heavenly-chocolate-cake-roll Recipes

heavenly chocolate cake roll

This is one of my family’s three cakes. The first one, a sour cream cinnamon chocolate chip coffee cake, came from my grandmother and her sisters, and my husband occasionally (but very quietly) threatens to skip family events if nobody is planning to make it. Nobody knows the origin of the second cake, my mom’s apple cake, but if you’ve gone to a housewarming party, well, ever and not brought it, well, I think you should have. And this is the third one. We make it on Passover but frankly, there’s nothing especially Passover-ish about it, aside from the absence of flour. There’s no ground matzo, theme of exodous or anything particularly religious about the way it is put together. In fact, while we’re being honest and stuff, there’s something particularly unholy about the way it’s put together in that growing up I used to call it the “sh*t” cake in honor of the word that kept slipping from my mother’s mouth as she tried to roll it without it cracking. It always cracked. I’m surprised my mother hasn’t killed me yet for sharing her yearly spasm of colorful language on my internet website, but I disappear after this post, well, you know…

bittersweet, in convenient 6 oz package
melted chocolate

I attempted to sidestep the expletives a few years ago and shared a doubled version with you that was stacked four high, a layer cake of the finest proportions. I included directions for making it as a roll cake — i.e. like a Yule log, or a Yodel, or a Ho-Ho… — but it seemed wrong not to have a post entirely devoted to the way we actually make it at home, and so I decided I would update the rolled recipe this year. Seeing photos of the process helps, I reasoned.

egg yolkspale yellow yolks and sugaregg whites, stiff peaksfolding egg white cloud into chocolate
the finished batter is light, foamysifting unsweetened cocoa over

Of course, they only help if I manage to pull it off with some semblance of success but while the cake usually cracks once or twice, the version I made on Monday must have sensed that a) I was on my fourth day of being sick and really not in the mood to be cooking and then shuffling off to the suburbs for dinner and b) that I was expecting the cake to be ready for its photographic close-up and decided to rise to the occasion by sighing and then slumping into itself like a shuffled deck of chocolate cake chips after it was rolled.

the sad pile of cake chips

Um, delicious cake chips but seriously, this take was so bad that I decided it high time to find a new approach to my family’s beloved cake. I was on a mission! And food blogs, I love you. There are a million big food machine websites out there, but not a single one of them offered the tip I consistently saw across food blogs, which was to roll the cake while still warm in a tea towel and let it cool in a spiral. This seems to set the threads of the cake in the right direction, so that when you unroll the cooled cake, spread the filling and re-roll it, it doesn’t groan and fight you at every turn. I’ll admit that I didn’t wait for my cake to fully cool before unrolling it — patience has never been my particular virtue — so there was a crack, but it was on the inside and all but disappeared when re-rolled. 36 years later — my mother has been making this since 1975! It’s older than me! And him! — this might be the most intact version of the cake yet. Sheesh, I mean, it took long enough!

peeling back parchment
the next day, with a tea towel
unrolled, a little sketchy looking
whipped cream, slightly overwhipped
chocolate cake roll, yodel/ho-ho style

One year ago: Classic Cobb Salad and Lime Yogurt Cake with Blackberry Sauce
Two years ago: Cinnamon Swirl Buns and Pickled Grapes with Cinnamon and Black Pepper
Three years ago: Caramelized Shallots, 17 Flourless Dessert Ideas and Peanut Sesame Noodles
Four years ago: The Most Tart Margarita

Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll
Adapted from Jean Hewitt for The New York Times, June 8, 1975

Every time I have a slice of this cake, I wonder why we don’t make it more often. The realm of flourless cakes tends to be populated with brick-like truffle cakes but this one manages to be intensely chocolaty but also featherlight. They also tend to be flooded with butter and while you will never hear me complain about the presence of butter in a cake, the absence of it in this cake allows it to almost float away. We can’t let that happen, so it is anchored it with the most minimal frosting we know, whipped cream. The cold sweet cream against the airy bittersweet cake is, as far as I’m concerned, perfection itself. And it doesn’t exactly hurt that the cake looks like a pinwheel. Or a Yodel. Or a Ho-Ho. You know, whatever your poison may be.

[Updated 5/9/11: To clarify some cake rolling confusion, pointed out by a helpful commenter. The prior directions had you roll the cake with a piece of waxed paper underneath, towel on top. In hindsight, the cake is much easier to roll with a towel underneath, as my photos show. Apologies to anyone who ended up with (delicious) cake chips because of this!]

Cake layer:
6 ounces semisweet bittersweet chocolate, chopped or 1 cup semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons water or strong coffee
6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided

1 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar (use more if you prefer a sweeter filling)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 to 2 tablespoons liqueur of your choice, such as Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a 10-by-15-inch shallow baking or jellyroll pan. Line the bottom lengthwise with a piece of waxed or parchment paper that extends up the short sides one inch.

Melt chocolate with water or coffee in a small saucepan over very low heat until it is 75 percent melted. Remove from heat and stir until the remaining chocolate is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to beat until yolks are pale and ribbony. Gently stir the chocolate into the yolk mixture.

In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites with salt until they hold stiff peaks. Stir 1/4 of egg white mixture into the chocolate-yolk mixture to lighten it. Fold the remaining whites into the cake batter in three additions. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until cake layer feels dry (but very soft) to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. It will still seem a little underbaked.

Transfer to a cooling rack and cover the top with a light damp towel or two layers of damp paper towels for 10 minutes. Gently remove towels; don’t fuss if they have a bit of cake stuck to them. Run a knife around the edges of the cake. Sift one tablespoon cocoa over the top of the cake and cover the cake with a thin tea or flour sack towel [Updated, see Note above] that is a little longer than the pan. Place the back of a baking sheet or a large flat tray over the towel and invert the cake and paper onto it. Gently peel back the parchment or waxed paper that lined the pan. Sift the remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder over the top of the cake (that was, one minute ago, the underside). Using the towel underneath to help lift and roll the cake, roll the cake from short end to short end with the towel inside. Let cool completely, encased in its towel.

Once cool, beat heavy cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until it holds stiff peaks. Get your serving plate ready and place it near your cake roll. Gently unroll chocolate cake and remove tea towel. [Try to get the tea towel to the hamper without touching anything, as it is saturated with smudgy cocoa and trust me, can mess up a white kitchen fast.] Spread whipped cream filling evenly over cake. Gently use waxed or parchment paper once again to reroll cake. Place on serving platter, seam side down.

If you’re fancier than us, you can now garnish it with shaved white or dark chocolate or even a drizzle of each, melted; raspberries are pretty too. Serve immediately in 1-inch thick slices or refrigerate until needed. This cake is best to serve on the first day it is made. It’s still delicious after that, but the whipped cream filling does begin to deflate a little into the cake spiral.

About this cake’s origin/name: When I first wrote about this cake in 2007, I was unable to find the original New York Times article my mother had clipped the recipe from but after finding an almost exact match of my mother’s recipe in a 2001 Gourmet, attributed the name and cake to it. Now that The New York Times online archives are in better order, I was able to find the actual article my mother read on a June day the year before I was born promising that you couldn’t go wrong if you made this heavenly chocolate dessert on Father’s Day. In this version, there are a bunch of minor changes, such as using coffee instead of water with the chocolate, vanilla extract in stead of Grand Marnier, and much less of it, more whipped cream filling (which I find unnecessary) but less sweetener in it (which I preferred) and the option to roll the cake from the short end, which my family always does. I prefer most of these original nuances, as that’s the way my mother always made it, but give some hybrid suggestions above. Neither recipe origin recommends pre-rolling the cake with a towel, but I picked that tip up from various food blogs and find it essential in virtually eliminating cake cracks.

Note: There’s a four-layered version of this cake in the archives.

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388 comments on heavenly chocolate cake roll

  1. Your family has three cakes! My family doesn’t have any, well I take that back we do have a rhubarb cake that I consider a “family cake”. The name “heavenly cake” is better than its nickname, ha!


  2. That looks delicious but I’m always wary of rolled cakes because it’s tough to make them look good. That’s pretty awesome that you were able to re-roll it out when it didn’t work the first time around.

    In my family my aunt’s sister always makes stuffed Lebanese cookies (ma’amool) for family events and it’s not the same without them!

  3. I would try this cake – but the rolling/cracking would probably send me over the deep end too! I’d need a lot of help from my daughter in this project.

  4. MK

    Ah, memories of holidays past! I remember at 16 being so enthralled by Julia Child’s Buche de Noel –I think on TV — that I made it, with the assistance of my aunt, for Christmas. I remember rolling the cake up in a tea towel. But as the recipe proceeded in all of its complicated majesty from cake to buttercream to meringue mushrooms dusted with chocolate to moss spun from sugar syrup and draped over a broom handle, I can only remember Aunt Mary’s tears of laughter as I proceeded with fanatic obsession to make every pot and pan in the kitchen dirty – and then trash the floor. She was an epic cook, but of the more basic Middlewestern “maybe a little cream would make it better” sort.

  5. Woohoo, a gluten-free cake! The husband has to eat gluten-free. Hiis mom always stocks up on gluten-free baked goodies from the Jewish bakery during Passover. Heh. Works out nicely as his birthday is in April.

    This looks fun, but I’m still scared even with the tea towel tip.

  6. You’ve done it again! I have never attempted a rolled cake before b/c I have heard too many stories about the cracking and how difficult they can be…but after reading your post you have inspired me to try something I haven’t done before. This cake looks amazing! I’ll be making it this weekend :) Thanks for the inspiration once again.

  7. Alexis

    I love chocolate cake rolls. The Cake Bible has a great one, also flourless, that uses cocoa instead of chocolate, although that one uses some butter. My only problem with rolls is the top–the plain cake looks, so, well, plain, unless you want to glaze it, and I don’t.

    One of these days I’m going to try to replicate the chocolate roll at a bakery near where my grandma lived. They fill it with chocolate pudding, and I can’t remember what’s on top, but it’s covered in chocolate cake crumbs. I was always a sucker for bakery pudding filling.

  8. syana73

    thank you for such a lovely recipe. i’d love to try & make it but i don’t think i’ll be rolling it. maybe make into like a sandwich cake. i hope u don’t mind. mmmm can’t wait to make it!

  9. Martina

    Another trick to avoid cracking is to take out the cake from the tray when still hot and then immediately put the cake tray over the cake (without the filling) and cover it with it until it’s cooled and you put the filling in – at least that’s what the tried and tested cookbooks from “Betty Bossi” (a very famous baking/cooking-bookbrand here in Switzerland) suggest. With my cake rolls it works very well!

  10. Lila

    Funny, I’ve only ever made one rolled cake and that was last Thanksgiving. I was trying to replicate a pumpkin roll that my 2nd cousins make every Fall and went looking for a recipe. There it was, on the Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Filling can, complete with instructions to cook on parchment paper and roll in tea towel while still warm and let cool. Like you, I was too impatient to let it cool there for long but, it worked and while the cream cheese filling melted a tad, the end result was as anticipated – and no cracks! As a result, I just plain assumed that every recipe for a rolled cake called for rolling it warm in a towel. Who knew? This cake looks awesome and it will be tried this weekend, I’m sure. Happy Passover, Happy Easter, Happy Spring to all of you.

  11. Russ

    This brings back memories. For the past 40 years my mom has made chocolate rolls using a very similar recipe. Amazingly good. After years of having her version I got her recipe and made it myself. It is excellent and if the cake cracks it becomes either a layer cake or I use powdered sugar to fill in the gaps.

    But the real creme de la creme in our household is a hazelnut version of this roll. Instead of chocolate or flour, we use ground hazelnuts. The cake rolls a slight bit more easily and it is really heavenly. Plus it’s kosher for Passover. When I was a kid I asked mom to combine the two and she came up with a chocolate-hazelnut roll. That was the best ever!

  12. amanda

    Thank you for posting a dessert that’s naturally gluten-free (no xanthum gum or sorghum flour? from the world of Celiacs – a sigh of relief) and seasonally adaptable (+ some bunny ear inserts and a coating of whipped cream = Peter Cottontail not a day too soon)!

  13. I was searching the web (read: screening all the foodblogs I regularly read) with hope to find a dessert for my brother’s birthday this weekend.. I may have found it! He loves chocolate, It looks festive and is more special than the chocolate cake I usually make because of the filling.. And the way it looks of course!
    I love that every family has its own cakes, in our family, everybody has their own birthday cake.. For me a carrot-cake, my father apple, my mother something with fruit and my brother and the man in my life both crave chocolate.. I think I’m going to have to introduce this cake to my family (if your mother allows me)!

