recipe again. That should help.

  8. Hi!
    I just made the cake, waiting for it to cool in the fridge before moving on to the whipping cream part 😉
    Question-
    How do you recommend I store this? I am planning on making the mini-roll version…

  9. Hello Sally,
    I just made the cake and its so delicious! Me and my husband love it. The same as red velvet cake that I made before. Thank you for posting this recipe!

  10. Oh my soul Sally, I made this last weekend and it lasted maybe two days! I was out of chocolate for the ganache so I dusted it with powdered sugar and as I said, it was devoured. My daughter said it was the absolute best she ever tasted. I used the regular size jelly roll pan (15 x 17) so the cake part was a bit thin but it rolled wonderfully, no cracks whatsoever. I will definitely be making this again (and again)! I simply love your recipes; they are so easy to follow and practically fool proof. I’ve used your recipe for the pie shells and my husband has dared me to buy another frozen one. I had a perfect success with your recipe the first time and I’d been cooking and trying homemade pie shells for 50+ years. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to helping us cooks find the positively best recipes!

    1. I’m so happy that you and your family enjoyed this cake roll, Sue! Thrilled you had great success with it! xo

  11. I just put it in the oven! The chocolate mixture looked a little lumpy but i was afraid to overfold the egg whites. Not sure what happened there? Hopefully it will taste fine!

      1. Turned out fine! A little cracking because i probably should have let it sit out at room temp a bit longer. Whipped cream and ganache covered up all imperfections. Will definitely make it again. The scariest part was flipping it over after it came out of the oven. Thanks Sally!

  12. I made this and it turned out fine but I had a few issues. When I mixed the whites and sugar, I was able to get anything like peaks. That mix is totally liquid so I don’t know how you get stiff peaks out of it and the same goes for the filling. I know the recipe calls for a mixer and I did it by hand but I still don’t see how that would’ve helped unless the mixer does more than turn paddles in the mix. When I added the whites and sugar mix in the cake mix ended as a combination of lumps and liquid. I also ended up using a cup and a half of confectioners’ sugar for the filling just to get it solid enough to spread. It still tastes good, but I don’t think I got it right.

  13. Day off today and this was my project for the day. It was a fun challenge. Following the specific instructions was worth it. It’s cute just to look at but cutting into it and eating it was so worth the effort. Thanks Sally for another great recipe. I tell everyone that eats my baked goods “Sally never disappoints!”

  14. Our cake rolled up fine after taking it out of the oven , but it broke when we unrolled it after it cooled down.

    Disclaimer- we unrolled it right after taking it out of the refrigerator rather than waiting a couple minutes – and because we didn’t have the correct size pan we used a 12.25×8.25 cake pan which was smaller than specified .
    Can these two things cause the cake to break when unrolling and if so, why?

    Thank you- the cake was so delicious we just want to improve the presentation. Thx!

    1. Hi Jordan! A smaller pan means a thicker cake, so I’m not surprised it broke after cooling and unrolling. I recommend using a 12×17 inch pan which is significantly larger than the pan you used. Let me know if you try the recipe again.

  15. I made this on the weekend and it came out absolutely perfect and delicious! I was so happy because it was the first time I’ve made a Swiss roll! Just wanted to ask how can I tweak this to make a plain vanilla cake instead of chocolate. Thanks!

  16. Love this! I was hesitant when I flipped it over, my cocoa powder went flying lol, but that was half the fun. I tried to be careful when I was rerolling with the cream filling but it tore a smidge, nothing the ganache couldn’t hide tho! The flavor was Ah-mazing as per Sally usual. Every week now I’m trying something new and different, love this blog

  17. Turned out perfect! Just like all of your recipes 🙂 my question is about the baking bars – do you know if there’s somewhere I can purchase milk chocolate baking bars? My husband thinks even semi-sweet is too bitter and prefers a sweeter chocolate, but I know you can’t use chocolate chips for the ganache because of stabilizers…I’ve never been able to find a milk chocolate baking bar, anywhere near me anyways!

    1. Hi Donna! Semi-sweet chocolate is definitely dark. Try looking for Bakers brand “German” chocolate OR you can use half white chocolate baking bar and half semi-sweet chocolate baking bar. I often mix white and semi-sweet to make a milk chocolate tasting chocolate.

      1. I just had to come on here a reply to you Sally! I told my husband what you suggested (adding white choc) and our three year old, Lexi says to me “mom, you talked to SALLY?! HOW?!” and was totally in awe! She expressed how she’d love to be able to talk to Sally. 🙂 My husband, Lexi, baby Lindsey, and I watch your baking videos EVERY SINGLE NIGHT before bed. You are definitely part of our nightly routine! Lexi wouldnt have it any other way. So basically – if there was ever a way you’d be able to make her a video saying hello, or happy birthday (her bday is in sept) it would truly be the highlight of her life! 🙂

  18. Had a bit of trouble incorporating the egg whites, the egg yolk and dry ingredients mixture kind of was a gooey mess so I think I had to overwork the egg whites to incorporate them. Any suggestions? Would it help to do all wet before the dry?

    Cake still tasted great but was a bit dry

    1. Hi Emily! You can try incorporating the egg yolk mixture + egg whites, then folding in the dry ingredients. Try removing the cake from the oven 1 minute sooner. The cake may have been slightly over-baked.

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