This Gingerbread Swiss Roll Cake is light, fluffy and packed full of gingerbread flavour. Filled with a simple tangy yet sweet cream cheese filling, this cake roll is both simple and perfectly festive for winter baking this holiday season.
Swiss rolls are one of my favourite styles of cake to make as they are such fun to bake but look so impressive. You can create a simple roll cake like this Gingerbread Swiss Roll or a more decorative one to make a statement.
My Raspberry Swiss Roll uses a lemon sponge that's filled with raspberry jam and crème fraîche and is topped with beautiful fresh raspberries. My Chocolate Swiss Roll is a blog favourite - I mean who doesn't love chocolate and cream cheese filling? Covered in ganache and decorated with blackberries, it's a beauty and will make a perfect centrepiece for Christmas.
This Gingerbread Swiss Roll is perfect for the Holiday Season. Keep it simple dusted with icing sugar or jazz it up with buttercream and gingerbread cookies or sugared cranberries to make a statement!
Why you'll love this recipe
- Packed full of flavour. The sponge is filled with ginger, molasses and syrup flavours which compliments the sweet, tangy cream cheese filling.
- The texture is so light. The sponge is literally like eating a cloud. It's incredibly light, fluffy and moist.
- It feeds a crowd! Depending on how thinly you slice the roll, you can get 10 to 12 slices out of this one roll. Perfect for entertaining.
- Make ahead. This is a great option for an easy dessert that can be made ahead of time.
The ingredients needed for the ginger sponge roll are very much like those of a gingerbread cake. It's the method that we put them together and how we bake the ginger sponge that is different. The sponge is made with the depth of flavour created through the classic gingerbread flavours of molasses, golden syrup and ground ginger spice.
- Eggs - Separate the eggs when cold and then let the whites and yolks come to room temperature. By whipping the egg whites with a bit of sugar separately, kind of like creating a meringue, and then folding them into the egg yolks, creates a firm structure to the sponge that makes it easy to roll.
- Sugar - Both light brown and superfine caster sugar are used for sweetness
- Golden Syrup, molasses and ground ginger- The three most important flavours that create that gingerbread taste. You can add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon or ground all spices for an even bigger boost of warming spices.
- Vegetable oil - just a teaspoon is enough fat to help the sponge roll up once baked and not crack. Canola oil is a good option too - a neutral tasting oil is key.
- Flour - To provide structure. Weigh the flour so that you don’t add too much, which will cause a dry sponge that will crack.
- Baking powder & Salt - The baking powder helps to create additional lift to the sponge and the salt balances it out.
- Powdered Icing Sugar - technically not an ingredient needed to make the cake roll. But we do dust the tea towel needed to roll the sponge in once baked.
Cream Cheese Filling
With only 4 simple pantry ingredients, this cream cheese filling makes for a fantastic accompaniment to the ginger sponge.
- Cream cheese - I recommend Philadelphia cream cheese. If using cream cheese from a tub (rather than brick/block form), pat the cream cheese with a paper towel to remove some moisture. (Refer to notes in How to make cream cheese frosting)
- Unsalted butter - adds taste and structure to the frosting. Beat it for long enough to create air. And make sure to use room temperature butter
- Vanilla extract - adds flavour.
- Powdered icing sugar - sift into the frosting to ensure a smooth consistency. The gingerbread cake roll is also liberally dusted with powdered sugar over the top.
This Ginger Cake Roll is simpler to create than you may think. I'm here to provide you with lots of process shots so that I can demystify the making of this fabulous dessert. It's a simple layer of a gingerbread sponge, a genoise cake, baked in a large pan and rolled to cool. The cream cheese filling comes together in a matter of minutes and is layered onto the ginger sponge before it's rolled up and refrigerated. And that's it! So let's deep dive into it.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Gingerbread Swiss Roll Sponge
1. Prepare your pan. Grease with butter the base and sides of your baking pan and line with parchment paper. The paper should overhang the side so that it’s easier to remove the sponge from the tray later on. Grease the parchment paper as I find this will help with peeling off the paper before rolling the sponge. (Image 1)
2. Whip the egg yolks & sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add egg yolks and light brown sugar and whip for a good 4 minutes until they are pale and thick. (Image 2)
TIP: When you lift the whisk up you should be able to see the trail of mixture for a couple of seconds.