  14. wenders

    Chinese Bakeries also have their jelly roll cakes and we love them, but I’m always afraid to attempt it at home. Plus the fact that you can’t seem to get the ‘secret’ Chinese Bakery cake recipe. I love your blog because you tested your recipes and confess your flops, so that I’m then unafraid to try it. I’ve never tried flourless cakes, what is the science that holds it up? The eggs? Facinating.

  15. What Happens After Five

    Sounds delicious! I can never manage to roll cakes correctly….they always end up breaking at some point. You’re courageous for attempting this in my book!!

  16. WOW unreal that this cake is flour-less and kosher for passover..was laughing as I read …” I used to call it the “sh*t” cake in honor of the word that kept slipping from my mother’s mouth as she tried to roll it without it cracking” … but it kinda looks like it would be yum even if it did fall apart …

  17. This is my favorite dessert, ever. My Oma (grandma in German) has been making a similar chocolate roll since my dad was a kid (45 years, yow!), and it’s one of my favorites. One of the things I miss most about living 1,500 miles from home is her chocolate roll – it really is the epitome of the perfect desert.

    Thanks for sharing.. such a great way to start my day. And your chocolate roll, even the crumbled one, looks absolutely delicious.

  18. What a delicious looking cake! I’m so glad you were finally able to “fix” the problem of the cake cracking and falling apart. At my house, whenever something doesn’t work out just right (cake sticks to pan, cookies get a little dark, icing slides off cake, brownies are too gooey), we say that we can’t give it away so we’ll just have to eat it!! Happy Passover to you!

  19. My family makes a cake like this for christmas. After rolling it gets frozen and then covered with lots of chocolate. We serve it still frozen with that thick layer of chocolate on the outside. All I can say is that the pre-roll in the tea towel is a key element of making it work. Looks lovely!

  20. Jen

    I knew about the tea towel trick because, like your mom, my mom also used colourful language when making jelly rolls. I like the flourless idea here, and the sugar is not too over the top. Although this recipe looks fantastic on its own, I think I might experiment with an alternative sugar. I’ll let you know if it works out. I think this is one dessert my little one might actually like – at least to look at it :)

  21. Sarah

    Wow! My family makes this on Passover too. We always just call it a chocolate roll though. :) It is traditionally made by my grandmother and she has already told me that when the time comes and she can’t make them anymore she is giving me her serving plate (the only one she has that is long enough to accommodate the size). I look forward to carrying on the tradition. I’d never heard of anyone else making this type of cake–thanks for the happy find this morning!

  22. That’s some impressive work Deb! I had made this cake (from one of your earlier recipes) before (not as a roll, but as several layers), and I love the souffle-like texture that it has. I had covered it with coffee flavored whipped cream – divine.

    But it feels like a sauce is needed to put it over the top. Something like a home-made Raspberry sauce?

  23. Jennifer

    This cake looks so amazing! Thank you for the beautiful photo tutorial. Your hard work and ingenuity will prevent many small children from hearing that accidental profanity due to technical cake difficulties. :)

  24. What a fun and delicious looking Passover dessert recipe! I will definitely be filing this one away for next year’s seder, but will have to try it at least once in the meantime!

  25. My mom’s tip for rolling a cake (we’re of Chinese descent and she’s been doing this for years!) is to lightly spritz the tea towel with some vanilla-scented water, or alcohol or whatever you prefer, so that when you roll the cake in the tea towel, the cake will be able to retain its moisture while rolled up in the tea towel :) Also, do this while the cake is fresh out of the oven, it helps the cake not crack when it’s being rolled with filling. Works every time – I swear!

  26. I have always wanted to make a cake roll, but been too afraid it would fall apart. Thank you so much for boosting my confidence and give such wonderful pics :-)

  27. Goodness that roll cake looks DIVINE!

    I’ve made lots of roll cakes…family recipe from my Austrian mom. She said that if you want to fill it with cream (or frosting) that you need to roll it up “blind” with a kitchen towel sprinkled with sugar. If you want to fill it with marmalade you can do that while the cake is still warm. :-) I never guessed there was a reason to roll it up in the kitchen towel….I just did it because she said to! Now I know!

  28. Ha! I love the ‘alternate’ name for this cake. I’ve only made a rolled cake once and yes, the language was colorful. There were also moments of absolute faith where you hope that praying to every god in the sky would make it roll crack-free. Baking this cake is a religious experience.

  29. You are a brilliant woman and this is proof! The cake is lovely and the sharp contrast between the filling and the cake is stunning. I love the fact that it flourless to boot.

  30. Emily

    I just made your old layer cake version of this last night to bring in for a co-workers birthday today (without angering my Passover-observing, sweet-loving boss). The fallen crumbs that I was able to eat (dipped in the leftover, divine whipped cream) were phenomenal, so I can’t wait to share it with friends today. It seems to have survived overnight well, let’s see if it can hold off until after lunch. Fingers crossed.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  31. That’s the most gorgeous sh*t cake I’ve ever seen! ;) Seriously though…rolled cakes have always seemed daunting, but now I’ll never forget that tea towel tip. Will have to make this one, especially when I’m looking for something for my GF friends.

  32. TrishR

    This is beautiful!!! And I always learn so much as you describe your process of getting to the final recipe. Thank you for that! A question, if you don’t mind – I’m thinking about serving this on Easter, but what with serving a midday brunch, and the required Easter egg hunt, etc. I don’t think I’ll have time to make it all fresh Sunday morning. Any thoughts on making the cake Saturday evening/night and leaving it rolled in the towel until morning? Thank you!

  33. Sally

    this looks amazing! I’ll save it for next Passover – I’m always on the lookout for good passover treats (this year, I made an orange curd sponge cake w. strawberries from cooking light, coconut macaroons a la Barefoot, and my cousin made amazing chocolate covered matzoh with fleur de sel).

    So – I’ll be the annoying person who asks – what kind of cocoa powder? I know that you like Valhrona, so I’m assuming dutch-process…?

    1. deb

      Sally — The kind of cocoa doesn’t matter. It’s acting as a flour to prevent sticking rather than a cake ingredient.

      TrishR — I think it should be just fine. I didn’t test leaving the cake overnight, but from what I read with other roll cakes, letting it cool for up to a day in the towel shouldn’t be an issue.

  34. Yeah for the internet to set on on the track to figure things out we don’t have the time to experiment with ourselves! This kind of cake is right up my alley…a little drizzled ganache couldn’t hurt. ;)

  35. We were just discussing the use of a jelly roll pan in class this morning. My students did not know what it was and how it was used. In talking to them about a jelly roll cake one student said “Won’t the cake crack.” This was a perfect post for my class discussion! They loved the name you gave the cake! I love high school students.

  36. vanessa

    My mom makes a very similar cake, only she fills it with vanilla ice cream rather than whipped cream, then freezes it. She does, however, always use the roll-while-warm technique – you shoulda just asked my mom for that secret! ;)

    And there must be something about guys and this cake – my dad goes NUTS for it!

  37. oh goodness me, this looks divine! have you ever added fruit to the center filling? fresh strawberries, blueberries and/or blackberries would be delicious!

  38. Looks fantastic… kinds of like a “yodel” without all the chemicals! It’s funny because I’ve been working on a similar cake idea recently but with vanilla and swirled with cinnamon, sugar, and butter. It was supposed to be a cross between a cinnamon bun and rugelach. Your technique here with the tea towel is fantastic. I’m going to have to use that. Wonderful!

  39. MJ

    I was going to mention Julia Child’s buche de noel, but MK beat me to it – very similar memories. As I recall she had us roll the cake up while it was still warm, so I’m glad you figured that out as well.

  40. Who you callin a Ho Ho? I love that you call it sh*t cake. Brings back memories of my mom cursing extensively while rolling up jelly rolls in sugared kitchen towels. This cake/post: awesome as usual.

  41. victoria

    wow – i’ve been away a while and this is a lovely post to come back to !
    thank you – will definitely be making this! :)

  42. I LOVED the Little Debbie’s version when I was little. I can only imagine the face on my little cousins if I pulled out a huge cake that looks like their favorite little treat!!

  43. When I was in 8th grade, my home economics teacher taught us how to make a jelly roll. I remember her introducing the tea towel but, for me at least, it was a little unclear why we needed one. I’ve never rolled a baked good since, although I’m pretty much done with macaroons and we’re only on the second day. Thanks for the recipe!

  44. Three words: Swiss. Cake. Roll!

    No matter how delicious homemade, fine cooking is, I have a deep, trashy affection for Little Debbie’s. Swiss cake rolls are the trashiest love. No matter if they taste similar, I now want to make this cake for the giant SCR visual alone. The Southern blood in me would be happy.

  45. Kate

    Chocolate is a family favorite and we’ve always rolled in a clean towel. This still doesn’t mean 3 chocolate rolls get made for one finished product. (Ala this past Christmas).

  46. Curses! You are the little devil on my shoulder, Deb. I was feeling so virtuous having packed myself a healthy lunch and planning a healthy dinner, and now the ONLY thing in the world I want to eat is a chocolate cake rolled around whipped cream. This looks like a dream!!!!

  47. Susan K

    I made this cake for Passover this year, and wow, did it get raves. I introduced it under the name in the archives, “Lighter-Than-Air Cake,” which resulted in my daugher’s comment, “Oh, instead of the heavier than lead cake you usually make?”, in reference to the flourless chocolate cake that has been our tradition. I gotta say, this one was WAY better.

  48. Amber

    My mom makes an ice cream roll cake that is very similar but with softened ice cream instead of whipped cream. Basically any ice cream is fabulous–and chocolate ganache makes an awesome frosting!

  49. srs1972

    Bang! Pow! You are awesome! I’d love to know your mom’s reaction to this post. I’m off to get the eggs out of the fridge…

  50. Randi

    Hi Deb, I posted the pic and tagged you on FB. I should have used a tea towel. That is how I make the libbeys pumpkin cake roll and that always comes out great. Oh well. Also, I had to melt the chocolate twice because it siezed the first time when I added the water. The second time, I added it to the mixer when I poured in the melted chocolate. The taste was fantastic, everyone LOVED it. Thanks.

  51. When I saw your lead shot, the first thing I thought was “A giant Little Debbie swiss cake roll!” I loved those as a kid and I actually used to UNROLL them when I ate them. Had I known, the painstaking process it takes to get this to roll, I may have been more considerate. . .

  52. Susan

    My mom makes a cake like this for Easter. A little carving, some chocolate whipped cream spread on the outside, and some construction paper ears = an adorable bunny cake. Last time I tried on my own I burnt the whole cake, but maybe it’s time for another shot.

  53. Joy

    Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Cake Bible has a number of rolled cakes, and she always instructs bakers to use the tea towel method! (Rose’s advice is always spot-on.) This looks wonderful and I am going to try it this weekend! Thanks as always for the wonderful recipes.

  54. Now I feel bad….I read the prior version you posted of this recipe and I recall wondering why she cursed extensively…I’ve done the damp tea towel trick for years with our pumpkin rolls. I will totally be trying this recipe, right after I’m done with my diet from all the other goodies you’ve posted recently that I just HAD to try!!!
    for what it’s worth, we refridgerate ours after wrapping it up and I am pretty sure that it would be fine left in the fridge overnight…I’ve forgotten them for a few hrs and then remembered I needed to fill them!!!

  55. samarahuel

    Yay! Gluten free!

    I’m bringing dessert to our family’s Easter gathering this Sunday, where we’ll be serving the very traditional but very dense Norwegian Kumla and ham. I had been planning on making my grandma’s Strawberry Angel Food Cake, hoping its lightness and the fresh fruit would counteract the heaviness of the rest of the meal, but now I’m very tempted to make this instead, especially since I’ve been worrying about whether there will be enough chocolate at this particular gathering. (Easter eggs usually supply plenty of it, but since most of us are rather beyond the age for hunting for them and I haven’t given Grandpa and Grandma the OK to shower my 19-month-old with candy, I wonder if there will be any chocolate at all.) Oh well, if I don’t make it this weekend, I have a mother-in-law who cannot eat gluten, so this WILL be making an appearance at some sort of family gathering in the future, for sure! Thank you for this and other gluten-free recipes that are delicious in their own right, even for those of us who can eat gluten. I really appreciate it!

