A Swiss roll is a very simple cake, both in its making, and in its flavours: using only four ingredients including the jam, it bakes in under 15 minutes. Swiss rolls conjure up the idea of children’s birthday parties, but frankly, with credentials like that, it barely needs an occasion to justify it. The sponge is what’s known as a fatless sponge, in that butter or shortening aren’t added to the mix, and is just made up of three ingredients: equal parts sugar, eggs and flour. It requires a little bit of elbow grease or (my preference) an electric whisk, but once the eggs and sugar are thick, your work is basically done.
Make sure to whisk the eggs and sugar until they are so thick that they leave a trail when dropped from the whisk; this can take a while, but will ensure your sponge rises beautifully. Stir the jam vigorously before you spread it on the sponge to loosen it; this will avoid tearing or unequal distribution – and if you’re using a thick spread, you may be helped by warming it slightly before applying.
Of course, this cake is great with the standard shop-bought strawberry or raspberry jam, but it’s lovely with something a little more unusual: here I’ve made it with this one, a blackberry and bay jam I gave the recipe for a couple of weeks, which turns this party food into something almost grown up and sophisticated, but I’m tempted to go in completely the opposite direction, and make one with Nutella or Biscoff spread.
Another option is lemon curd which make for a sprightly and summery Swiss roll, the filling zipping and zinging next to the soft, sweet sponge. And, as we head into autumn, I’m also considering filling it with apples cooked down with vanilla, cinnamon, and a little lemon juice. The possibilities are almost endless.
Makes: 1 Swiss roll (about six chunky slices)
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 10-15 minutes
125g caster sugar, plus 4 tablespoons for dusting
125g plain flour, plus 1 tablespoon for dusting
3 large eggs
1/2 jar of jam, curd, or spread of your choice
1. Preheat your oven to 180°C and oil a small lipped baking tray (about 30cm x 25cm, but there is some tolerance here). Line the tin with baking paper, cutting it so that it fits neatly into the base of the tray. Rub a little oil on the paper and scatter 2 tablespoons of sugar and one of flour evenly across the tray.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until the mixture is thick, pale and opaque. When you drop the batter into the bowl from the whisk, it should hold its shape on top of the rest of the mixture. This can take up to 10 minutes to achieve, even using an electric whisk, so be patient.
3. Add the flour in two stages, folding it into the mixture very gently, so as not to knock the air out of the mixture you’ve so diligently whisked into it.
4. Spoon onto the tray and smooth it so that it reaches right to the corners and is an even thickness. Bake until the sponge is golden and puffed and, when pressed gently with a finger, springs back; this will take 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Place a sheet of greaseproof a little bigger than your tray on a flat tea towel and sprinkle the greaseproof with the remaining sugar. When you take the sponge out of the oven, turn it out onto the sugared paper, releasing the sponge with a knife if necessary. Remove the paper and trim the edges of the sponge.
6. Spread the jam onto the sponge, leaving the edges clean. Using a bread knife, cut into the sponge about half an inch from one of the short edges, without cutting all the way through.
7. Roll the sponge from the end you have cut, using the paper to support and guide the sponge. Roll it as tightly as you can, and don’t worry too much about any cracks. Once rolled, leave the cake to cool with the seam side down.