These vanilla swiss rolls are super easy to make - the sponge layer is moist and tender, easy to (man)handle and and rolls easily without cracking! No extra steps needed - just bake, spread, roll and chill for the perfect Swiss roll.
Combine whipping cream, caster sugar (or powdered sugar), and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl.
With handheld beaters or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip on medium speed until peaks are just stiff. Chill in the refrigerator to let it firm up.
Make the cake
Preheat the oven (top and bottom heating mode) to 170°C (338°F). Line the base of an 11 x 14 x 1-inch baking pan with baking or parchment paper.
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and caster sugar. With a handheld whisk, whisk until the sugar dissolves and the yolks turn pale and increases in volume, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the oil, a bit at a time, stirring until fully incorporated. Next, stir in the milk and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the sifted flour mixture in 2 additions, stirring with a whisk until the batter becomes smooth and free of lumps.
To make the meringue, place egg whites in a clean and grease-free mixer bowl. Sprinkle over the cream of tartar. Fit a stand mixer or handheld beaters with a whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until the whites turn frothy. Add sugar, bit by bit, and continue whipping until the meringue forms just stiff peaks, about 5 - 7 minutes.
Fold ⅓ of the meringue into the batter. Do this gently with a whisk until well incorporated. Fold in the next ⅓, gently so as not to over-mix and lose the trapped air bubbles. Fold in the remaining meringue, again as gently as possible, and stop once the batter looks homogenous and has the same consistency throughout. There should no streaks of meringue visible.
Pour the batter into the pan and spread with a dough scraper or offset spatula to fill the sides and corners. Smooth the surface and give the pan a shake. Tap firmly on the counter to eliminate air pockets.
Bake on the middle rack for 22 to 25 minutes or until the top turns golden brown. The top should no longer look moist and springs back when lightly pressed.
Once out of the oven, immediately drop it from a height of 2 inches above the countertop. Let it sit in the pan for 1-2 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around its edges. Flip the pan over onto a clean sheet of baking paper (or cling wrap) to release the cake. Gently peel away the parchment paper that was on the bottom of the cake.
Prepare to roll the cake
Cut the cake in half, lengthwise. For sugar rolls: Leave the sponge layer(s) with its skin facing down on the parchment paper. For plain cream rolls: Turn over the sponge layer(s) onto a clean sheet of parchment paper. Optional: While the cake is still warm, peel away the skin.
On both sponge layers, make 2 shallow slits, spaced 1.5 cm apart, on the shorter edge with a sharp knife (do not cut in too deeply or else the cake may break when rolled). At the opposite end, cut away a bit of cake at an angle.
Pre-roll the cake while its still warm. Start at the end with the cut slits. Fold in the edge of the cake together with the paper/cloth and continue with the roll. Roll it tight, but slowly and gently, with the paper/cloth inside the roll. Keep it wrapped in its parchment paper/cloth until it cools slightly (you can pop it in the chiller for 10 minutes for a quick cool).
Spread the cream
Gently unroll and spread the whipped cream evenly on top, leaving about a 1-cm (½- inch) border around the cake. At the end where the slits are, the cream should be thickest and spread more thinly nearer the cut end.
Roll the cake
Start at the end where the slits were made and the cream is thickest. Fold this edge onto the cream, using the paper/cloth to lift the cake off the surface and roll into itself as you roll. Roll as before, but this time, pulling the parchment paper/cloth away from you at an angle, to help lift the cake off the counter and roll into itself. Keep the roll tight, but do it gently and slowly. Be careful not to let the paper/cloth drop onto the cream, otherwise you'll have a messy roll. NOTE: If you pre-rolled the cake, you can re-roll without using paper/cloth but be gentle with finger pressure.Once rolled, keep it wrapped in its parchment paper/cloth (use a clean sheet/cloth if it got messy). Make sure the rolled cake is sitting with the edge facing down. Chill for at least 2 - 3 hours, or overnight for best results.
Slice the cake
Have a few sheets of paper towel handy. Remove the parchment paper from both log cakes. For sugar rolls: Sprinkle caster sugar on a clean sheet of parchment paper. Roll the log cake with its brown skin on the outside, a few times to coat thoroughly with sugar. For plain cream rolls: Do not coat with sugar.Using a sharp knife, slice a bit off both the ends of each log cake. Slice each log cake into 6 equal slices, about 1-inch thick, wiping the blade clean after each cut, with a paper towel.
Tips for perfecting vanilla Swiss rolls
Should I pre-roll the cake? Pre-rolling an un-filled sponge is not needed, but helpful. It can make the final roll easier as pre-rolling helps 'tame' the sponge into a roll pattern. You can do the final roll without using parchment paper.What can I use to roll the cake? Baking or parchment paper, a clean tea cloth, or cling wrap can all be used. A tea cloth or cling wrap is softest, and also does a better job of holding the cake in its tightly rolled pattern.Should the cake be rolled while still warm or when cooled? You can pre-roll the sponge layer, and it will be easier to roll when the cake is still warm. Rolling the sponge when it has completely cooled will be a bit harder, if it’s not been ‘tamed’ into a roll pattern by pre-rolling. Can I bake in different sized pans? This recipe works best in an 11 x 14-inch baking tray, as the thickness of the baked sponge ends up between 2 - 2.5 cm (0.75 - 1 inch). If baked in different-sized pans, the sponge layer may end up being too thick or too thin. A sponge that’s too thin may break more easily when rolled. Conversely, a thick layer will be more difficult to roll, thus prone to breaking as well.How do I avoid cracks or breaks?
Avoid over-whipping the meringue. Though this is a chiffon-based sponge cake, you don’t want to whip the meringue to overly stiff peaks.The ideal stiffness is when you get a firm peak that holds its shape on a whisk, but droops just a bit at the tip like a hook.
Avoid over-baking the cake. Baking for too long a time can dry out the sponge. It will be harder to roll, hence more prone to breaking. Once the top of the cake no longer looks moist, turns a golden brown, and springs back when lightly pressed, remove from the oven.
Pre-roll while the cake is still warm. A cake that is completely cooled will be harder to roll, and prone to breaking. However, once you've pre-rolled the cake, you need to let it cool before spreading the whipped cream.