  56. mabk

    Deb – thanks so much for sparking a memory – it was the single baked item in my mom’s extensive skillful repertoire; she’d spend the whole day baking and I remember the anxiety over rolling it up!

  57. Debby

    I’m sure I’m going to sound like an idiot, but is there any way to avoid the dairy component of this cake? Can you use soy milk? Or would that just be wasting my time? Or, as an alternative, would a non-dairy chocolate frosting work instead? My cake would, undoubtedly crack, so I’d probably make the one originally posted if that makes any difference.

  58. Kat Taylor

    Thanks for a gluten free recipe! Both my boss and my mother are gluten intolerant, so I am constantly searching for sweet recipes I can make, and this one looks perfect! A lovely alternative to the flourless chocolate cake I generally turn to which can get a bit dull and dense.


  59. My very old Betty Crocker cookbook had directions for rolled cakes and they always rolled them in a towel when they were warm. I didn’t know there was any other way to do it.

  60. this cake roll looks fantastic. i’m tempted to make it tonight.
    my mother does the trick with the tea towel when making cake rolls or savory rolls, but she dampens the tea towel a little. that way the cake won’t dry out while cooling.

  61. Deanna

    My grandma makes a cake like this, but with a mocha filling. She has a tendency to ruin desserts though (since she doesn’t believe in things like sugar, or butter, or salt), luckily when my mom married into the family she raved about the cake so much its the only dessert made by my grandma that still contains otherwise banned ingredients.

    I kept looking for a post on the corn bread, but alas, it appears it is not meant to be.

  62. Ann

    I’ve been making this cake ever since I saw the recipe in the NY Times and it is always a hit – I also use lots of interesting phrases when trying to roll this and am interested to see if your method will alleviate my stress when I make this for Easter :-)

  63. Susan

    Tucked away in my mental cooking tips file, I read that dampening the tea towel with water flavored with vanilla or your choice of flavorings (as some others before me mentioned), was the way to keep the towel from absorbing any moisture from the cake and it keeps it from sticking. Especially important for sponge cakes. I’ve never put the tip to use, as I’ve not found a recipe for the filling that wowed me, until recently. I made a cake filled with a mock whipped clotted cream that I adapted which included mascarpone cheese, whipped with a combination of heavy and sour cream and a few T’s of sugar. I swear, it held up without shrinking or weeping for days and it wasn’t too sweet or too tangy like the original cream cheese version that I had riffed. I am dreaming of a coconut cake with this as the filling or frosting.

  64. I never rolled a cake without flour, and I rarely had to swear while doing it. But this version must taste seriously rich and light, my favourite combination. And I’m not afraid of ending up swearing, now that I have so many good tips.

  65. Joey

    My grandma made this same cake for every special occassion, but she would add sliced bananas to the whip cream. Always awesome.

  66. Susan

    Our family has loved a cake similar to this one. Four generations of us have now made it for birthdays and other celebrations. One major difference- we serve a homemade chocolate sauce on the side!!! We are all major lovers of chocolate and I can’t wait to try this cake.

  67. I have read the tip with the tea towel before, but never actually seen it put into action. It looks like it really did the trick. Theoretically I have a jelly roll pan somewhere, but haven’t seen it for at least 2 moves. Do you think a rimmed cookie sheet will be too shallow?

  68. I’m organizing an Easter dinner at my friend’s house since none of us have family where we live and we’re all too poor to go home. I’ve been trying to figure out what to make, and I believe I will be making this for the dessert! And because we’re all crazy grad students, I think I’ll use the coffee in place of the water. And maybe some Kahlua in place of the vanilla/Gran Marnier.

  69. I can see how this cake would test my patience – as I am also not a patient baker or cook! My first thoughts were not only is this cake beautiful and perfect for passover but also gluten free (I try to adhere to a gluten free diet – I just feel better).

  70. sarah

    My Mom and I make the annual pumpkin rolls every year for various friends and family. I would suggest rolling this cake the same way you roll the pumpkin cake. Dust with cocoa powder and roll into a tea towel while it is hot and fresh out of the oven. Then make your frosting. After your frosting is made, unroll the cake and spread frosting and re-roll. I always wrap my rolls in plastic wrap to help keep its shape and keep the frosting in, then chill in the fridge for 12hrs-how ever long it takes to set (turning occasionally to help keep its roll shape). Then unwrap and devour.

  71. SnowCat MacDobhran

    I’m going to second, third and fifth rolling the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. OtherMother makes a Yule Log every year and she says to just dust the tea towel with confectioner’s sugar (her’s is a yellow cake), flip it out, peel off the parchment, dust the back side and roll it up immediately and hers never cracks.

    This looks Yummy, and I need chocolate cake like right now!

  72. Oh my, the ‘shit cake’ looks amazing. It reminded my of the book The Help & it made me laugh. I love your dishes, I wish I could just grab the food right out of the computer (they’ve got to be working on the technology, right?). I don’t comment much, but I am a big fan of your humor, food, images, etc. Looking forward to many more delicious dishes.


  73. Sarah

    Deb, I’ve been an avid SK follower for a couple of years now, but have never left a comment – until now! My mom used to make this cake whenever my birthday fell on Passover, as it does this year (tomorrow). She passed away six years ago and despite my love for baking and all things chocolate and cake I have yet to attempt this. Of all the baking tips and recipes I picked up from her this was one I just never retained (though I do remember some expletives being used in the process!). Anyway, seeing it posted here this week along with my pesach birthday just might give me the inspiration to finally give it a go. Thanks!

  74. Your name for the cake had me cracking up. Love the tip on the rolling process. My pumpkin roll cake always tastes great but, not much in the looks department. It is always nice when you can improve upon a family recipe. Looks good.

  75. RobynB

    See, MY family didn’t have cakes. We had a specific recipe for Haroset, and Grandma’s macaroni & cheese (which is really weird and unlike, for example, Martha Stewart’s) but no cakes. UNTIL. Until I made your sour cream cinnamon chocolate chip coffee cake, and made it ours. In an odd way, does that make us related, somehow? That cake of yours, and this cake of Martha’s: http://www.marthastewart.com/336020/strawberry-cake are now my family cakes. Strangers to my family will now think we have an Aunt Deb and Aunt Martha :-)

  76. jrm

    Hi there – I know this is going to sound stupid – but I’m not much of a baker & am not quite positive what a tea towel is… this sounds like an amazing treat and would love to give it a shot. Probably would not want to buy something new to make it though since I haven’t used a tea towel yet w/my lame cooking skills yet… any alternatives? Thanks!

  77. srs1972

    This sh*t cake sans butter is ETHEREAL! Ha! Seriously good, Deb! I think I let it cool too long because I got a few cracks. However, the roll held together perfectly. The texture reminds me of a good tiramisu. Very nice. I’m looking forward to adding vanilla (I’m out of vanilla sugar). This is probably my very favorite recipe of yours. Thank you!

  78. One of the first from-scratch cakes I made as a kid was a chocolate roll cake from the Betty Crocker cookbook with the pie-chart design on the cover, which recommended the tea towel technique. Worked perfectly!

  79. OH YES. We call it a chocolate roulade, but it’s the same thing. In a family with gluten intolerance (my MiL and husband) and Celiac disease(my SiL), this cake is a regular. But I have no problem with gluten whatsoever and still request it for my birthday. So it’s a winner all around.

  80. Marla

    This is very similar to our “Family Cake”. Ours is a Mocha Roulade. Starts with the sponge cake, then I make a chocolate glaze adding Tia Maria and espresso powder.
    I also flavour the whipping cream with espresso powder. Finally before rolling, dot the whipped cream with fresh raspberries.
    We have never cared about the look of the cake. Thank you for the tip about rolling the cake in a tea towel while cooling. I have only placed a damp tea towel on the cake while it was cooling in the refrigerator. My birthday is next month and I will try your tip when I bake our “Family Cake”.

  81. I have heard the trick of using the tea towel, but have not attempted as of yet. You have given me hope though. The recipe sounds amazing and will try soon. Love your recipes and images! Happy baking :)

  82. ingrid

    oh my goodness! this cake is my all time favorite. my mom or my grandma would make this every year for birthdays–only they crushed up peppermints for the filling. i’m dying right now. my birthday is this week…i might just have to make it for myself!

  83. Thank you for this! A friend and I went to a coffee shop today and I was seriously lusting after her fluffy banana bread and quietly wishing I could eat something cake-like. You’ve made my Passover heart very happy. :)

  84. We’ve made this cake throughout my life as well. We had a couple variations to this as well – one version was with a chocolate frosting that goes over the final/rolled cake. The other was the addition of peppermint – either to the whipped cream, or to the chocolate frosting. No matter what, this is a fabulous cake, especially with a glass of cold milk to wash it down.

  85. Carolyn

    @jrm A tea towel is just a kitchen towel, like the one you dry dishes with or wipe your hands on after you wash them (but, you know, just wrap the cake in one you HAVEN’T wiped your hands on ;) ) And you’ll want to use a smooth, woven cotton or linen towel, NOT a terry-cloth (plush, bath-style) towel or you’ll end up with bits of lint in your cake. Good luck!

  86. Barb

    I was surprised you didn’t know the towel trick. It was one my mother show me years ago. I use it to make pumpkin rolls in the fall and to make one with melted seedless raspberry jam and whipped cream. My daughter will love that i can now make a chocolate one. Also the pic of Jacob is adorable. I have a similar one of my daughter sitting in her walker next to the couch on which my husband is sitting and they are both reading. She is now almost 18 and still an avid reader.

  87. Kim

    my mom also fills it with vanilla ice cream since the 70’s and we all love it esp my Dad. Now I’m teaching my girls to make it – the cracks are less noticable with ice cream, cause you can push it together and the freeze it, once you cut it- you can’t tell what happened to it. Ha. It’s delish.

  88. I’m drooling. I’ve always been much too intimidated to try to make any sort of roll or log cake, but you just might have inspired me to give it a go! What’s the worst that could happen, right? Either way, a cake’s a cake.

  89. Well, I always thought I knew the secret with flour-based jelly roll cake (replace 3 TBS flour with cornstarch to make it flexible) but since this is flourless, I don’t have a clue.The tea towel trick looks clever so WHEN I attempt this lovely looking creation, I will try it your way. Thanks for always sharing.

  90. Mary Anne

    I have a question! Why doesn’t adding water to chocolate as its melting cause the chocolate to seize up? I am far from an expert baker, but I thought getting water in melting chocolate totally messes it up? (I have had a bad experience or two with a double broiler myself …..)

  91. Becca

    Hey Deb happy passover!
    Quick question: have you ever made a vanilla (or non-chocolate) version of this cake? I’d love to try making it with a white chocolate ganache and fresh raspberry filling. (Although, that would be great with chocolate too!) I’ve made this many times with chocolate but I’m not sure white chocolate would act the same way – its consistency is slightly different. Any suggestions?
    Also: I have let the cake cool in the towel overnight with deliterious effects – it craked badly the next day. Since then I usually take it out of the towel after an hour or two. (With success)

  92. Oh my goodness, Passover Cake that actually looks AMAZING and doesn’t use any matzo meal? I’M SOLD. In fact, I can’t finish typing this comment as I’m busy rushing off to my kitchen. No really, this is amazing! Can’t wait to try it.

  93. I patiently wait and wait for ANYTHING chocolate coming from you next and what do I get? A rolled cake with whipped cream… even that cracked piece has my name all over it. I think the rolling-when-cake-is-warm trick is also used commonly in making Swiss rolls, if only your mother had access to food blogs in her days huh? Thanks for the recipe Deb, are you sure your family doesn’t have a fourth cake?.

  94. This looks like an awesome recipe. I need a dessert for this weekend so I think I will be brave and atttempt it! Chocolate always hits the spot.

  95. Marie M.C.

    Yeah! You did it! You finally did it! Last time you posted about this recipe I (along with others?) mentioned the tea towel technique. You seem to be using a thick towel doubled over. I always use a thin flour sack towel, not doubled. When the cake has cooled for five or ten minutes, roll (pretty snug) then twist the ends (like a big Tootsie roll). I tie the ends with twine or rubber bands and let sit over-night. I’ve never ever had it crack on me. Hey, if it does crack you can make some ganache and frost. At Christmas I’ve used peppermint flavoring in the whipped cream then frosted it to look like bark. Either use the tines of a fork to score or just use your knife to artfully make it look like bark. I’m not Martha, and if I can do it — you can. One Christmas I cut some holly leaves from the huge bush in my backyard to decorate the plate. When I arrived at my friends’ house I went and put the Buche de Noel on her back porch. Then I noticed a trail of ants crawling from my plate. Oy vey! Lesson learned. If using fresh holly — always wash and check for ants!

