Jan 30 2012

Granny’s Jelly Roll

Posted by     50 Comments    Posted under: Kitchen

I can’t tell you the number of times my Mother (aka ‘Granny’) has made a ‘Swiss Roll’. She can make this with her eyes closed and with one hand tied behind her back and a bold child on her hip. I know this, because this was the one dessert she baked – throughout my entire childhood – that never burned. I am not sure why, or what miracle occurred as she never made claims to love baking. She had the Swiss Roll gods on her side; every time.

My eldest brother, who now lives in Switzerland but probably has no idea that the Swiss have no ‘right’ to stake claim in this cake, was the only person in our family to out do her when it came to making a better roll. He mastered the art of whipping larger air pockets into his cake batter (bigger hands I guess – more ‘air’ power) and his cakes rose higher and rolled better everytime.

I, accepting defeat without trying, stuck to my happy task of washing the dishes. I have still never attempted to make this easy treat.

The kids are completely OBSESSED with ‘Grannys Jelly Roll’ so a few days ago she came over to ‘show the Chef’- who bakes for a living – how it is done. Lessons like these, from a Mother, or Mother-in-law, are not to be sneezed at. While, in this instance, there is nothing unique or especially difficult about the ingredients, recipe and method, it is more a sharing of technique and tips that needs to be documented. Because lord knows, if you screw it up, the first ones to complain will be the kids; Especially our brats anyway.

When Granny comes to give a lesson…it is with wooden spoon in hand


One of the reasons Mum would have leaned towards making this cake, as opposed to others, is because there was always a surplus of eggs in the house from the hens and ducks. We have the same daily delight here at Chez Wise. I am particularly proud of the misshaped ones.


Egg Love


The Chef always eager to be better than everyone else at everything he does eager to learn Granny’s technique for making such a lovely light sponge, was rearing to go on this one. They would make two Jelly Rolls. Her making the first one and him observing, then he making the second one. The children were beside themselves with excitement. So much so I had to send them outside to work up an appetite, and take advantage of the half hour of dry weather we were blessed with that day.


Seems easy enough?


Granny’s Jelly Roll


  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 oz (110 g) caster sugar
  • 4 oz (110g) plain (sieved) flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • A pinch of salt


  1. Beat the eggs and caster sugar for ten minutes until fairly thick. It will look like whipped butter.
  2. Fold in the flour, salt and baking soda with a large metal spoon trying to incorporate as much air as you can.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease it well.
  5. Bake for ten or eleven minutes. No more.
  6. Allow to cool for one minute then flip out onto a large wire rack top side up.
  7. Allow to cool for ten minutes.
  8. Tear off a large piece of parchment paper and sprinkle generously with caster sugar.
  9. Flip the cake top side down onto the parchment paper. When you roll it up it will have a nice sugar coating on the outside.
  10. Glaze the cake with any assortment of jam or jelly you have at home. Marmalade works nicely too.
  11. Then layer on a generous amount of whipped cream.
  12. Once finished layering on the cream, roll the cake as tightly as you can and leave it wrapped in the parchment paper for an hour. This helps it stay ‘rolled’ for slicing later.
  13. *we moved on to make a second cake and added fresh fruit *



Get busy big red!


This cake takes very little time to make and bake. Even the extreme novice should attempt it and have a successful and tasty result.


How many hands does it take to make a cake?


This is the hardest part. Trying to get the air into the flour cake batter mix. Things were starting to heat up in the kitchen here and I felt ‘in the way’.


Layers of love … cake batter going on thick


Once the batter was poured … and the cake popped in the oven it was time for a spot of ‘clean up’ before they moved on to make the second cake…..

So eager to help 'clean up' …


Before you set the sanitation police on us, yes yes yes I thoroughly sterilized the equipment before we moved on to cake number two.

But first, Granny, after standing outside the door to demonstrate ‘rapid sponge cooling’ technique, got her sponge all jammed up with apricot and raspberry jams and a nice helping of freshly whipped sweetened cream.

There might have been a healthy debate over whether or not one should actually ‘sweeten’ the cream. I had to bow out of this one, as I am not a fan of confrontation. The Chef believes the cream should have vanilla and sugar. Granny does not and her wooden spoon is bigger.