3. Add molasses, golden syrup and vegetable oil. Pour in the molasses and golden syrup into the egg yolk mix. (Hint- turn the mixer off before pouring in these ingredients. Otherwise, the molasses will stick all around the stand mixer whisk and take time to mix in!) (Image 3 &4)
TIP: Scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the whipping process. The molasses is a 'heavy' ingredient and tends to stick to the bottom. Scraping the bowl ensures the molasses will mix in completely.
4. Sift in dry ingredients Sift in the flour, ground ginger, baking powder and salt directly onto the egg yolk mixture into the bowl and mix at low speed until just a few flour streaks remain. This will ensure that you don't overmix. (Image 5)
4. Whip egg whites. In a separate clean and dry bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and then add the white sugar. Continue to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form and they're firm and glossy. It's kinda like we're making a meringue! (Image 6)
5. Fold egg whites into the egg yolk batter. This part is done in two stages. Firstly, add a quarter of the whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and fold it in with a rubber spatular. This helps loosen up the mixture enough to then add the remaining whisked egg whites. Fold them in with a light touch to maintain all the trapped air. This is one of the reasons why the sponge is so light and airy. (Image 7 & 8)
6. Pour batter into baking pan. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and wiggle/turn the pan to move the batter to the pan's corners. Tap the pan firmly on the benchtop to release any air bubbles. (Image 9) Use an offset spatular if needed to smooth out the surface. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the centre springs back and the sponge is golden. (Image 10)
Cool. Once baked, remove the pan from the oven and set the tray on a wire rack for ten minutes. The reason is to allow all the steam to dissipate before rolling. If the steam gets trapped within the tea towel then it creates too much moisture and the cake sponge tends to stick to the tea towel.
7. Prepare your tea towel. Whilst the sponge is sitting on the wire rack, sift powdered icing sugar onto a tea towel or sheet of parchment paper laid flat on the work surface. (Image 11) The icing sugar needs to cover a slightly larger surface area than the pan the sponge is baking in.
8. Invert the sponge onto the tea towel. After ten minutes, the sponge will still be warm but the tray should be cool enough to touch (be careful!) making it a bit easier to turn out the light gingerbread sponge from the tray onto the icing sugar on the prepared tea towel.
9. Peel off the parchment paper. Use your fingertips to gently peel the parchment paper away from the sponge. (Image 13)
Roll sponge up. Using your hands and starting from the short end of the sponge rectangle, gently but firmly roll the warm sponge into the tea towel. (Image 14) It would help if you did this whilst the sponge is still warm. Set the ginger cream roll aside with its seam side down to cool completely. (Image 15)
How to make cream cheese frosting
Whilst the ginger cake roll is cooling; this is the perfect opportunity to make your cream cheese frosting.
TIP: British Cream Cheese vs American Cream Cheese.
What’s the difference? The cream cheese sold in tub form in the UK has a much higher fat content than the brick/block equivalent. This higher fat equals more moisture in the cream cheese and this results in soupy frosting. That's a no-no! So we have to try and remove some of this moisture by patting the cream cheese with a paper towel.
1. If using cream cheese from a tub, then place the cream cheese on two pieces of paper towel, fold the paper over until the cream cheese is fully covered, and pat dry. (Image 16) Repeat with another two pieces of paper towel. Philadelphia that comes in brick/block does not need to go through this process.
2. Beat the ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and vanilla extract for 4 minutes until pale and fluffy.
Sift in the powdered icing sugar and beat again for another 2 minutes, then add the cream cheese and beat until combined. (Image 17) Refrigerate for half an hour.
Now the cream cheese filling is made, it's time to fill the sponge roll.
3. Unroll sponge. Gently unroll the sponge from the tea towel and place it on a piece of baking paper.
Fill with frosting. Dollop cream cheese frosting onto the sponge and, using an offset spatula, smooth out evenly over the sponge, leaving a 2 cm (1-inch) gap all around the edge of the sponge. (Image 18 & 19)
Roll time! Gently roll the sponge up again, using the baking paper as a guide to re-roll the sponge. Try not to squeeze out the filling too much. (Image 20)
Wrap and refrigerate. Wrap the roll in a piece of parchment paper and then tightly in plastic wrap for it to hold its shape. (Image 21) Refrigerate for 1-2 hours for the frosting to set.