  96. Marie M.C.

    Funny. I just read another commenter who said she never leaves her cake rolled up over-night. I, natch, always leave it rolled over-night. *Sigh.* Jacob, you’re never too young to have your very own library card and you’re definitely, positively the 100% cutest. Mazel tov. I forgot to say — Happy Passover! Happy Easter!

  97. Amy

    Gluten free? *swoon* Jacob reading a book? *swoon* You have won me over again, Deb. Oh, and the broken cake picture looks like a face sticking its tongue out. You cannot unsee it!

  98. Ulla

    When I was young, i occasionally made a lemon cake roll. That trick to let it cool coiled up is quite common in german baking books, no absolute insurance for non-breaking though.
    Must try this flourfree recipe,my friend suffers from celiac desease.

  99. AB

    There is something we do with this that really makes it more special:

    Use only VERY slightly sweeted whipped cream inside, then dot the inside with pitted SOUR cherries. These aren’t always easy to find, but when you do, stock up.

    Then roll up the cake and frost it with a melted Cadbury bar or two. We call this ‘Lincoln Log” and there are never any leftovers.

  100. Jean

    Hi Deb. My family has been making Buche de Noel for generations for Xmas Day dessert. We use a very small amount of cake flour but everything else looks the same with the exception of the coffee (I will try that this Xmas). We also sprinkle powered sugar on the tea towel before rolling the cake to help keep it moist and to prevent cracking. Typical decorations are meringue mushrooms and marzipan shaped leaves to help make it look like log. My kids just love it!

  101. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been trying to find a good cake recipe for my husband’s birthday. By George, I think I’ve got it, now!

  102. katie

    My mom and grandma make a very similar cake, but they fill it with melted ice cream and then freeze the roll. Sometimes they dust it with powdered sugar or sometimes it’s drizzled with melted chocolate. My favorite birthday cake even though I have a Christmas birthday!

  103. Anna

    Looks delicious! My mother and grandmothers (I actually wonder how many generations back this goes) make similar cakes, though with flour. Here in Europe (Germany) it is really common to use the towel rolling method.

    They have always placed the warm cake from the oven on a *slightly sugared* clean tea towel, and then rolled it up until it was cool. When cool, unroll, fill, re-roll and carefully transfer to your cake platter. A thin cutting board can be a godsend at this point. I don’t think I’ve cracked one in years with this method. The sugar stops the moist cake from sticking to the towel.

    Often, we also put more of the filling (whipped cream, or sour cream/whipped cream mix types) on the outside and decorate with whatever is handy.

    Thanks for sharing!

  104. i made this yesterday for holiday lunch! for the third passover in a row! it’s worth beating the eggs and cream by hand. after that, rolling the cake doesn’t seem too hard, but maybe next year i’ll try the tea towel. happy passover!

  105. Anita

    Looks delicious! My neighbor and I are going to bake this but he’s a bit of a neat freak. Do you think it would be ok to line the inner layer of the roll with a piece of parchment paper, underneath the tea towel? I’m hoping that would prevent cocoa powder tea towel mess issue.

  106. laurie

    I made matzoh crack for Monday night and along with some over-the-top rocky road brownies, we’re a bit high from the chocolate. Next year, I will make this for sure. My babies are 14 and 16, and I remember fondly lugging home 30 or more books at a time from the library to be devoured (literally and figuratively) when they were Jacob’s age.

  107. Kate

    This looks great! My Dad used to love this chocolate cake roll from the ice cream section of the supermarket that had vanilla ice cream in place of the whipped cream. The markets around here in PA don’t seem to carry that desert any more, but I bet that I could make that switch for him and it would be perfect. Thanks!

  108. I am LOVING the roll while warm tip! I have long been afraid of these fancy rolled up cake things… my grandmother never ever swore except when trying to impress with a fancy filled cake dessert! But that is a fantastic tip, and this cake looks so, so much better than the chocolate covered matzo I am snacking on now.

  109. inane comment

    That looks really good, I’m so hungry right now :(

    You should try making rosti! I would love to see how you approach it!

  110. Lindsay s.

    Lovely looking recipe – will try it next week with a gluten intolerant friend coming to visit. But I think there’s an error in your post. You said “They also tend to be flooded with butter and while you will never hear me complain about the presence of butter in a cake, the ***absence of this cake*** allow it to almost float away.” I’m assuming you meant to say helge absence of butter in this cake, yes? Because I can’t for the life of me figure out how the absence of the cake itself would be a good thing. ;)

    1. deb

      Lindsay — Yes, thanks.

      Carla — Oh no!

      Amy — You are so so so right!

      Mary Anne — You melt the chocolate with the water. Cold water might make chocolate seize; hot does not.

  111. Carla

    I just made the cake and it broke completely, it was a total mess me, my kitchen everthing was covered in chocolate powder. I sweared a aweful lot and will never make this cake again-but the bits an pices with whipped cream were delicious.

  112. deb

    I laughed when I saw this post. I just finished having a go at making a pumpkin roll, persisting until (4 rolls later) I had a recipe that’s a keeper. Actually, the recipe didn’t require as much fiddling as the technique to do “the roll” part. Shored up by info from the Internet, my resulting recommendations:
    – Line the bottom of the baking sheet with waxed paper. No need to oil.
    – Remove cake from oven and run a knife around the edges. Depan as follows while cake is still warm.
    – Briefly wet a dishtowel (or any material without loops. I used an old tshirt) and firmly wring so that it is evenly damp. It should be just moist, not frankly wet. Place on top of cake, careful to have the edge of the towel lined up evenly with one short end (the side you will start rolling). Place another cookie sheet or similar support on top of the towel. With confident wrist action, flip the whole stack over. Remove the pan and carefully peel off the wax paper.
    – Roll the cake in a coaxing rather than firm manner. Allow to rest and completely cool on the countertop for at least 2 hours.
    – Reserve the cocoa powder for dusting the finished roll prettily for presentation.
    (a warm cake seemed more amenable to rolling and a damp towel prevented sticking much better than powdering the towel [which also adhered to the cake unevenly for a mottled appearance]). cheers!

  113. Melissa

    The first roll-up cake that I ever made was from the recipe book that came with my kitchen-aid mixer, and it suggested the rolling in the tea towel method. I remember being very suspicious that it would be impossible to unroll it without destroying it, and then pleased that it turned out (although I will admit there may have been some internal cracks).

    I can’t wait to try this version – I may offer to bring it to my mom’s for Easter this Sunday.

  114. Whaaaa?! Ok I just picked my jaw up from the floor. That looks uh-mazing! In middle school, I used to love buying lunch because I’d always get a package of Swiss cake rolls (essentially a small, processed version of this cake)…and then tell my mom I was buying fruit.

  115. What a coincidence. My mother taught me a slightly different version of this cake – our recipe is called a chocolate roulade. Ours is from The Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook by Dione Lucas, published in 1964. My mom has been making it since the 1960’s and I began sometime around the 1980. You’ve described the angst of rolling the cake just beautifully. Personally, my favorite moment is inverting the sheet pan onto the waxed paper. Dione Lucas calls it “the moment of truth.” The loud clap as I flip the pan always makes my heart stop – until the cake stays on the waxed paper as I lift the pan off. I make it all year round – and can’t wait until my own daughter wants to learn how to make it. (Ha Ha, she’s 22 yrs old and happy to have me make the cake for her at this point in her life!) I have to make a dessert this weekend and you’ve just given me the inspiration to do the roulade – thanks.

  116. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I will definitely try it this Passover. And I love this. Hilarious “I used to call it the “sh*t” cake in honor of the word that kept slipping from my mother’s mouth as she tried to roll it without it cracking.”

  117. Barbara

    It was such a shock to see my family’s favorite dessert featured today.
    My Mom has been making this since the around 1950. She got the recipe from a friend and we always called it “Betty M.’s Chocolate Roll” Mom always froze it, so she could make it ahead. My children all love it.

  118. Laura

    My mother taught me the dampened towel trick forty years ago when I was a teen-ager but I didn’t think about sprinkling it with sugar–fabulous!
    Part of what made this a favorite cake for us was the banana that my mother rolled into the cake. After you spread on the whipped cream, lay the banana—you’ll have to straighten it out— across the width of the short end closest to you, then start rolling. You might need a portion of an additional banana to reach across the width. (I was going to write, “second banana”, but didn’t want to invite unnecessary, silly comments :-)
    In keeping with my mother’s tradition, I cover it with chocolate frosting. Then, the artists out there can use colored frosting to draw vines, flowers, write names, etc.
    At Christmastime, I’ve made this for my non-Jewish friends and decided to call it a “Jew-le” log!
    Thanks for the perfect-for-Passover flourless version.

  119. Danielle

    I made this today and it came out fantastic, though the cake cracked a bit while rolling it up with the tea towel. I suspect it might have cooled too quickly and was just barely warm by then – will try 5 mins with the damp towel instead of 10 next time. I used espresso in the cake and coffe liqueur for the filling, it was excellent and became a Passover favorite. Thank you!

  120. Katrina

    Great cake recipe! But the cocoa powder with the wet towel makes too much of a mess. Peel off the waxed paper after the cake bakes then line both sides with fresh wax paper and roll up the cake while warm. I did not cool for 10 minutes, more like 5.

  121. Esther

    I made the almond cake for passover, but seeing this sort of makes me wish I could go back and bake this one instead!!! so good

  122. karen price

    Girl, you are too funny! Your mom and I could be twins, as I,too, say the lovely ‘s’ word when stuff like that happens! Thank you SO much for being (and saying) who you are! BTW:Love the recipe. Gotta make this one. I’ve made pumpkin rolls same way, but chocolate has a language all its own, and this one is speaking to me……..

  123. Michele

    I started making this cake in the 1960’s from a James Beard book, and always thought he had originated it. I believe it is identical, though I don’t have his book in front of me.

  124. Candace

    Look for another NYTimes rolled cake from about the same time period — I think it was called Famous Nut Roll. Ground walnuts, sugar, egg whites. Same rolling technique. They filled with whipped cream, but I have always used chocolate ganache filling. A fabulous cake. Probably would be good with hazelnuts or almonds. Great for Passover. Quick and easy. Can also be a layer cake.

  125. takeruny

    looks very yummy!! hope we were friends, so i can visit you, say hi, and have that beautiful cake together over girls talk!!!! but, in reality, we’re not, so i should visit my sis instead, coz she’s a pastrist.

  126. Hey Deb-

    You’re probably tired of people asking, but how’s the cook book coming? I was at Tartine in San Francisco this week (my personal heaven) and it made me think of the baking posts on your site. Hoping for a giant dessert section in the book. Oh, and this cake does look heavenly.

  127. Deborah K

    The recipe a year ago was what brought me to this site. Yogurt cake and broccoli slaw are only two of the many delicious things I have prepared. I’ve learned so much from your pictures and descriptions. Thank you! (When will your cookbook come out? I’ve got Christmas presents planned already!)

  128. LunchLady

    Thanks for this recipe…the pics are amazing! I looked through the comments and didn’t see any questions regarding replacing the sugar with Splenda. My DH is a newly diagnosed diabetic and I would like to try to make a flourless chocolate cake for him. Deb, do you think it would work with half Splenda and half sugar?

  129. TanjaK

    Thank you, thank you! I’ve been looking for something light and chocolaty to make for Easter, however nothing felt right, till now. Will probably make it as a cake, but still, this is perfect!

  130. I have made some pretty involved stuff, some of it even from your recipes (the ten layer cookie/cake with jam stands out as a huge success). I have lived in fear of tackling anything that involved the jellyroll method.

    Turns out I was right.

    I followed your directions to the letter (and I swear I am not blaming you for this!), but this was a disaster! Cake chunks, yummy whipped cream (with a dash of cinnamon), OH MY! Cocoa EVERYWHERE!

    However, my 5 year old just asked to have “some of that cake” for breakfast.