The end.


Layering on the love …. Jelly (or Jam) and cream


A small crises arose as we turned the corner ready to get started on the second cáca milis.

We had run out of eggs because the Chef had blown them all earlier on the first cake and the pancakes he had made for breakfast.

A quick jaunt out to the coop and he came back in with a beautiful big handful of eggs.


Found a few beauties …


A quick run under the tap and we were all set for the rest of the lesson.


All spit shined and polished


Granny encouraged the Chef to layer this one with fruit and ‘unsweetened’ cream. He did exactly as he was told, except he used a rubber spatula, instead of the metal spoon, when whipping the air into the cake batter mix. He is a bold one.


A bit fancier with the fruit ..


The rolling of the cake is the most ‘stressful’ part of the whole operation. You need to make the parchment paper work for you, in order to keep the Jelly Roll tight so it does not unravel once you get ready to slice it.


Carefully we roll …


Cakes all done, Granny took one to her friends house to share with a spot of afternoon tea and ours was devoured by the children after they had eaten their supper.


A very nice Sunday afternoon distraction . . .


The overall result is an incredibly light sponge cake flavoured any way you like.

The next one is going to have a Peanut butter and jelly filling.

AND I might get him to make me a Pumpkin one for my birthday.


Right. Down to business. There is still a few days for y’all to enter the drawing for the very cute Le Creuset pot.



and this week, if you find yourself with a bit of free time on your hands, you should come along to the first annual ‘Foodie Forum’ at GMIT.

The line up of speakers is right here …. and I am sure there are plenty you would like to learn from.


Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,


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50 Comments + Add Comment

  • Something I have never made is a Swiss Roll. I did a Meringue Roulade for Christmas, and managed to roll it, so this would be lovely. Also, because the eggs are fresh, and free-range, the colour on your sponge is amazing! Love family recipes. Beautiful photos, once again 🙂

    • Thanks Colette. I am always always always amazed at the colour of our eggs myself. It is because they eat a lot of grass apparently.
      You know, it is relatively easy and very very fast to make. I think, if someone arrived unannounced, you could whip one up in a flash.
      Well you could anyway, because you are a fab baker and like to bake. I would just get Ron to make one xx
      Hope you and J are well and have survived the first month of 2012. Glad it is all but over.

  • Aaaah, nothing like a bit of competitive cooking! 😉 I’ve always been far too chicken to make a Swiss roll precisely because of the nerve-wracking rolling part… But you male it sound so doable! I love them with unsweetened cream and dulce du leche 🙂

    • I think that this intimidates a lot of people but the rolling in parchment paper really does help keep it in the right ‘form’. And yeah…’dulce de lecher’ sounds quite yummy xx Glad to see the back of January here.
      Spring starts on Wednesday!

  • Beautiful photos Mona! I love the hand written recipe. I have a few from my mother that I cherish. I love Swiss rolls but would always leave in for longer than 10 mins. I’m never completely happy with mine so I’m going to try your recipe the next time I make one.

    • Thank you Nessa x
      I know that ten minutes (or eleven) seems like a short amount of time but the cake is
      fairly thin so it really does bake that fast. I think the cooling and rolling part is the
      hardest…but worst thing that could happen is the roll might crack … The cake will still taste great!
      Let me know if you try it. I am sure you will do a great job Nessa.

  • This sort of jam and cream roll is a regular in our household and I am with the chef – the cream always gets a spoon of icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla gently mixed in. Sometimes we have a health food drive and use stewed apple instead of the jam – then the cream gets two spoons of sugar. I must be totally in your mother’s bad books now and am therefore feeling a bit low.

    • Oh, and it right before bedtime too Mise!
      I would suggest you fire up the kettle, make a nice cup of tea and
      perhaps have a slice of cake to perk you up bit.
      Mother will get over it, I am sure. I expect her to check in
      on this very topic tomorrow. I am making a note to try the stewed apple
      one…that does sound like a lovely texture n’taste combo.