4. Dust roll and serve. Once refrigerated and you're ready to serve, then liberally dust the top of the sponge with powdered icing sugar for a simple, refined look.
Slice the two ends off as they can look a little messy (chefs bonus to try some before serving!)
Slice and serve!
TIP: How to slice a cake roll neatly
Before serving, slice the two ends off to neaten up the Swiss roll. There are two ways to do this effectively.
- With a knife: Heat the knife's blade by running it under hot water, wiping dry and slicing through. Heat and wipe the blade for every cut.
- With dental floss: Cut a long piece of dental floss, and holding each end, manoeuvre it under the Swiss roll to where you want the cut. Bring the two ends up around the roll to crossover on the top and pull together to slice through the cake roll.
The Filling: Instead of a cream cheese filling, you can fill this with a simple whipped cream (made with double/heavy cream). Add in some of our favourite holiday season spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves to the cream for a more festive taste.
Also, you could add a layer of a simple pear compote to the ginger roulade. This recipe has been re-worked and re-photographed but my initial recipe included the pear compote and pear wafers to the top. I felt the recipe had too many components and was too fiddly and so have knocked back on the components. However, the pear compote, if you have any in the fridge, is a delightful addition when swirled throughout the filling.
The Decoration: I opted to dress this ginger roll very simply with a classic dusting of powdered icing sugar so that I kept the recipe at only two components. If you wanted to elevate this recipe for your Christmas table, then you could coat the roll in white chocolate (or simply drizzle white chocolate over it) and decorate it with sugared cranberries as in my Cranberry Meringue Nest Recipe. Or double the cream cheese filling and pipe some over the top and add some pretty, festive decorations, as in this Festive Buche de Noel.
- Weigh your flour. Use digital scales for an accurate measurement. Too much flour will lead to a dry sponge that can crack when rolling.
- Don’t overbake the sponge. If you do, you’ll most likely develop cracks.
- The frosting has to be thick enough. Ensure the cream cheese frosting is has the correct consistency before spooning onto the sponge cake and rolling. You could have a soupy mess otherwise. (Read more about this in my step-by-step section.)
- Refrigerate the roll before serving so that the cream has a chance to set.
Frequently asked questions
A Swiss Roll is typically made up of a thin sponge filled with jam, whipped cream or buttercream and rolled into a spherical shape. On the other hand, a roulade is sweet or savoury and often involves rolling meat or pastry. Both are traditionally served as slices.
Absolutely! Remove the sponge from the freezer after it has baked, invert the sponge onto a tea towel and remove the parchment paper. Slice the sponge into 4 or 6 rectangles. Roll each rectangle up in icing powder dusted baking paper and set them aside to cool on their seams. Fill each of the min rolls with filling and continue with the recipe.
If you over mix the batter then the gluten strands in the flour can tighten and when baked causes a rubbery sponge. Fold the dry ingredients with a light hand and mix until the flour is just combined.
This Gingerbread Swiss Roll Cake actually works really well as a make-ahead dessert. Fill the sponge, roll and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Dust the roll in powdered icing sugar the same day as serving. The Swiss roll can then be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
You can also make the cream cheese frosting a day ahead of time too. Once made, refrigerate in an airtight container. When needed to fill the gingerbread roll, simply add to the bowl of your stand mixer and beat for a minute. This loosens it and makes it easy to spread over the sponge.
How to store and freeze
To store: Gingerbread Swiss Roll Cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To freeze: Unfilled, a rolled sponge can be wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and allow to come to room temperature before filling and continuing with the recipe instructions.
Equipment you’ll need
- Baking Pan / Swiss Roll Pan / Jelly Roll Pan: Needs to be approximately 25x38cm (10x15-inch) to bake a sponge that is 1cm (½ inch) flat.
- Stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment: The eggs and sugar need a good amount of whipping to increase their volume, and a stand mixer does this effortlessly. A handheld mixer can be used if necessary.
- Offset spatula: When dolloping the cream cheese frosting onto the sponge, the spatula helps smooth it evenly.
