A quick and easy traditional Swiss Roll sponge recipe that is both gluten free and dairy free. Ready to be rolled with your favourite fillings.
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Swiss Roll – a childhood classic, but gluten free
A Swiss Roll is one of life’s simple pleasures. A classic and iconic bake that brings happy memories of childhood and lots of nostalgia… Memories of a quick teatime treat… Tempting pretty swirls on party cake plates… Or, packed lunches on school trips. And then of course, for many of us… a requirement of school cookery lessons. Things haven’t changed in that respect. The current curriculum still demands Swiss Roll perfection!
It’s status in the baking repertoire demands that it should also have a perfect gluten free copy… One that is unrecognisable from the home-bakes of my 70’s childhood. And this is it! A gluten free Swiss Roll with the same texture, flavour and simplicity that I remember. The perfect light sponge base for any manner of fancy swirls and fillings.
What exactly is a Swiss Roll?
A Swiss Roll is a light, fatless sponge cake that is baked into a flat rectangle, before being filled and rolled into a spiral ‘log’ shape. Although a simple vanilla and jam Swiss Roll is considered to be quite ‘British’, there are in fact many similar rolled cakes around the world… Each with their own cultural spin and flavours to match. The most similar to the UK version is perhaps the ‘Jelly Roll’ popular in North America.
The beauty and visual appeal of a classic Swiss Roll is that each slice cuts to reveal a beautiful contrasting spiral of sponge against filling.
The History of the Swiss Roll and its sister… the Jelly Roll
Despite its longevity and popularity, the origins of the Swiss Roll (and Jelly Roll) are unclear. One thing that seems to be agreed however, is that it is not from Switzerland. But the classic jam Swiss Roll is still believed to have started life in Central Europe and possibly Austria, somewhere in the 19th Century. Who knows? That still remains a ‘guess’. And I would hate to impose a eurocentric view… This is a cake that could have started its iconic journey anywhere in the world, such is the universality of its appearance.
Creating a traditional Gluten Free Swiss Roll Sponge Recipe
My gluten free vanilla Swiss Roll sponge recipe is a classic. And that’s exactly how it should be. Based on a completely traditional recipe that started life in my (now very ancient) school cookery books, it is created using the same method and with the same texture… But with a gluten free flour base. Moist, light and with a sponge that has a light ‘chew’.
Like it’s wheat sister, it is super-easy and very quick to make. The sponge can be made from whisk to bake in under half an hour… It then just needs to cool before being filled. It’s what made it such a tea-time classic when I was a child (and before people nipped to the supermarket for a cake). It could be made and ready between the kids coming home from school and dinner being on the table! And if you want the flavour of tradition (but in gluten free Swiss Roll form)… THIS is it!
Can I make this recipe as a dairy free sponge?
No… One of the great things about a traditional Swiss Roll recipe is that it is a fatless sponge. And that means that it is naturally dairy free too. No substitutions… Just whisk and bake! So, it’s perfect for those of us who are gluten free and also for anyone dairy free as well. Just be sure to roll it with a dairy free filling… Simple jam is not only traditional and delicious, but super-attractive too.
Unfortunately, a traditional Swiss Roll sponge relies heavily on eggs however. So, this is not a vegan recipe.
What can I fill my gluten free Swiss Roll with?
Why stop at jam? I suspect there could be an infinite number of options for filling a gluten free Swiss Roll… When I posted an unfilled sponge on my Instagram and Facebook pages asking for inspiration… there were more than 30 different suggestions! And they were all amazing… Some I simply hadn’t ever considered (but am now destined to try). Others were traditional and very popular favourites…
So, here’s the top 5 suggestions offered
- Jam (with or without whipped cream)
- Whipped cream and fruit (particularly strawberries or raspberries)
- Lemon Curd (straight, with whipped cream or with buttercream)
- Vanilla buttercream and jam (of any variety)
- Chocolate Ganache (white or dark) with raspberries
And here’s my favourite inspiration for new ‘must tries’
- Mocha Buttercream (Yep! This was the one I chose on the day in question… I just added an extra spoon of custard powder to temper the sweetness. Sublime!)