  • Mona,

    I love this post and the photos are just fantastic. I particularly love the one showing granny’s hands. One of my favourite songs is called Grandmas Hands by Bill Withers, this photo just made me hum it. The Swiss Roll looks delicious and has reminded me that it is yet another thing we have not seen for quite some time.
    We have put a little offer on a really little house here to call home for a while. The garden is not quite right for egg producing but has a fine spot for a herb/veggie garden. Your photos make my heart skip one as always. Maybe this time next year I will have had ‘a year in salads’ from our hopefully soon to be garden.

    • Brenda,
      That is great you guys found a house! When we lived in Ohio we did not have a huge plot of land
      At all but we had a ‘small and mighty’ garden. Ok. First things first. Start some Tomato Seeds tomorrow.
      One of the most wonderful summer joys is tasting those summer tomatoes right from your garden x
      February 1st seems early…and I know how the east coast winters are but later in the year you will thank me. If you have floor heat registers then leave the seed trays on one of those for a few weeks then move to the sunniest warmest window. Grow lights ( old fluorescent lightbulb ) is nice to have for the early seed starting. Look for Mandarin Cross tomatoes. Da bomb.
      And, thanks for your lovely compliment Brenda. I have a small folder on my desktop called ‘hands’ and I have photos of people’s ‘hands’ stashed in there for a large n lovely coffee table book I want to do down the road.
      Oh to have the luxury of artsy time xx

  • I loved this post. You captured a moment so perfectly. I love the shots with all the hands trying to outdo each other! I guess your mother really knows her Swiss Roll. My gran makes cherry cake and I had to make it so many times before she was in any way happy with my efforts. Hopefully when we are old and grey, we’ll have some dish that we can make with our eyes closed. That final Jelly roll (Swiss Roll/ Irish Roll) looks amazing. So light, airy and looks full of flavour. I kind of like my cream without sugar…got to agree with your Mum on that 😉

    • I can see a debate happening on this one. I think that unsweetened cream gives a nice balance
      To the sweetness of the filling but sometimes the filling might not be all that sweet … Like as in the case
      Of the fresh fruit. Thanks for the lovely compliment Vicky. That means a lot to me coming from a foodie artist like yourself x and yes, that last photo of the cake… It was as light and airy fabulous as it looked!

  • Fab photographs as always! I love family recipes and the idea of passing them on. I found a scribbled recipe in my Mum’s the other day – no name or anything on it but want to try it!
    Will have to try your swiss roll for our next family gathering – thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Yvonne,
      Thank you for the visit and the comment.
      I think passing on a recipe is lovely but know, now, that it is the unwritten tips and
      tricks that matter so much in the baking ones anyway!
      Hope to see you soon…

  • I need to try this recipe. My father is a baker, so he always made these more tricky recipes like Swiss rolls or yeast cakes. I so envy you these fresh eggs. When I was a little girl my grandma was having little hens, so we always got some fresh eggs from her, and they were amazing.

    • Magda.
      I cannot tell a lie. The eggs are the best.
      They sit in the basket begging to be
      eaten. We must oblige. Glad you like the
      recipe. Hope you give it a whirl or swirl!
      And thank you for the visit too Magda.

  • Hi Mona,

    I tried swiss/jelly roll a couple of weeks back… not as light and fluffy as your Mum’s…. so next time it will be this recipe!

    See you Thursday!


    • Margaret you will make a grew job of this one – I’m sure!
      Looking forward to seeing you on Thursday too x

  • These are the moments to treasure, especially for the children. I can still see my grandmother making scones and cutting them on the floured formica kitchen table. Or watching my mother easing a steamed pudding out of the bowl, hoping that it all came out in one piece. Memories in the making, Móna!

    • Karen … The worry of a pudding breaking is the worst
      kind of worry after all that work!
      Hope your weekly word count was well received by the boss xx

      • No white smoke yet! 🙁 will give you a buzz Friday to hear how it all went xx

        • Sounds good Karen. Looking forward to ‘seeing you’ in real life soon x

  • I must side with Chef on the cream issue. Much as I fear the wooden spoon, I’m sure Granny will be a supporter of freedom of speech. I also must add that the idea of the pumpkin one is a bit much for me and gives me the heebie-jeebies, but as always will let you prove me wrong.

    • Trust you Amee to side with the Chef. Perhaps it has been
      too long … The resounding smack of a shattered wooden spoon
      splintering on the chopping board is still to fresh in my mind ;0)
      You know I just love Pumpkin – do why not give it a whirl
      with some cinnamon spiced sugar ontop and see what happens … ?

  • My one failing in life is that I can’t roll! No matter how often I’ve tried, it always ends up cracking – and not in a charming, homemade sort of a way. Can Granny help me?

    • Sharon,
      She does make it look easy and you are right – it can crack if you are not careful.
      I think, from having watched her last weekend, it is the cooling of the sponge that seems of the most importance.
      She stood outside with it on a wire rack for a good five minutes so it cooled fast right out of the oven. Then she placed it on the – already sugared – parchment paper, top side down, before filling and rolling it. It was still warmish to touch. Good luck if you try it again and I am sure that yours still tastes great! When in Galway we can arrange a lesson from Granny x

  • Hi Mona, I can identify with the Chef’s competitive streak, and with the cleaning up (licking the whisk/wooden spoon) as being almost the best bit of cake making. Lovely photos – love the egg portraits 🙂

    • Oh Hester, you and my daughter Rori would get along so well. She likes to hang out in the kitchen
      but is more of a licker-upper than a baker! Glad you like the egg shots. I love them myself.
      The hens and ducks are great to keep laying all winter long and I think their happiness ‘shows n’ glows’ in
      a lovely basket (or handful) of eggs!

  • Scrumptious. My mum makes divine swiss rolls too. I used to make them (not sure why I stopped) but always found it hard to roll them tight enough!
    My mum claims that cakes made with fresh eggs don’t rise as successfully – did you notice any difference with the second cake that was made on freshly laid eggs?
    Rubber spatula – brave boy indeed!
    Looks scrumptious

    • Well Lorna, the eggs used for the first one were one day old and the eggs used for the second one were a few hours old, so no. We did not notice any difference at all in
      the rising of the cake batter at all. The parchment paper really does the trick it seems, in that keeping it wrapped tightly in the paper for an hour makes it ‘stay’.
      Give it a whirl. I am sure you will make a grand job of it Lorna. xx

  • How lovely those Swiss Rolls look.
    I think I may have made one in the dim and distant past but am inspired to have have a go- was there a vote from the children (I’m sure you would have to be impartial) on who won the ‘cook off’?

    • Well Glynis … Granny gave the one with fresh fruit to her friends so we were unable to do a
      side-by-side taste test this time around. They are calling for a re- match though ;0)
      Thanks for stopping in for a visit!

  • I love the photos of all the beautiful eggs and of all the loving hands making these rolls. I can’t say which one looks better so we’ll call it a tie! I can only imagine how excited the kids were to have their Gramma not only visit but make her famous Swiss Roll for tea time too!

    • The photos of the hands are my favourite too… And the kids are very lucky – but know this – because their
      granny lives all but a half mile from our house so they see her almost every day …
      And I like the egg photos too. They are ‘real’ all covered in muck and straw but have such lovely colours.
      Nature is the best I think!

  • I think it is time for me to check in on this debate of “Sugar or No Sugar”.
    First let me thank each and every one of you for all your lovely comments. As I read them it took me back with saddess to my own childhood when I stood at my mothers side watching her bake the most wonderful creations.

    Her favourite was a Marble Cake which was made with a plain madiera mixture . She devided the mixture into 3 bowls and put a diffrent colour into each bowl. The colours depended on the time of year as she used natural colour eg. Beetrot for red, carrot for yellow and billberries for blue.

    I got to mix some of the bowls and when all were coloured, in a minutte she would just throw all colours into a big bowl and give it a “Double Twirl” and then straight into a tin and into the cast iron oven on the open hearth.. I then got to LICK (yes) the bowl.They are wonderful memories for me. This cake was made for every birthday that all nine of us ever had.