    Obviously, I will be making this again! Be afraid, be very very afraid.

  131. Heather

    Oh, how I would love to make this TODAY… but:
    1) I’ve got TONS of dish towels, but don’t think I have any clean tea towels!
    2) Anything I can use besides a jelly roll pan? Don’t have that either. A regular tray/sheet pan won’t work, huh?

    Sigh. Regular old Pesadich brownies instead, I guess…

  132. Sarah

    I made this last night for a dinner party and it was perfect! I followed the directions exactly and had one crack that was not very noticeable and did not make the cake any less delicious or beautiful. The cake was ridiculously light but still intensely chocolatey, and freshly whipped cream was the perfect accompaniment. We served it with fresh strawberries on top. Yum!

  133. Well done, Deb! I had my first (successful!) encounter with a pumpkin log last Thanksgiving. Also, I really appreciate the photo captions that you make when the cursor scrolls over your pictures. Those little details make all the difference.

    P.S. My mother could DIE over your mother’s apple cake. We love it, and we have 12 granny smiths right now!

  134. Cindy Karnitz

    You just made my celiac mother’s Easter! Most GF cakes taste like kaka- or are a form of lava cake. I thank you for this delicious recipe.

  135. Mary Ann Brant

    Oh my I love this cake. The coconut macaroon with the blackberries, was my favorite dessert in a long time. Couldn’t stop eating it until it was gone. I am making up for it this week by hiking everyday.

  136. Claire

    I made this today (well, the cake part – haven’t filled it yet). I had some trouble getting it off the parchment paper once inverted. I think I probably should have let it stay in the oven a couple minutes longer? I had to piece some sections back together. I might lose out on presentation points once I attempt to roll it up, but at least the flavour won’t be impacted! The kitchen smelled great while it was cooking!

  137. Oh my goodness…I am so impressed! I made a simple Chocolate Fudge cake for Passover this year and it turned out in more pieces that your rolled cake. Luckily, it still tasted FABULOUS!

  138. Mary Jo

    Yum, this is almost the same as our families favorite chocolate cake, except we fill ours with chocolate mousse and cover it with the same…so if the cake cracks (which still happens sometimes even though we always roll it to cool, the cracks only show up sometimes in the slices. We call it Brazo de Gitano (gypsy’s arm) or Chocolate Log (we are spanish). It’s been a family favorite for any special occasion and many birthdays since the early 70’s and both my wheat allergic husband and coeliac niece can eat it.
    Thanks for sharing! My recipe is made with cocoa, so I may have to try yours with some good chocolate….mmmm

  139. Eliza

    I made this for Passover (even though the cornstarch doesnt technically make the cut for most). It cracked when I unrolled it, so instead I layered it. It was great! I did half the recipe (it’s just the 4 of us), so maybe it was harder to work with a smaller cake. I would make it again though!

  140. Madfortulips

    Have been making cake rolls for 30 or more years, and the tea towel or I use flour sack dish towels my mother( now 80)embroidered, they are large and perfect, no fuzzies. The tip was in Betty Crocker cookbook given to me for a wedding present 35 years ago. I usually make a vanilla version, alas not flourless. But fill with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, and use powdered sugar for dusting.a family favorite that signals summer:)

  141. Arthi

    Just made it an hour ago..it was awesome! Loved it. Next time, planning to have it with some berries. Thank you so much :).

  142. Alissa

    This cracked into four pieces when I unrolled it, and the outside looks gross :( You’ve never done me wrong before!

    Are you NOT supposed to roll with the parchment paper as well as the towel? You might want to edit the recipe to be more explicit about this.

  143. ugh! i underbaked the stupid f*&*ing sh*t cake. have left it in the parchment/tea towel roll and am going to sit on the couch with a drink (or 6) to ponder the great injustice that has been wrought upon me but the stupid oven (because we know it wasn’t the baker).

    sigh. all because 1 brunch attendee lives a gluten free life. i pre-blame my hang over on him.

  144. Adrian

    Another fantastic recipe! Not one curse word was uttered as I rolled it up beautifully!My family was amazed at my creation. I poured cholate glaze on top and added one strawberry rosette in the center. Gone by the end of the night.

  145. Tove

    My grandma used to make this and we all loved it, so I’m excited to try the one I just made (now cooling, all bundled in a towel).

    I did have some trouble removing the waxed paper from the bottom of the cake… it looks like 1/3 of the cake came off with the paper, and the end of the cake tore off despite my gentleness. Ah well, that part will be on the inside. Next time I will try it with parchment paper instead, and maybe I will grease/dust the paper before pouring in the batter.

  146. wendy

    made the rolled version yesterday, devoured it last night… made it in layers today. Everyone is talking about how pretty it is! but worthy of note is how YUMMY it is!
    thanks for the tips!

  147. ruemara

    I made this. Sort of. I did it with almond meal and 1/3 cup apple sauce instead of chocolate, 4 egg yolks, not 6-I was out because I made mayo & my whipped cream was flavored with green tea and honey. Plus, I failed at both correct pan size and remembering all the rolling techniques. It still tasted great. Even though only half was roll worthy and the rest became layers with cream within. Thanks for the new recipe to play with!

  148. Tricia C.

    We just consumed every last morsel of this recipe. My dad is a celiac and is always complaining that gluten-free desserts are dry. He loved this recipe as did everyone else. They’re already plotting for me to make it again soon. Thanks so much for sharing your family recipe.

  149. Michelle C.

    I made a similar lemon roll cake for my son for his birthday a couple of Passovers ago becasue his birthday fell on Passover and he loves lemon…go figure…..I thought it was going to be super tricky to roll up the cake even though they did give the “when warm” instructions. Anyhow, it was easy as pie and please do not let the rolling intimidate you…..it will work if warm. With this cake, I would chop some fresh strawberries (or raspberries or blackberries…;-) and mix them with the cream filling…….strawberries and whipped cream and chocolate is a favorite among my kids. Also, just a dusting of powdered sugar for the top would be a nice contrast with the chocolate. For Passover, powdered sugar is not allowed so I just buzz some cane sugar in my coffee grinder or mini food processor and it comes out powedered. Yes, really;-)

  150. Marci

    This was yummy! And I followed the directions exactly, but it still cracked – it cracked in the roll shape while cooling – when I unrolled it the next morning, it was already cracked – any thoughts on why? It worked out fine because once I put in the whipped cream and re-rolled it, it kept its round shape and all the cracks were hidden so you couldn’t even tell, but they were pretty big so if I can avoid them next time (and there will be a next time – thank you), that’d be even better.

  151. Made this cake today for an Easter BBQ. Made double the whip cream frosting and frosted the outside. Added some Reese’s peanut butter eggs as ears, jelly beans for eyes and nose and sprinkles for whiskers and BOOM. cutest cake ever. Huge hit too. Everyone loved it. The coffee is a must. Can’t imagine using water. Had some cracking issues but the whip cream helped seal it up. RAVE reviews. :)

  152. Kristina

    Hear that whooshing sound? That was me racing out the door for cream. I’m all over this recipe! Happy it’s flourless too!

  153. Kris

    I’m a pumpkin roll maker, so I was not intimidated by this recipe. Rather, I was thrilled to make this for Easter. I followed the directions exactly, and my cake cracked in 4 large pieces as I was rolling it. I threw it away (after eating some chunks of yumminess) and tried it all over again. I was determined. The second time, it cracked when I unrolled it. I hand’t read any of the comments prior to making, but I impressed myself when I came up with a trifle idea. My family thought it looked lovely yesterday (in the trifle dish), but I was too disappointed to even taste it. I’m so upset that it didn’t work. Please help!!! I’ve never been disappointed in any of your recipes, but this one truly bummed me out.

  154. Barbara

    Hi Deb,

    I love your recipes and often print them out…can I not obnoxiously request a “print” button be added to your site? Otherwise it turns out to be 43 pages after all the comments print out. I usually copy and paste, but it’d be so nice to just hit Print, if it’s not a hard thing to make happen, programming-wise.


  155. Mel

    this was obscenely good. The three of us ate almost the whole thing yesterday, after easter dinner. I added a bit of nutmeg to the whipped cream. yum!

  156. Alexis

    I tried this recipe yesterday for Easter: oh dear. I wouldn’t say it was a complete disaster, but it was close. I pulled out a puffy baked cake form the oven, but somehow by the time I took off the paper towel 1/4 of pan had been reduced to wet batter. Fortunately, the cake still tasted delicious and I served squares of it warmed with the Grand Marnier whipped cream. It was divine.
    I’ll have to re-attempt the advanced technique again someday when I’m not such a novice baker. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

  157. This looks awesome! It’s inspired me to pull out an old recipe from my aunt that’s very similar to this, except I think the filling was mocha… I think she uses the towel trick, too. Can’t wait to give it a try!

  158. So I just had to update. I did indeed make this cake, and made it with a Kahlua cream filling (instead of Gran Marnier). It was a HUGE hit. And the fact that I used Nestle cocoa powder turned out perfectly since we had a guest who can’t have the alkylated cocoa powder, so usually can’t have anything chocolate. Perfect!

    We just had some of the left over cake tonight (2 days later, still tasty!) and threw some mixed berries on the side. Just saying, it’s a fantastic garnish for this cake.

  159. Roxy’s Mama

    Deb, it was deeeelish for our Easter dinner. I made the stacked layer cake version and was convinced by a guest when about to ‘build it’ that 2 layers were enough at one time. I did the two and it was fine, but for real impact I think next time I will do four layers. I used Triple Sec to flavour the whipped cream it is still orangey but half the price of Grand Marnier and Cointreau.

  160. annemarei

    what’s the brand of that big mixer you’re using? didn’t see it in the smittenkitchen gift guide, but I am looking for one.

  161. Janet

    This was one of the best desserts I’ve ever made! I didn’t have the jelly-roll pan, so figured out an equal amount of space to dam off with a foil barrier with my larger pan. Parchment paper rules here, hardly lost any cake when peeling off. Filling amount perfect for cake. Served with fresh raspberries, but am thinking a little chocolate sauce would be even better. Beautiful airy texture of cake is perfect with the cream filling. Thanks so much!

  162. Nadia

    The ingredients for this heavenly chocolate roll are practically those of chocolate macarons with salted caramel. I hope you’ll consider making these too at some point.

  163. KitchenKate

    Oh yes- how I remember and love this cake…. and remember and love the expletives! which explain why this cake only got made about once a year……

  164. Jess

    I think you should make a separate blog for your baby pictures. Quite frankly, I liked this blog a heck of a lot more before the random (and painful) inclusions of pics of your kid. Honestly, I really do love this blog, but I come here for recipes, not for endless and needless references to a kid.

  165. epicstl

    the pictures of jacob are anything but painful! painful is following this recipe exactly only to have it all fall apart after rolling. thinking maybe it needed another minute or two in the oven. luckily, it broke into 3 roughly evenly shaped rectangles so i reworked it as an ice cream terrine – layers of chocolate cake filled with a homemade coconut-chocolate chip ice cream, now in the freezer being pressed into shape in a loaf pan. chocolate and coconut are two of my MIL’s favorites, and this is for her birthday tomorrow. will probably add a chocolate glaze depending on what the top cake layer looks like when i unmold it later! (also – the cake itself is superb! will definitely add to my passover desserts next year. i might even try rolling it again.)

  166. deb

    Hi Jess — This is a blog about life in and outside the kitchen. It always has been which means that there have been stories about family, about work, about apartment hunting and now about the member of our family that demands the most attention. Anyone can skip right down to the recipe, if that’s all they’re here for. That said, it seems an odd choice to choose this post to mention the kid focus — the post doesn’t mention him but a single word; the other 1,627 words are about an incredible chocolate cake.

  167. Well… I made this on Sunday – it was a disaster. :) I rolled it in the towel – my husband said “that seems like an awfully bad idea” – “Right I know – but Deb did it and it worked great – here are pictures!!”
    Well… mine – less than steller… it all turned to pieces… so… I pulled it off the towel, pieced it together, used some wax paper and made it work. it tasted awesome – it just looked like crap. :) Oh well… guess I’m not meant to do rolled cakes.
    PS I enjoy hearing about your little guy – also seeing pictures. So fun to see him get big! :)

  168. I’m thinking of making this but instead of the whipped cream filling using your peanut butter frosting from https://smittenkitchen.com/2008/08/chocolate-peanut-butter-cake/ . But I’m worried the peanut butter frosting will be a little too thick to spread over the relatively delicate chocolate swirl cake. Deb do you have any suggestions for how I would thin down the peanut butter frosting if necessary? I’m never too sure when using cream cheese-based frostings instead of just standard butter frostings. Thanks!!!

  169. nancy

    If I don’t have that size pan, could I use a 9×13 size pan instead? If so, what adjustments should I make to the time? Thanks!

  170. Andrea

    My mom used to make this cake for company and it also sometimes cracked and flopped. As she would nervously roll it we’d watch her praying (sometimes aloud) that it would flop! If it did, the delicious mixture of cake and whipped cream was all ours to eat on the spot because she wouldn’t serve it to company. I might surprise her make it for Mother’s Day.

  171. ~B

    Lovely, lovely! Definitely will go on my to-do list.
    The first time I attempted a jelly roll-type cake, I used a tea towel, per the recipe’s instructions, but realized AFTER the fact that my tea towel had been rinsed in Downy fabric softener. Ugh. NOT a good flavor in a cake, to be sure.

  172. Chelsea

    Deb — This cake MADE my seder. And this was the first time ever that I’ve been able to make a rolled cake without having it crack. You are my hero. Thank you thank you!

  173. Fran

    It’s my first time commenting, and I just want to say that if there ISN’T a link to the latest photo of sweet, sweet Jacob, I am disappointed. In fact, I usually look for the link first! I have been a recipe-aholic for over 40 years, so it takes a lot to get my focus off a new recipe–especially anything involving chocolate! Your cutie-pie does every time.

  174. L.Hunter

    I am a weary casualty of the sh*t cake! It got me! I really tried so so hard to get it not to crack- think it was a tad over-baked. (My suspicion is my oven runs hot) No worries however, it is delicious and totes worth it- regardless of its appearance!

  175. Your roulade looks fantastic and is making me feel envious. I’ve just attempted my 4th and it was the worst ever, the whole thing just fell to bits. I think the lesson is, give up on roulades! I do like them though ;-)

  176. Megan

    Made this yesterday for Mother’s Day. I had never attempted a roll cake before and this one turned out perfectly! The cake is so rich, but light and airy… absolutely delicious. I will definitely be making this again or the four layer version, being that everyone wanted seconds! I sprinkled fresh raspberries over the top of each slice, which, of course, are perfect with rich chocolate. Thank you and YUM!

  177. Emily

    I have to say, the instructions for rolling this confuse me to no end.

    I tried making this for Easter, but was left with cake chips – delicious cake chips, but cake chips nonetheless.

    You say to roll with the towel inside, but your pictures show the towel outside. I also don’t know where the parchment paper/wax paper went that you use to help “lift and roll”.

    I think I’m missing something here, because I am completely lost as to how you rolled the cake. Any help? Anyone?

    It was so delicious, I’d like to make it properly in the future.

    1. deb

      Yikes. I realize that the photos make this completely confusing — I’m so sorry (and am shocked you’re the first of 277 folks to mention this!). The towel can be on top or underneath. The waxed paper, if underneath, can be used to lift the end of the the cake to get it started — you’re not rolling the waxed paper, just using it to lift, instead of your fingers which would surely break the cake.

      I am going to update the instructions to make this more clear. In hindsight, the towel underneath makes it easier. Again, I’m terribly sorry if you ended up with cake chips because of this. Emily, I owe you a drink!

  178. Shan

    I made this for a work friends birthday on Friday… and I had to make it twice :-) The first time, I think it was a little under baked, and I kept looking at the directions about rolling, getting confused, and I cracked the whole thing. The second time, I baked it for about 18 minutes, it was much easier to work with, and forgot about the directions and just did what I thought would make sense. It was AWESOME. I brought it into work (restaurant, which serves tons of gluten free-fare), and no one detected a hint of gluten-freeness. Thanks again for another great recipe, Deb!

    Also, kudos to you for your constant composure in the face of comments that would totally ruin my day. All that time in the kitchen must have given you some thick skin!

  179. Joy

    I just made this cake two days in a row for my mother-in-law and friend who are visiting. So chocolatey and delicious. It was really, really ugly, but so, so tasty. I’m eating an enormous piece for breakfast.

  180. stella

    This cake is amazing. Light and fluffy, just like my Aunt Patty’s hair in the 1980s– and she had some amazing hair. Fortunately, this cake required far less White Rain.

    I made it in a cookie sheet (jelly roll pan, who needs ’em?) and despite all of my fretting about overbeaten egg whites, humid cramped apartments, and the fact that my oven is about as level the deck of a pirate ship in a storm, it cooked beautifully. Rolled beautifully, too, after some tense moments and a stern talking-to. Mint whipped cream with chopped Andes and a poured chocolate ganache topping with more chopped Andes finished it in a way that was almost too much. But not quite. Not. Quite.

  181. Helen

    Deb – do you think it possible to make the cake, roll it in the tea towel and keep in an airtight container over night… then add the cream filling the next day prior to serving? Just trying to time manage for a dinner.

    1. deb

      I haven’t tried it with this cake, but many other roll cakes I’ve seen suggest that it can be kept rolled overnight, so in theory, it should be fine. Definitely makes more sense for dinner prep.

  182. Shirley

    I’ve made this three times now and each time it’s failed :( It doesn’t cook right through! The top will be all spongey but the bottom (or sometimes middle) will end up as a layer gelatinous/ jelly like substance. I really want to master the flourless sponge! Help?

  183. Cecilia

    I tried this recipe today, and it turns out the most moisture and fabulous cake I have ever eaten. Thank you for sharing. Totally love it!!

  184. Jann

    My first comment, but have been following Smitten for a couple of years now. And I love it. Thanks for this recipe – it is a triumph. Made it 2 days ago for my husband and I to enjoy for our wedding anniversary. It was divine. I have never been able to make a sponge that is light & airy, but this was just melt-in-the-mouth. And it was quick & easy and your pictures were very helpful. I will definitely be making it again.

  185. Charlotte

    mmm so good! I made it tonight for my friends b-day. i think I let it cool a little too long because it broke on me. between the layers I whipped coconut milk (the solid part with some mascarpone, coconut sugar, and vanilla) it was amazing and we almost finished the cake between the five of us! Thanks for the amazing recipe!

  186. This was my first rolled-cake. The pictures and notes were of immense help. My only hangup was the parchment paper – the cake wouldn’t release from it as easily as I would’ve hoped.

    I modified the recipe by folding in some cheesecake filling and strawberry puree with the whipped cream – I figured that would hold up longer than whipped cream alone. Also added strawberry sauce at the end (1/2 frozen puree’d strawberries with 1/2 fine-chopped fresh strawberries). All in all, a smashing success.

    My kids loved making and devouring it. Thank you, Deb!

  187. Emily

    Thanks, Deb!

    After some thought (and seeing a proper-sized jelly roll pan in a store), it also appears that part of my problem was my pan – MUCH too large, so my cake was impossibly thin (I THOUGHT yours looked thicker), so it collapsed under its own weight. My mother (at whose house I made this) said, “Of COURSE I have a jelly roll pan,” and handed me a pan which looked much like yours. I used it without even thinking of the dimensions.

    But thanks for the clarification, nonetheless! I think I’ll be making this again sometime over the summer. A nice, light cake with some raspberries, methinks? Mmmmm.

  188. Emily

    An additional note: I should have suspected my pan was the problem, because I did not have nearly enough whipped filling to spread over the entire cake.

    Really itching to try this again now.

  189. Mike1213

    This recipe is part of The James Beard Cookbook, with very few minor tweaks (but it does include the wet towel). I first made the cake about 35 years ago (from Beard’s recipes) and last a few years later. I suspect that the fact that it cracked (not badly and the crack certainly did not effect taste). I will make this during the holiday weekend because I did love it when I made it years ago.

  190. Sarah

    I made this cake awhile ago during a trial gluten-free run – tasted amazing, unfortunately the tea towel trick didn’t work for me and I ended up with a bit of cracked mess. I just covered the entire thing with the rest of the whip cream and some berries and it worked out fine, but I wish I’d gotten the roll part right!

  191. Bonoca

    For those of you who made this and ended up with a cracked chocolate cake roll, fear no more. Instead, I followed the recipe above and made it into two 9″ cake layers. After cooling a bit on the rack, I followed Deb’s instructions (for the four layer cake version of this recipe) and stuck it in the freezer to chill for an hour.

    Here’s the liberating way to make this puppy and thrill your guests….parfait glasses. I cut up the two cake layers in large chunks and layered it with the whipped cream. I made three layers….cake, whipped cream, cake, whipped cream, cake, whipped cream. Topped each parfait with some beautiful ripe strawberries and everyone was in awe.

    No more need to cuss my friends :-)

  192. Bonoca

    An addendum to my previous comment….the two 9″ cake layers and 2 cups of whipping cream filled eight parfait glasses. You could also do this in a trifle bowl as well (that might need three or four cake layers).

  193. Ruby

    I am actually going to be trying this out tonight for a cook out tomorrow. I am completely unafraid of rolling cakes because my mom has been making pumpkin rolls for the holidays for years!

    I am going to be nixing the frosting (I have no whipping cream!) and adding a raspberry cream cheese filling. I think I even have some raspberry dusting cocoa!

    Thanks so much for your blog, you are amazing. I started a couple years ago with one cake and now you have become one of my most favorite food blogs!

  194. Ashley

    I really am not sure why, but this cake completely failed on me. :( I am sure it was user error, as I’ve never had a problem with any of Deb’s recipes. I couldn’t get it off the parchment, and the bottom was very burnt, even though it was in the middle of the oven! I make pumpkin roll cakes yearly, so I get the idea, and can’t figure out what went wrong. It turned into a beautiful and delicious “trifle” though!

    And I can’t help myself… “Jess” above is CRAZY. The baby is the cutest thing on this planet, and is usually included as a link, so you don’t even have to look at the photos (although why you wouldn’t want to is beyond me). Please Deb, never stop including him!

  195. i got chocolate cake chips + like, half of a cake roll… and they were delicious. also, your baby is flippin adorable. i think you should include him in EVERY SINGLE POST <3

  196. Megan

    Wow this looks great! And as always, I love the progress photos throughout!
    One question though, how long does a cake like this last in the fridge? I’m assuming not long due to deliciousness, but otherwise, what do you think the maximum amount of time it might be ok to stay in the fridge between serves?

  197. ann

    So…made this the other day. when the cake was done…I turned it out onto cocoa’ed parchment..and while still warm, rolled it up in to parchment. when I unrolled? cake cracks.
    any ideas? is it JUST that I didnt use the towel?

  198. Bonoca

    @ Megan–Desserts with whipped cream generally are best eaten that day. Twenty four hours tops is the most I’d keep this around in the fridge. After that, things tend to get a little mushy and the texture changes. Hope this helps you :-)

  199. Fira

    Hi, I’m Fira from Indonesia! My first time baking roll cake and your recipe is my second attempt after failed due to the cake came out too crispy! And never thought this gluten free cake is soooo delicious! Thank you thank you thank you !

  200. Tatoosh

    Hello, we have done this cake twice now. Both times it has turned out well, even though we made a couple of procedural errors. We are at 5000 feet altitude and the cakes are denser than the ones in your photos, but very flavorful. We do an ice cream roll cake, using home made vanilla ice cream and the deep chocolate flavor of the cake stands up to the pronounced flavor of the vanilla (we use actual vanilla pods).

    We bake for 10 – 12 minutes, cool for 10 minutes, roll in tea towel without dusting. It has rolled out without a problem. We dust one side with cocoa, then put down softened ice cream and re-roll. No breaks! It is a very nice treat for potlucks and get-togethers here in the Philippines.

  201. Mieke

    I just found your website when looking for a decadent birthday cake. With rose-water for the flavoring in the whipped cream and with the addition of four-fruit preserves, this is hands-down the most decadent cake I’ve had for my birthday … ever! Yummmmmm!

  202. Michal

    Looks great. I think it’s a great base to make sesona cake, for instant now add a little bit pumpik marmalade or even frozen fruits melted with sugar.

  203. Leah

    Can I bake and roll in a towel the night before and then wait to fill with the whipped cream on the day of? I won’t have time to do the whole thing on the day it’s eaten, but I don’t want it to get soggy or worry about the cream separating if I put it all together too far in advance.