More Festive/Christmas recipes, that you may like
If you tried this Gingerbread Swiss Roll Cake or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
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Gingerbread Swiss Roll Cake
- 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated, room temperature
- 65 g light brown sugar
- 50 g molasses
- 50 g golden syrup
- 15 g vegetable oil, (15 ml)
- 100 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ fine salt
- 50 g granulated sugar
Cream Cheese Filling
- 120 g Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
- 75 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 120 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar), plus extra for dusting
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F)Prepare your pan. Grease with butter or spray with non-stick spray the base and sides of a 25x38cm (10x15-inch) baking pan /swiss roll pan/jelly roll pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, ensuring the paper overhangs the pan's sides. This will help you later when trying to remove the sponge from the tin. Grease the parchment paper with butter, as this will help with peeling the paper off once the sponge has baked.
- Whip the egg yolks & sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg yolks and light brown sugar and whip until the mixture is light and creamy, about 4 minutes. When lifting out the whisk, you want to be able to see trails of the mixture for a few seconds.4 large eggs, 65 g light brown sugar
- Add molasses, golden syrup and oil. Add the molasses, golden syrup and vegetable oil into the egg yolks and whip until well combined. Note: scrape down the sides and in particular the base of the bowl a couple of times during this process. Molasses is heavier than the whipped yolks and tends to sink to the bottom of the bowl where it sticks.)50 g molasses, 50 g golden syrup, 15 g vegetable oil
- Sift in dry ingredients. Sift in the flour, ground ginger, baking powder and salt directly onto the egg yolk mixture into the bowl and mix at low speed until just a few flour streaks remain.100 g plain flour (all-purpose), 2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ fine salt
- Whip egg whites. In a separate clean and dry bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and then add the white sugar. Continue to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form and they're firm and glossy.50 g granulated sugar
- Fold egg whites into the egg yolk batter. Add a quarter to the whisked egg whites into the batter and fold through well to loosen the mixture. Add the remaining egg whites and using a large spatular, fold through gently until well combined.
- Pour batter into baking pan and bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and wiggle/turn the pan to move the batter to the pan's corners. Tap the pan firmly on the work surface a couple of times to release any air bubbles. Use an offset spatular if needed to smooth out the surface. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the centre springs back and the sponge is golden.Cool. Once baked, remove the pan from the oven and set the tray on a wire rack for ten minutes (no longer though as the sponge still needs to be warm when it gets rolled later on.)
- Prepare your tea towel. Whilst the sponge is resting, lay a tea towel or piece of parchment paper on your work surface and dust lightly with powdered icing sugar. (Alternatively, sprinkle with caster sugar.)Invert the sponge onto the tea towel. After ten minutes of the sponge being out of the oven, run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the sponge onto the prepared tea towel whilst it is still warm.
- Peel off the parchment paper and roll. Gently peel off the parchment paper on the bottom of the sponge. Roll sponge up. Starting from the sponge's short end, using your hands, roll the sponge up gently but firmly until it is totally rolled into the tea towel (or parchment paper). Set the roll aside with its seam side down to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Filling
- Whilst the sponge roll is cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. If you are using Cream Cheese from a tub, then place the cream cheese into the centre of two pieces of paper towel. Fold the paper towel around the cream cheese and pat it firmly to remove some of the moisture. Repeat this on another two pieces of paper towel. Set to one side. (There is no need to do this step if using Philadelphia in brick/block form).
- Whip the ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and vanilla extract and beat on high for 4 minutes until pale and creamy. Add in the powdered icing sugar (sift it in if the sugar is particularly lumpy) and beat until mixed in. Continue to beat for another two minutes. Add in the cream cheese and beat on medium speed until mixed through. The frosting should be smooth but firm enough to hold its shape. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.120 g Philadelphia cream cheese, 75 g unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 120 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
- Unroll, fill and re-roll. Gently unroll the sponge once it has cooled. Spread the cream cheese filling evenly over the sponge's surface, leaving a 2cm (1-inch) gap around the edge. Re-roll the sponge up again and wrap it in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap for the roll to hold its shape. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours for the filling to firm up.
- To Serve. Remove the cake roll from the refrigerator, discarding the plastic wrap and baking paper. Cut the two ends off with a sharp knife- this will neaten up the ends. Set the Swiss Roll onto a serving plate and liberally dust with powdered icing sugar. Slice and serve immediately.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.