1st Picture: Attempt 1- sad, broken, rubbery in texture roll cake. Where did I go wrong?
2nd Picture: Attempt 2- light and airy success
Want the recipe? Scroll to the bottom
What is a Swiss Roll Cake? In the simplest terms it is a layer of thin spongy cake that is baked in a jelly roll pan. Then you have to transfer the cake to a clean dish towel and roll it up, dish towel and all, and let it cool completely still in the towel. What? A towel? YES! This is super important and necessary for all roll cakes. Cake batter has memory and when you roll it in the towel to cool it keeps that plyable factor for when you unroll it out of the towel, lay it flat, fill it with you whipped cream, frosting, or whatever filling you choose and re-roll it. If you skip this first 'towel' step and let the cake cool completely on its own it will crack and break when you do try and roll it.
So what is the 'inlay' part to it? An inlay roll cake means that on top of the cake is a pattern that is made of cake batter and is literally infused into the cake. It is such a cool effect! Of course you can pipe patterns on top of your cake afterwards but an inlay cake to the baking world holds a special place in my heart. Inlay cakes take time, precision, and technique. I do not recommend doing this for your first roll cake. This is definitely more at the intermediate/advanced level of baking,
BUUUUUT how do you get the batter to stay so perfectly at the top of your cake and not sink in? Such a good question! First you pipe out your pattern onto wax paper that covers the same jelly roll pan that you will use later. I am not an artist, so I printed out some pictures of snowflakes and put it under my wax baking paper as a stencil. I did NOT bake the computer paper. After I piped everything I took the stencil off. Once you have finished piping, pop that baby into the freezer for a minimum of 15 minutes. Once you are all set and ready to go with your cake batter you can use an offset spatula to spread out the raw cake batter on top. Since what you piped is frozen, it will not mix in with the batter you are spreading over it. Bake it in the oven and voila!
Back to my tale of TWO swiss inlay roll cakes. I have only done two of these before. One was a traditional holiday log roll cake, covered in chocolate and sugared cranberries and rosemary and the other was my strawberry inlay roll cake. Both of which are featured on my home page. The last time I made an inlay cake was in April so it's been a minute and I was rusty.
I decided, since it is December, I should do a wintery snowflake inlay cake and to punch up the flavor I settled on a red velvet cake with a traditional cream cheese frosting. I found a recipe on Pinterest, and while I don't want to bad mouth anyone... it was terrible. After hours of hard work I realized the recipe did not have a step that had you seperate the eggs. Whipping the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks makes for a light, fluffy, spongy cake that is perfect for a roll cake. This recipe that I used also forgot to mention to slam down the tray filled with batter (similar to slamming your tray of macarons before baking) before putting it in the oven. This is SO important, because it forces the air bubbles to come to the surface. Minutes after putting my 'fail' roll cake in the oven I started to see all these lumpy poofy bubbles forming everywhere. Ugh I was so dissapointed. After all that hard work I decided to keep going, knowing I would probably have to re-do it anyways because I want perfection.
After baking I flipped it, rolled it in a towel, and took a break while it cooled. I took out my cream cheese and butter to soften before make the frosting filling while the cake cooled. (How long did this take? Probably not more than 30-45 minutes, but I took a longer break to give the kiddos lunch, take a needed coffee break for me, and convince my 3 year old to take a nap. Success! 2 hours!)
Once I rolled the cake with its filling it was clear that the cake was cracking and slumped into this sad looking oval shape. It lost its structure, its wow factor and I was not happy! We needed to do some errands and I needed to collect myself and think how can I do this better? I've done it before, I can definitely do it again!
This is from my 1st Attempt. The cake cracked as I rolled it. the filling and shape did not hold. The cake itself was rubbery. Was it edible? Yes. I had a bite since I let me kids have some for dessert after dinner. They loved it of course, but as I have said... I want the best and I am not wasting my calories on a failed dessert.
Pro Tip- find a recipe that works and modify it to the flavor profile you want. Instead of searching for new recipes every time. Compare and contrast from the recipe that you love and trust and if you definitely need a new recipe, make sure you have enough time to make a second batch in case you are unhappy with the results.
After a few hours of errands, I realized, silly Hannah, go back to what works! Go back to the strawberry roll cake recipe. I compared that recipe with other Red Velvet cakes and realized all I have to do is swap out the milk for buttermilk, the almond extract for vanilla and add 2 tablespoons for cocoa powder. Since I had extra piping batter from the first batch of snowflakes, I could work quickly, piping out those bad boys within 20 minutes. freeze, work on the cake batter, pour it on top, and (I didn't forget to bang it on the counter), and boom in the oven it went. I felt like I was working at double speed with half the stress. I knew it would work, and it did! Was it absolutely 100% perfect in the end. Not entirely. I should have filled it with more frosting, I ended up running out of cream cheese, since I had made a previous batch earlier. This is what made the roll part inside not look as refined as it should. But this second attempt was springy, light, and airy. The texture was worlds better than the first one.
I wrapped it all in plastic wrap and let it sit in my fridge overnight. (It needs to sit for at least 4 hours so I recommend making it a day before you want to serve it). The next day I was feeling great, well rested, and ready to plate. I wanted more of a wow-factor so I whipped up a batch of my legendary marscapone whipped cream... like how I used whipped twice in the sentence ;)
I piped the whipped cream into mini snowflake stars on the cake itself to give it more dimension. As well has snow mounds around the cake with the added silver sprinkles for that extra sparkle.
And the next day, with some local wine from Allendorf which is located in Oestrich-Winkel (about a 10 minute drive from my home) we ate the cake... and of course some cheese, salami, olives, and sundried tomatoes. This cake wasn't overly sweet, which I prefer. Cream cheese frosting adds a bit of sour tartness to the filling and pairs perfectly with the dry Riesling. The marscapone whipped cream gave this cake a little more lightness and who doesn't love whipped cream?
Have you made a Swiss Roll Cake or an Inlay Swiss Roll Cake before? I would love to see your pictures and comments below.
Recipe for the pattern paste:
I tripled the recipe to make sure I had more than enough and I left out the food coloring since I wanted only white snowflakes. This pattern paste can be used for any inlay cake recipe
Recipe for the cake:
BUT remember for the red velvet flavor make sure to make these substitutions:
-buttermilk for milk
-vanilla extract for almond
-add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
-add red food coloring
Recipe for the cream cheese frosting:
***To make this roll cake gluten free I used the Schär glutenfrei Kuchen & Kekse baking mix. I used it to a 1:1 ratio.