  204. Adrian Levine

    Funny story: I found your blog when I went looking for a chocolate passover cake recipe this past April. Found this chocloate roll and made it. It was the hit of the night. Then I made a few other of your recipes…chicken with forty cloves of garlic is one that I can recall off the top of my head. Recently, I made your babke and sour cream cake…both are super delicious! Everything I’ve made from here has been delicious so while I was chatting with some friends at my synogogue sisterhood meeting, I mentioned your blog and the passover roll. One of my friends gave me a curious look and asked, What is the name of the blog again?” I said, ” Smitten Kitchen”. She then replied, “Oh that’s J. R. ‘s daughter!!!!” Shortly after that I ran into your mother and I told her this story. I also told her that I made the chocolate roll and not one dirty word fell from lips, that’s how perfect it came out. Now I’ve learned you’re coming to do a demo at TBE in December. I’ll be there!!!!!!

  205. Connie

    My favorite recipes are usually pastries with a ton of butter (cream puffs, croissants, puff pastry), but this looked so good (and doesn’t use any oil!) I thought I’d give it a try. I think I gauged “a little underbaked” wrongly, and 15 minutes in my oven was actually a lot underbaked. Thus it stuck to the towel completely even with a layer of cocoa powder sifted. I had to scraped it off chunk by moist, fluffy chunk.

  206. GAinCA

    Has anyone tried to fill this roll cake with ice cream? Is it too soft… I am looking for a intensely chocolate favored cake and think this might be the cake to counter balance peppermint stick ice cream!

  207. Ada

    Well, I just made this instead of a chocolate genoise layer for our usual Buche de Noel and it cracked. And it retained its colourful name which you described in the previous post. I honestly think it’s because I didn’t wait too long for it to cool before rolling it up with some damp paper towels – so, totally my fault for skimming the recipe rather than reading. Anyway, the ends tasted delicious and I filled it with a mixture of whipped cream and lemon curd (so lemon curd whipped cream?) so what it lacks in appearance it will make up for in taste. FYI, your recipe is almost identical to the “chocolate souffle layer” in the Joy of Cooking.

  208. It tasted great, although it cracked. Like the previous commenter, I think most of the problem was in lack of patience– well, lack of time for me– I had to unroll and fill it too soon because we needed to leave! Oh well. I spread it with a wild berry jam before layering on the whipped cream, and it still looked quite nice as a “yule log” when I used greenery and winterberry to disguise the crack.

  209. Murni

    I made this cake yesterday and my two little children love it so much! They said it is their most favorite cake now. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I can’t wait to try other recipes from your blog.

  210. nicole

    I tried 3 times to make this cake! The first attempt resulted in the cake getting completely stuck to the tea towel. Total and Utter Disaster. My kids snacked on the crumbs and I moved on. I decided that I needed to up the quantity of cocoa powder on the tea towel. The second attempt resulted, when successfully unrolled and using a dry tea towel sprinkled liberally with cocoa powder, in a very deflated cake – almost as flat as a pancake. The third attempt was a little better – this time the cake seemed a little less deflated but still not as flat and sad looking as the second attempt – but when I rolled it back up with the cream it cracked and tore all over. Literally a huge mess of cream and chocolate cake on the serving plate. WHAT IS GOING ON? I generally pride myself on my baking skills, but for some reason, can’t quite get the hang of this one! Please help!

  211. Vianka

    tried to make it but i guess i baked it too long cause the parchment paper would not come off :( so i just got chocolate chunks. My family ate it with the cream filling and strawberries. I recommend putting strawberries in it.

  212. Sarah

    Love your blog! But I need HELP, please :) I tried this recipe last nite and I feel so ridiculous asking, but do you grease the pan and then put the wax paper on top of it? Also, my cake bottom turned out a little gelatinous… any ideas of where I went wrong? Thanks for all your recipes and wonderful writing!

  213. Angela

    I like the “nickname” better….if only because I can justify my frustration! It did look pretty horrible….but……the taste….stupendous! My teenage daughter’s were were laughing hysterically when I was rolling it together……as I was doing this, they asked “what’s the name of this cake”…..I, of course, said the “nice” name!

  214. Randi

    I’m trying this again this year. I made it last year and tagged you on FB. It cracked so I ended up layering it like a napolean. It was delicious, but I really want to roll it. Wish me luck.

  215. Julie

    I made this today for the first time – it took me about 1.5 hours. I had a hard time getting the tea towel out from under the cake, so I just left it and used it to roll the final time. My cake did get a bit flat – I noticed a few others mentioned the same thing. I’m thinking it could have been the damp tea towel I used was too wet? Or else maybe I didn’t cook it long enough. Otherwise, I only had few cracks and it rolled really well! I drizzled it with white chocolate and served with raspberries. My family loved it! I will definitely be making this again.

  216. Supriya

    This cake looks lovely. I am looking for a gluten free or flourless cake recipe for my two year old’s birthday cake. (which is june 5th) Do you think this recipe will be ok for a barely two year old to eat guilt free. am asking since chocolate has been a rare eat for him, up until now. And I want him to indulge just this once! let me know what you think.

  217. Karin

    Having spent the best part of a day making this recipe,I was so disappointed with the result. The cake cracked and was a mess. Given the amount of eggs used, choclate and my time, i would not bother to make this again!

  218. bryce

    This cake is awesome. I will spend the next few weeks perfecting it. my first attempt was a midnight bakeathon, and i got distracted by a gassy baby around 2 am and 2 30 am and 3 am :D it was too thin, its incredibly rich though. i cut the sugar down to 1/4 cup and used 4 oz of bittersweet chocolate and 2 oz semisweet. i think i would use 1.4 cup sugar and 4 oz bittersweet and 2 oz unsweetened next time. Is the 2/3 cup sugar crucial to the chemistry? because my cake ended up a little flat.

  219. B Benson

    Made this espresso chocolate roll but got nervous when there was no flour listed in the ingredients.I did add 1/2 Cake flour and it came out beautifully. What gives with the recipe

  220. Thank you so much for the only accurated recipe of the web (at least french, italian and english speaking network), I’m a Food Stylist and yesterday i had a shooting about christmas desserts, and the inside of my log was just perfect, thanks to your precious tips!
    keep doing such a good job. not many blogs manage to be so effective recipe and tecnique wise.

  221. Kim

    This is pretty much identical to my family’s traditional chocolate roll cake! Yes the tea towel or cheese cloth is essential.. Wrap the cake warm and we actually slightly dampen the towel before rolling to keep the moisture in and prevent cracks!!! I like to decorate the top with shavings from a hershey bar or holiday inspired sprinkles. A few marichino cherries are often a nice touch. Whenever I make this for friends i get rave reviews – it is always a hit. You can also add food coloring to the whip cream to make it more festive!

  222. Danielle

    I’m going to make this for Christmas as a Yule Log. With marzipan mushrooms (maybe)!

    Anyway, my question is how many does it serve? I have 9 (adults, big fans of chocolate/dessert) coming. I was thinking of making two (I have two appropriately sized pans). A log made with 1.5 and a “branch” with the other half. Because too much cake is better than too little, right?

    Has anyone else doubled the recipe?

  223. Leigh Ann

    Made this for Christmas Eve, not sure whatbindid wrong but it stuck to the tea towel & fell apart. I made it into a trifle, it was delicious. I am going to attempt it again today, looking for advice so it doesn’t stick to the towel, considering skipping the towel part, but not sure. Thanks!

  224. Den

    Thanks, Deb, for another fabulous recipe! I can’t wait to see my daughter’s face when I surprise her with this cake tonight. It came out beautifully. This is my first time commenting, but my family regularly enjoys your recipes. I sent you a card after I missed you in SF. I hope to catch you on your next tour!

  225. Judy

    Made this today & had the same problem as Leigh Ann #336 Dec 28, 2012. Was so easy to make & rolled easily too but broke apart in many pieces when unrolling. I baked it 14 min & toothpick came out clean. Was totally cool when I tired to unroll. Tastes delicious though & want to try again. I see many others had the same problem & many more that had no issue at all. HELP!

  226. TanyaT

    I’ve made this before and it’s great but this year I need a pareve (dairy free) version for Seder. any suggestions on what I could fill it with? (Kosher fake cream is not an option.) I thought about dairy-free chocolate mousse but I think it will be too runny to be able to cut slices. Any suggestions welcome! Thx

  227. Sarah GV

    Hi Deb,
    I don’t have a jelly roll pan that size, but I do have a cookie sheet with 1/2 inch sides. Is this safe? OR I have a jelly roll pan that’s 12×17. Do you think that will work or will it be too thin? Here’s hoping that you find time in themiddle of the first Seder to check your comments!

  228. Thanks so much for this recipe! I’ve made it several times over the past two years. Last night I tried a diabetic version, using erythritol (sugar alcohol) one for one instead of sugar, for some diabetic family members. It worked just super!
    Truvia would work the same way.

    About the rolling and cooling – I had the same problem as other people if I let the cake cool too long. This time I let it cool in the pan only 5 minutes. Then it cooled in it it’s roll for another 10-15 minutes while I made the filling. There was minor cracking, but the finished cake rolled up tight and round and looked great.

    This recipe is very close to the chocolate sponge roll on Joyofbaking.com, but with more chocolate and coffee, the flavor is much richer. But the cake is more delicate to handle as well. People who have been frustrated with this cake might try the one at joyofbaking.com.

  229. Francesca

    I tried this recipe, and everything was going smoothly until I tried unrolling the cake from the towel, where it then cracked in about seven places. I think that the cake was a bit too fragile since it was flourless; however, I was able to turn it into a delicious layered cake with whipped cream, chocolate ganache, and diced strawberries.

  230. Marjorie

    For many years I have made a chocolate rolled cake filled with ice cream for my eldest daughters birthday. It’s coming up in a couple of weeks. She is not gluten free but I am and so I will try your recipe. I hope it comes out right for me. One year I made 8 rolls for her party. My son-in-law said: I wish you’d make me one of those cakes”. I replied: “Sorry, i only make it for my girls!” LOL. I have always flopped the cake out of the pan onto a damp towel, and rolled it immediately. No problem with splitting. Sometimes my cake would split if I overstuffed it with ice cream but the ice cream held it together. I usually just dust it with a little powdered sugar, or leave it plain. I’ll try your GF recipe. I still have time to do another one if I’m not happy with the results. . My original recipe called for 6 Tbsp. cake flour and 6 Tbs. cocoa. From the 1949 Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery book. Wish me luck!

  231. Maude

    This cake was simply exquisite! I have celiac disease and this cake made my day over the weekend. I’m so happy to have a recipe that both me and my chocolate lover of a husband (who can eat gluten lucky him) can share. He does not even miss his favourite gluten chocolate cake with this one! Thank you so very much Deb!

  232. Elana

    Again, alongside Mom’s Apple cake (which I make at any possible opportunity) this is another superb offering from the Perelman family archives. My swiss roll pan was waaay smaller than yours so I split the recipe into 2 tins one 6.5 x 10.5 and one 6.5 x 12, and they came out just fine.

  233. Jen

    Tried this recipe to help my mom with desert for a dinner party she was having and it was a huge success. As a 16 year old with Celiac disease, I am constantly on the hunt for new yummy baking treats and this one is one of my new favourites. Thank you!

  234. I have a similar recipe from my aunt. To help stabilize the whipped cream filling, she would dissolve 1 tsp unflavored gelatin in 1.5 tablespoons water, gently heat until clear, cool, and add to whipped cream. Keeps it from collapsing!

  235. Tascha

    My husband and I are gluten free so I figured I’d make this for Superbowl Sunday. OMG I LOVED IT!! My “roll” didn’t turn out, but I didn’t care lol it was so yummy. I’ll try it again for Passover and cross my fingers that I can get it to unroll without falling apart. Thanks for sharing!!

  236. Christina

    This looks delicious! Do you think it would work if i substituted ice cream for the whipped filling? Can’t wait to try this!

  237. Kathy

    Hi there! I’ve been making this sponge roll for over 30 years now (I sound ancient) and found that if you cover it with two layers of damp paper towel and put tin the fridge for 20 minutes as soon as it’s out of the oven (still in tin), it’s then ready to go with disting with cocoa, turning out and filling with cream (or vanilla custard…yum) and rolling. You can make and finish the cake in next to no time. And guess what…no cracks either! It’s a tip I learnt from the Women’s Weekly Cooking series of cook books. Australia down under!