- Peanut Butter and Chocolate
- Lemon Curd, Whipped Cream and Raspberries
- Dulce de Leche
- Ice cream
- Cinnamon and sugar with buttercream
- Fresh cherries and cream cheese
- Crème Pat and Kahlua
Tips for making the perfect Gluten Free Swiss Roll or Jelly Roll
Although making a classic Swiss Roll is very easy, there are a few things that are good to know to set you on your way to the perfect sponge cake…
The equipment and ingredients
You actually need very little to make a Swiss Roll… But there are a few essential things that will help:
- A large mixing bowl, preferably with a non-slip base. – Remember when you whisk the eggs with the sugar, they will increase in size and you need plenty of room to fold in the other ingredients without squishing out the air.
- A robust electric whisk with plenty of power. A hand whisk simply doesn’t make the grade for this sponge… It needs plenty of welly for about 10 minutes.
- The right-sized Swiss Roll tin… The ingredients are sized to fit a tin about 23 cm (9 inch) x 33 cm (13 inch). If you want a slightly ‘flatter’ sponge for tighter spirals (like the jam roll in the photos), use a larger tin (up to 17 inch (43 cm) by 11 inch (28 cm)) and bake for a shorter time.
- Good quality baking paper is essential – To make a Swiss Roll, you completely line the tin with non-stick baking paper… I wouldn’t advise using any grease as this is a fatless sponge. You need to be able to trust that when you peel the baking paper off just after baking, that it will come away cleanly. I always use Lakeland Baking Parchment as it has never let me down.
- Make sure your eggs are really fresh. The sponge relies on the eggs for rise and structure. I use UK large-sized free range eggs. If you are unsure about whether your eggs are fresh or the right size, you can check and find advice in my post on Egg Size and Weight.
Tips on making and baking
- Whisk the eggs and sugar and then whisk some more! The sponge needs plenty of air for perfection and it needs to be evenly distributed in tiny bubbles throughout the mixture. It is essential that you keep whisking until you can form a lasting trail of mixture (that remains for a few seconds) across the surface when the whisk is lifted.
- Fold light and high -Once the eggs and sugar are whisked, the remaining ingredients are folded in. Be sure to use a large spoon or spatula and fold lightly, lifting the spoon well above the mixture in a folding motion to retain as much air as possible… But don’t over-mix.
- Pour the mixture into the tin -and do this gently. Your aim is still to keep in the air. You will need to spread it into the corners and make the surface even, but do this with as little pressure and as gently as possible.
- Do NOT over-bake – Keep a really close eye on the oven… The times for baking are approximate as each oven varies. And for a Swiss Roll (gluten free or otherwise) little variations can make a huge difference.
- To know the sponge is perfectly cooked, it should be pale golden and the surface should just spring back to the touch. If a significant finger-dent remains, it’s not quite done. As the bake approaches its end, check literally minute by minute. Anything over and it will be a pig to roll… and is likely to be covered in cracks and crevices that would rival the Rift Valley.
Getting the perfect Swiss Roll swirl… The importance of ‘memory’
To make the perfect Swiss Roll swirl, it relies on ‘memory’. No… Not your memory… Apparently swiss roll sponge has the ability to remember shape… And it’s your job to provide it. So… Here’s my top tips to getting the best swirl and to avoiding cracks in the sponge:
Flip and Roll the sponge as soon as it comes out of the oven
This is super-important. As the sponge is shallow and has relied partly on moisture to give it rise, it will quickly dry and become more fragile if left to cool in the tin or air…
So, be sure to get ready a fresh, large sheet of baking paper while the sponge is baking, by laying on the work surface. Then sprinkle generously with caster sugar.
As soon as the sponge is out of the oven, loosen the edges of the baking paper, using a flat knife (if necessary). Then… carefully lift it on the cooking parchment and flip it over (hot and top side down) onto the sugared baking paper. Cautiously peel back the baking paper from the top to reveal the hot sponge.
Rolling the sponge for memory
Next… Carefully score one short end with a knife about 1 to 2 cm in from the edge. Then immediately roll up the sponge, ensuring that the baking paper underneath is folded over the end and rolled into the swirls of sponge as you go (see photo). This makes sure that as the sponge cools, it cannot stick to itself. It also ensures that the moisture remains in the bake, giving the best texture and roll.
As the sponge cools in its parchment blanket (and it needs to cool COMPLETELY before filling), it will develop a spiral ‘memory’. This will help it to have the best swirl, that is hopefully crack-free.
