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A Swiss roll is a baked dessert that essentially consists of a light sponge cake topped with a filling and then rolled up into a log shape. While many different types of sponge cakes can be used, the cake needs to be fairly light and pliable enough to roll without breaking. Just about anything with a spreadable consistency can be used as the filling for this cake, though seedless jelly, lemon curd, chocolate paste, and buttercream frosting are all commonly used. A Swiss roll is a common treat served during English tea and can be fairly easy and quick to prepare.
Despite the name “Swiss roll,” this dessert is likely British in origin and does not stem from any type of Swiss tradition or cuisine. Due to its popularity in the UK, this treat also spread throughout much of the world that was at one time a part of the British Empire. A numbers of bakeries in regions of the world from Hong Kong and India to Indonesia and the US prepare Swiss rolls. The popularity of the Swiss roll in Hong Kong and Chinese baking is so great that they are prepared and sold by many bakeries in American “Chinatowns.”
A Swiss roll typically begins with the sponge cake that is prepared and baked. While different recipes call for different ingredients, a simple sponge cake can be made using only eggs, self-rising flour, and sugar. Some recipes call for the eggs and sugar to be combined and beaten until light and frothy, with sufficient body to form ribbons when pulled away from the bowl in which they are mixed. Other recipes call for the eggs to be prepared separately, and this can provide increased lightness when the egg whites are beaten by themselves.
Regardless of what recipe is used in preparing a Swiss roll, the pan on which the sponge cake is baked must be sufficiently greased and lined with parchment to ensure the cake can easily release from the pan after baking. Different fillings can be used to make a Swiss roll, though traditional filling consists of lemon curd or seedless fruit jelly. Other fillings can include buttercream frosting, which can be flavored with various extracts or vanilla, chocolate spread, and whipped cream and fresh fruit. A Swiss roll can also be made using cocoa powder in the sponge cake itself, resulting in a cake that is brown in color and tastes of chocolate.