    Back to the Swiss Roll. I am a Savory person so the thought of sugar in that beautiful fresh thick cream is a sin but “everyone to his fancy” The rolling is down to not letting the sponge get too cold as it will break then. I use ordinary sugar for sponge and caster sugar for the rolling.
    Thank you Mo ,Ron and Children for the new memories.xxxxxx

    • Thanks for weignphongmin Mum. That Madeira marble sounds like something we should give a whirl.
      I am with you on the cream. I think there is plenty of sugar in the cake and fillings… And really want to try that
      Swiss roll with th stewed apple now. xx

  • Yum, yum, yum, that’s all I can say.

    • It was indeed very yum Bernadine!

  • Hello Mona,

    What a really great narration and pictures..Just drooled over the thought of eating a duck egg when I saw them (must be 50 years since I ate one !!). I also agree with your Mummy, I never sweeten cream…. I have not made a swiss roll in so many years, so willl try and give it a go over the week-end. I know it won’t turn out as swissy as those above, but will let you know. As to the marble cake!! GAWD, I’d forgotten about those, as my Mother also baked them when we were young!!!…AYE, memories. Also agree that licking the bowl and wooden spoons was a fight in our house!….You know the “you did it last time” “NO, it was you”….etc

    BTW….Good luck tomorrow. Hope the day will be a huge success. See there is a tight agenda!…


    • Thanks Maureen and I know what you mean about that marble cake. If it weren’t the Chefs birthday today I would be lining him up this evening to
      make one of those. There is always a fight around here for the ‘licking’ jobs.
      Thank you for the well wishes for tomorrow. I am a tad nervous but very excited to see all my foodie friends in my hometown.
      There is a great line up of speakers and initially I was a bit worried about it but it is a great opportunity to hear so many
      experts speak passionately about something that binds us all – food. I will blog-all-about-it next week xx

  • Wish I could make it along to the forum at GMIT. I had plans to come but the lack of a Nana to mind Little Missy is keeping me stuck in Cork. Hope it goes well for you! Looks like a great line up.

    • Aw – I wish you could come too. It is very difficult to get away without the kids. I am lucky my Mum lives so close.
      I’d be lost without her. Hope to see you soon.

  • Wow! That looks absolutely gorgeous, I’m going to have to try this!

    • Thank you. It is not all that complicated…I should try it myself x

  • Mona, would your Mom be interested in an ‘all -expense paid trip’ to my kitchen? I love the look of that Swiss roll, and agree with your Mom that the cream should be unsweetened… I also like to put a dollop of it in my coffee. Though I enjoy cooking, I find baking to be intimidating…something to do with all those rules.

    However, for the past few Thanksgivings, my baby sister has made a pumpkin roll, The center of the roll doesn’t have jam or cream for that matter, just cream cheese and confectioner sugar. Not sure if it qualifies as a Swiss roll, but it is DELICIOUS! To encourage her baking skills, I bought her an apple green Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer for Christmas… like the one in your beautiful photos, and I have been reaping the rewards ever since.

    Uh Oh!!!…looks like your Mom has a wooden spoon in her hand…I’m outta here!

    • Robert,
      My birthday is in a few weeks and I had requested a Pineapple Upsidedown cake
      But now I know it is going to be a Pumpkin cream cheese roll and it is not even Pumpkin season!
      How awesome is an Apple green Kitchenaid? And yeah, if you bought me one I think I would
      Be thanking you forever with baked goodies – lovely to hear from you Robert, and I too still fear
      Granny and her wooden spoon. xx

  • The Jelly roll looks just lovely.

    • Thanks Joy. It was very nice.

  • I can almost picture everyone in that kitchen, working together to create those pretty swiss rolls! I have only ever made one once and it sort of broke a little bit. Still tasty enough and we used some buttercream to hide the cracks so all was good and well.. 😉 Now these pretty ones actually look a lot better I have to say.. And I would probably go with the sweetened cream since I’m pretty much a sweet tooth, although having said that; with all the jam I might actually prefer unsweetened.. Hmm, guess no way but knowing other then trying it!

    • Hey Simone,
      We had to evict the kids after a while because they were a little too eager to help out!
      The jelly rolls are great and I know the hardest part is the rolling and cooling part.
      We are going to make a few flavoured ones next weekend without Granny’s help and see how they turn out.
      Should be tasty, sweet cream or not!

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
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