When it is ready to fill, gently unroll, spread with jam, buttercream or anything else that floats your boat and re-roll. Just be sure that the re-roll is done carefully to ensure the filling remains where it should be and doesn’t get squished too tightly.
Adapting the recipe for mini gluten free Swiss Rolls
The same sponge can also be used to make mini Swiss Rolls… Just bear in mind that because mini rolls are smaller, they need a finer roll. So, the sponge will need to be baked in a larger tin (17 inch (43 cm) by 11 inch (28 cm)) and for less time (to compensate for the lesser depth). This will result in a sponge that isn’t as puffy and can be cut and rolled into smaller spirals to get the full mini roll effect.
To roll mini rolls, cut the sponge into 4 rectangles immediately after baking and then follow the same process as described above to roll each of these sponges for memory and cooling. Once cold, fill (more thinly than for a large Swiss Roll), roll and cut to size.
Ready to make my Gluten Free Swiss Roll Recipe?
I hope you have lots of fun with this recipe. It’s definitely the best gluten free Swiss Roll I’ve ever tasted. Let’s hope you think so too.
If you make and love it, do let me know. And tell all your gluten free friends about it too. Share your favourite filling in the comments below and don’t forget to rate the recipe, take a photo and tag me on social media. You’ll find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
For lots of other gluten free inspiration, head over to our yummy Recipe Book Index. It’s all shared with my love and it’s a great place to start to learn how to bake anything and everything gluten free. I never stop until my recipes are worthy…
Gluten Free Swiss Roll
- Swiss Roll tin – 23 cm (9 inch) x 33 cm (13 inch)
- pencil and scissors
- large metal spoon or silicone spatula-spoon
- small knife
Swiss Roll Sponge
- 110 g plain gluten free flour blend sifted – I used GFA blend A – See NOTES re blend and optional addition of ground almonds (90g plain GF flour + 20g ground almonds)
- ½ tsp xanthan gum if your flour blend already contains xanthan, leave this out
- pinch salt optional
- 110 g white caster sugar (super-fine sugar)
- 4 large eggs UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 20 ml/g almond milk or preferred alternative
- extra caster sugar for sprinkling
- 180 g favourite jam (Approx weight) – Or alternative filling fo choice
- Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Completely line a Swiss Roll tin – approx 9 inch (23 cm) x 13 inch (33 cm) with good-quality non-stick baking parchment. (Cut the paper slightly larger than the tin and draw round the base for size. Fold along the lines, then make a diagonal cut to each corner. slot the paper into the tin, folding the corners over themselves to make a shallow box shape that fits the tin).
- In a small bowl, weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum and salt (if using). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs until thick and pale and so that the mixture leaves a lasting trail across the top when drizzled. This requires an electric whisk and may take up to 10 minutes to reach a good trail point.
- Add the vanilla extract and briefly whisk again to combine.
- Lightly and quickly sift the flour onto the mixture and drizzle the milk across the top.
- Gently fold the flour and milk into the mixture using a large metal or silicone spoon-spatula, keeping the folds high and light to retain air. Do not over-mix.
- Pour the batter into the baking tin and gently tilt and lightly spread to ensure an even layer which reaches into the corners.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden and the top just springs back to the touch. Be very careful not to over-bake, or the sponge will be dry and will crack.
- While the sponge is baking in the oven, prepare a large sheet of baking paper by laying it on the work surface and generously sprinkling with caster sugar.
- As soon as the sponge comes out of the oven, immediately loosen the paper from the sides, before flipping it over onto the sugared baking paper.
- Very carefully peel off the cake's baking parchment to reveal the hot sponge.
- Immediately use a knife to score or press a line along one of the short sides of the sponge (do not cut through) about 1 to 2 cm in from the edge.
- Roll from the score line as tightly as possible, folding the baking paper into the roll, so that it forms a layer between the sponge as it rolls. (See photo in blog post).
- Set aside to cool completely. This process will help to give the sponge a ‘memory’ and help prevent later cracking.
- When the sponge has cooled COMPLETELY, carefully unroll.
- Spread a layer of jam (or your alternative filling) onto the unrolled sponge, before re-rolling using the baking paper to help. Dependent on the depth and texture of the filling, the rolling may need to be fractionally looser so that the filling doesn't squish out of the roll. But judge this as you go.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist