Swiss roll

This article is about the cake. For the term in electromagnetics and optics, see Swiss roll (metamaterial).
Swiss roll

A familiar form of chocolate Swiss roll
Type Sponge cake
Place of origin Central Europe
Main ingredients Flour, eggs, sugar, jam or buttercream
Cookbook: Swiss roll  Media: Swiss roll
A strawberry Swiss roll

A Swiss roll, jelly roll, or cream roll is a type of sponge cake roll filled with whipped cream, jam, or icing.

The origins of the term are unclear. In spite of the name Swiss roll, the cake is believed to have originated elsewhere in Central Europe, likely Austria.[1] It appears to have been invented in the nineteenth century, along with Battenberg, doughnuts and Victoria sponge.[2]

The shape of the Swiss roll has inspired usage as a descriptive term in other fields, such as in optics and many forms of the term "jelly roll".


Jelly cake (layer cake) is an old English recipe. The earliest published reference for a rolled cake spread with jelly was in the Northern Farmer, a journal published in Utica, New York, in December 1852. Called “To Make Jelly Cake”, the recipe describes a modern "jelly roll" and reads: “Bake quick and while hot spread with jelly. Roll carefully, and wrap it in a cloth. When cold cut in slices for the table.”

The terminology evolved in America for many years. From 1852 to 1877 such a dessert was called: Jelly Cake (1852), Roll Jelly Cake (1860), Swiss Roll (1872), Jelly Roll (1873), and Rolled Jelly Cake (1876). The name “Jelly Roll” was eventually adopted.

The origin of the term "Swiss roll" is unknown. The earliest British reference to a rolled cake by that name appeared on a bill of fare dated 18 June 1871, published in the 1872 book A Voyage from Southampton to Cape Town, in the Union Company’s Mail Steamer “Syria” (London). A recipe for "Swiss roll" also appeared in the U.S. that same year in The American Home Cook Book, published in Detroit, Michigan, in 1872.

Several 1880s to 1890s cookbooks from London, England, used the name Swiss roll exclusively.[3]

The American Pastry Cook, published in Chicago in 1894, presented a basic "Jelly Roll Mixture" then listed variants made from it that included a Swiss roll, Venice roll, Paris roll, chocolate roll, jelly roll cotelettes, and decorated jelly rolls.

Different countries


In Denmark the Swiss roll is called "roulade".

Hong Kong style

The Hong Kong Swiss roll looks identical to its Western counterpart, but is much lighter in taste

Hong Kong

The origin of this pastry is likely from the UK, since Hong Kong was an integral British territory from the 19th century to 1997. The cake is never pre-packaged, as it is sold fresh daily in the Chinese bakeries. Overall, this cake has been sold next to other Chinese pastries well before the popularising of Western-style bakeries such as Maxim. There are several popular variations.

Overseas Chinatowns

Most US Chinatown bakeries sell the basic Hong Kong Swiss roll version. It essentially looks and tastes identical to the one sold in Hong Kong. A popular flavour in Chinese bakeries in the US is the tiger roll, which has a coffee-flavoured golden-esque striped outer appearance, and is chocolate-coloured or light-coloured, with traditional white cream inside. It is similar to the look of a tiger bread.


In Japan, Swiss rolls are called "roll cake". They are filled with whipped cream and sometimes with fruits like strawberries.[5]


In India, Swiss rolls are called "jam rolls".


In Indonesia, the Swiss roll cake is called bolu gulung. Most bakeries sell Swiss rolls daily, and they are filled with butter cream, cheese or fruit jam. It is also very common for Swiss rolls to be sold by the slice, but some shops sell by both slice and roll.


Rollò nisseno

In the area from Sicily to Caltanissetta (Italy), there is a food made with sponge ciccolato, ricotta cheese, and marzipan called the rollò.[6]

Latin America

Argentine Piononos
Cut Argentine Pionono
A slice of brazo de gitano, a Spanish form of Swiss roll

In Colombia, a Swiss roll is called either pionono or brazo de reina, where it is filled with dulce de guayaba (guava jam) or arequipe. In Argentina and Peru, it is also called pionono, where it is filled with dulce de leche manjar blanco. In Chile it is called brazo de Reina, filled with dulce de leche only and sprinkled with powdered sugar. In Venezuela it is known under the same name as in Spain, but there is a vast array of fillings that include cream, chocolate truffle, dulce de guayaba (guava jam), dulce de leche manjar blanco, combined with fruits. In Brazil, it's called "rocambole".


Varieties produced in Malaysia include kaya, pandan, blueberry, strawberry, sweet potato, taro, vanilla, orange, chocolate, raspberry and even local fruits like durian, cempedak and mango.[7]


In the Philippines, it is called pianono, and has been adapted into several variations which use native flavors, such as ube and macapuno. A similar roll is the Brazo de Mercedes, Spanish for "Mercies´ arm. It however is composed of a soft meringue body and a custard core.


In Portugal, desserts called "tortas" are commonly found on restaurant menus. Such desserts are not tarts, nor are they similar to German torte. They are simply Swiss rolls with jam filling.


In Spain, the dessert is called brazo de gitano (literally translated as gypsy's arm)[8] and is commonly filled with cream or chocolate truffle.

Sweden and Finland

In Sweden and Finland, the Swiss roll is called rulltårta, respectively kääretorttu (both meaning roll-cake), and it is commonly served with coffee. The filling often consists of butter cream and strawberry jam. The base of a chocolate version, called drömrulltårta (dream roll-cake), is made mostly of potato flour, instead of the typical wheat flour, and it is filled with butter cream. More elaborate versions of the Swiss roll can be found in bakeries, with, for example, whipped cream and a crushed banana rolled in the middle, or with a thin marzipan coating that resembles a birch log.


Despite its name, the Swiss roll did not originate in Switzerland. Swiss rolls are called Biskuitroulade or Roulade in Swiss German, gâteau roulé or roulade in French, and biscotto arrotolato in Italian.

United Kingdom

In the UK, the Swiss roll is popular for tea time or as a dessert. A variety of Swiss rolls are available on sale in supermarkets in the United Kingdom, such as the chocolate Swiss roll, lemon Swiss roll or the jam Swiss roll; these Swiss rolls will have different colours. The jam Swiss roll will be filled with jam and also possibly cream as a filling, and sugar covers it on the outside. The chocolate Swiss roll is made in Great Britain in a similar way to the United States version. Jam Roly-Poly is a similar dessert, but made with suet pudding rather than cake, filled with jam and served hot with custard.

United States

Swiss Cake Rolls made by Little Debbie

American pastry chefs and menus in fine dining restaurants often use the French term Roulade. The chocolate Swiss roll, sometimes called a chocolate log, is a popular snack. Produced by many commercial bakeries, common brands include Ho Hos and Yodels, which are smaller sized rolls for individual consumption. When the filling is ice cream, it's commonly referred to as an ice cream cake roll, and although they can vary, these often consist of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Swiss rolls.
  1. "Swiss Roll". Cook's Info. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  2. "A History of Biscuits". Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  3. Gage, Mary. "Jelly Roll". Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  4. Izzy Ozawa (11 May 2010). "Hong Kong's bakers du jour teach us how to roll a fat one". CNN. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  5. "ケーキピア(CakePia) 手作りケーキ・洋菓子・お菓子の簡単レシピ。".
  6. Caffè Caltanissetta. "Rollò di ricotta, del maestro Lillo De Fraia – Caffè Caltanissetta" (in Italian). "Zona Creativa" – via Palermo 42, 93100 Caltanissetta.
  7. "Archives". The Star. Malaysia.
  8. Brazo Gitano.
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