  238. Christine

    I was looking for a fast and easy recipe for a rolled cake to use with ice cream. This cake worked very well. I softened the ice cream and paddled it in a stand mixer so that it would spread easily. I frosted the cake with buttercream and then glazed it with chocolate ganache. The result was awesome!

  239. I made this for my sister last night for her birthday. I was looking for gluten free and ingredients I had on hand. This cake was so delicious. I will definitely make it again and again.

  240. Emily

    I made this last weekend for my boyfriend’s birthday with your sour cherry compote from 2008 to go with it. My extraordinarily un-excitable boyfriend declared it the best cake he’d ever had. And he was right; this cake was insanely good. Mine cracked a little when unrolling, but I think the cause might have been rolling it too tightly with the towel. I’ll definitely make it again, so I’ll do some experimentation!

  241. Tina

    My daughter requested this cake for our baking day and it turned out perfectly! It didn’t even matter that this is gluten-free, it’s just delicious.

  242. Goose

    This was a nightmare. I’ve made jelly rolls before. And I waited until the thing was cooled in towel, but it crumpled like your first attempt. It tasted great, but the recipe is kind of a crap shoot for rolling. Clearly I am upset about this right now.

  243. Elzabi

    I made this this weekend as part of a bit of friendly competition between friends and it was the only one that rolled without cracking! However, there was an early seized-chocolate disaster when I blindly followed the ‘melt chocolate with water or coffee’ instructions without question. Luckily we had some oil on hand to rescue it (though it did make the final cake a little goo-ier than desired), but I was wondering that was a mistake in the recipe or if siezed chocolate was meant to be used in this recipe!?

    1. deb

      Hi Elzabi — Can you tell me more about the seizing? I melt chocolate with water all of the time without trouble. Did you do so on a stove or in a microwave? (I don’t think either should be a problem, but as I always use a stove and never have trouble, maybe other methods can cause trouble.) And when you say “seized” — do you mean that the chocolate hardened? Or something else? Could it not be remelted? Hope to help.

  244. Elsa

    Hi :) Do you think I could bake this in a jelly roll pan, then cut it into sections and stack it to make a mini layer cake? Almost like your dobos torte (which is fabulous!)

    1. deb

      Elsa — It wouldn’t work exactly the same because the edges here end up higher than the center. However, I did a version a few years back as a stacked cake with whipped cream. You can see it here.

  245. Hi Deb, I am planning to make this for a friend’s 50th birthday. She has a gluten and a dairy sensitivity, but she can have butter. I was thinking of filling it with the whipped coconut cream I saw elsewhere on your site; do you think it would behave generally in the same way as whipped heavy cream? Also, I wanted to cover it with a flavored buttercream, and score/decorate it like a buche de Noel. But am wondering: is the cake too fragile to withstand being buttercreamed? Finally, it will have to travel, though in a car, not the subway! Do you have a sense as to how advisable that is? (I am thinking that if it is well-chilled, it should make it to the UWS from Brooklyn intact.) BTW, I am in the process of reading your entire archives right now–your site is so lovely. Thank you!

    1. deb

      Jennie — Thank you — I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the site. That old stuff, eek! Whipped coconut cream is very whipped cream-like on desserts, but not nearly as stable or firm. There might be ways to stabilize it (gelatin?) but I haven’t played around with it enough to know. What I might recommend instead is a Marshmallow/7-Minute Frosting. I have a couple iterations of it on this site, here and here. It holds up well, uses no dairy and you could even store the cake at room temperature. You could even torch the outside of it, if you had a creme brulee torch, for a toasted marshmallow effect. (I did this in my book for a S’More Cake and here, for a Sweet Potato Cake.)

  246. Gail

    I am sorry to report that this cake did not work for me AT ALL. I would even say it was an unmitigated disaster. I followed the recipe, along with all the extra notes/tips, but the thing didn’t even think about “rolling” – just cracked into multiple large and small pieces… I have made other flourless spongey type cakes baked in jelly roll pans that roll up just fine with coaxing,the whole towel method, so I was expecting it to work, and could have dealt with some cracks, but this was not salvageable as a cake. Delicious flavor, but it was really disappointing, since my 7 year old was waiting for it to look like a birthday cake – a chocolate roll-up log! :( This is the first ever smitten recipe that didn’t work for me, and it seems as though others have gotten this to work, so I am going to re-visit it, but I did want to add my feedback…

    1. deb

      Hi Gail — I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t work. You probably don’t want to hear this, but my family and I have been making this for decades and I’d still say that 1 in 3 times cracks more than rolls, no matter how carefully we follow the directions. Troubleshooting-wise, it can be so many things: it got too dry, it baked a minute or two longer than it needed, or just bad luck. I hope you still find it to be a delicious mess — trifle?

  247. Gail

    Thanks for saying this! I was feeling this failure acutely (weirdly!). We made little whipped cream sandwiches out of salvageable squares, used lots of decorative strawberries, dustings of cocoa powder and powdered sugar on a pretty platter, and it was delicious, and the candles made the whole thing look festive, if not cake-like. We are at this minute enjoying the last few crumbs over ice cream and I hear lots of humming (from me, too!). Thanks again. I love your blog!

  248. And I just made it too! With a ginger-jam filling, as the birthday girl in question is dairy-sensitive. I had success with the rolling, but–sadly–after transporting it in a plastic-lidded pan, with some items atop (clearly not having thought it through), it got a long crack along one side, out of which the jam gushed like gingery guts. So it didn’t look great, and I did find it difficult to serve a piece without it breaking apart on its way from pan to plate, it is so soft. The ginger/chocolate combo was fantastic. I tried to do a 7-minute frosting, at your suggestion, but it never got stiff enough to use as frosting, but it made a great sauce, and another delicious flavor element. My question, Deb, is about the 7-minute frosting: once it hits 140 degrees, do you keep the heat on under the water for the 5 mins. of mixing? It will keep getting hotter if so–is that the idea? Also, what are you looking for after those 5 mins in the water? Should it be fluffy and stiff by then? Mine wasn’t, but since it didn’t say, I took it out anyway. The stand mixer ultimately got it 85% of the way there, and it tasted great, but I was sad not to be able to frost and toast the outside with my new creme brûlée torch purchased hopefully for the occasion. (Though it would just have gotten smushed in the car, so I guess it is just as well.)

    1. deb

      Jennie — Sorry to hear it didn’t work out as hoped. The 140 degrees marker is just to make the egg whites safe to eat otherwise mostly raw; you’re just looking for warmth and that the granulated sugar has dissolved (another sign it’s the right temperature). You remove it from the heat after that.

  249. Marlo

    Just read in the directions that it is better to make and use it the same day- of course after I made it for Christmas dinner tomorrow night! Here’ s my question- The cake is still in the towel- can I just leave it that way and fill it tomorrow? Or do we eat it tonight and I’ll make another one tomorrow? Any help would be greatly appreciated! :) Thanks!

  250. ilana

    Hi. I saw someone else asked a while ago, but I didn’t see an answer: Will it work if I make the cake at night and leave it rolled up (fridge?) and fill and serve it the next day? Also, my family would prefer a buttercream filling, so I hope the cake can withstand being filled with it. Thanks!

  251. Doug

    Made the cake roll this morning and it was delicious. I am not the normal pastry chef in our kitchen, but it turned out great even though I neglected to put the cocoa powder into the batter, It had a great texture and an awesome chocolate flavor. I had no real problem rolling it, but used another sheet of parchment paper instead o the tea towel. Also used cocoa powder on both faces to limit sticking when rolling and unrolling. Thanks for posting this recipe.

  252. marietta

    This was also my mother’s favorite cake (way before 1975!) and the only one I ever remember her making from scratch – served for passover, served for guests at her rare special dinner parties (once eaten by our schnauzer before we knew chocolate killed dogs: it didn’t.) As always, thank you Deb!

  253. Happy Foodie

    Hi Deb~Thought you would enjoy this source. It’s the recipe that is our family birthday cake:
    The original recipe that was in the NYT can be found here:
    Food; For his sweet tooth
    Food For his sweet tooth By Jean Hewitt Heavenly chocolate roll 6 eggs, separated and at room temperature 4 cup sugar 6 squares (ounces) semisweet chocolate 3
    June 08, 1975 – By Jean Hewitt – Print Headline: “Food; For his sweet tooth”

  254. Caroline

    This is such a great recipe. This will be my third year making it for Passover. No better dessert in my opinion. Thank you!

  255. Marthe

    I made it in 3 8×8 pans and skipped the rolling part. Beautiful and super easy. I put some whipped cream on top then sifted a touch of cocoa on top for decoration.

  256. Chelsea

    I made this for Passover seder last night. While it was delicious, my cake completely cracked when I went to roll it! Despite the fact that I followed the instructions. I sort of glued it back, but I am unsure what went wrong. Does anyone have any suggestions? I’d love the give it a another try.

  257. Rachel Gutman

    I love this recipe. The only suggestion I have is to use a cooling rack rather than another baking sheet when turning it out. It’s much easier and works just as well.

  258. Julie

    Hi Deb – Do you know if this would this work as a regular (round) cake? I am looking for a gf choc cake recipe to make a small 2 tiered wedding cake and this looks lovely, but i wonder about the rise and structure. Any thoughts? Thanks!

    1. deb

      Julie — For a round cake version of it, use this. However, they dip in the center. It’s not really a wedding cake style cake, unless you’re okay with something very stacked and rustic.

  259. Miriam

    My daughter sent me the link for your blog. My mother made chocolate roll for Pesach. I’ve been making it for about 45 years, and now both my daughter and son make it. We’ve all had the same problems as you. Mostly we camouflage with whipped cream and strawberries. Honestly, none of our guests ever seem to mind the imperfections enough to stop them from asking for seconds. My other two family cakes are a sour cream coffee cake topped with cinnamon, brown sugar and chopped nuts, and a Viennese fruit cake made with canned plums. These three cover just about any occasion. It’s comforting to know that there are other chocolate rolls being served every year as the crowning glory of the Seder.

  260. Jasmine

    Is there a way to make this filling thicker (perhaps with creme fraiche or cream cheese) so that I could fold in strawberries and use as a layer cake filling? I’ve been asked to make a wedding cake that has a yellow cake layer with strawberries and think it would be better with some cream and not just a jam filling. I’m going to use your Vanilla Buttermilk Cake recipe and your Chocolate Butter Cake for the other layer with ganache filling. Yum Thanks for all the great recipes.

  261. Beth

    As usual, you don’t disappoint. My 7 year old has decided we must have a yule log this year and I just knew you’d have one, disasters and all. Thanks for always showing your failures and saving me from some many of my own. I’d send a box of myer lemons from my tree if you send me your PO Box information. Happy Holidays from a huge fan!

  262. Ellon

    Hi Deb, I know this post is from a million years ago but… I was looking for a recipe for a chocolate sponge to make a yule log for Christmas to bring with me to my niece’s fiance’s moms house. As a guest, I hate to show up empty handed! Anyway, the point of my comment is: When I was in culinary school our pastry chef told us about the rolling of the cake to then let it cool. and it does work like a charm! She also recommended cutting a slice about 1″ from which ever side (long side or short side) that you are going to roll from. Then after you spread the filling, put that 1″ slice on top of the filling and roll it on up. It helps the cake to not crack when you begin the rolling process. :)

    Oh, yeah, I ordered your book as a birthday gift for the mom that I nanny for last year and she LOVES it! It’s her favorite cookbook! Just sayin!

  263. el edwards

    Learn from others mistakes.
    I made the cake the day before frosting. It rolled and unrolled with no problems. At this point now that the cake was cool i should have covered parchment paper before i rerolled it and let it sit over night. After a night rolled in dishtowel the cake wanted to stay attached to dishtowel and would not unroll easily or nicely. Raspberry jam makes a good cake glue and 7 minute frosting covers a lot cracks and flaws.

  264. Ruth


    Last night my niece sent to me your recipe for the Sh*t Cake. I was looking at the ingredients and told her that this cake reminded me of a cake I made back in my younger days (1975 to be exact). My father had found the recipe and had me make it. Everyone loved it and I was upset that I could no longer make it as it seemed to have disappeared from my moms recipe box.

    As it turns out it’s the same recipe your mom used to use. I then went back to the recipe box and found that I had written it out not once but twice and one of the recipes was even dated 1975. I can’t wait to make it again!