A very loose interpretation of a Strawberry Swiss Roll

This is the last of my marathon of strawberry desserts (more are coming, just not at marathon pace 😮 ). Today: a Strawberry and Creme Mousseline filled Swiss Roll:

Slice of a not-so-rolled Strawberry Swiss Roll

Now if you know anything about Swiss Rolls, you know that the above photo bears very little resemblance to any other Swiss Roll out there. I had grand visions for this, really: a rich, buttery pastry cream (the Creme Mousseline), sliced strawberries, all drizzled with some strawberry coulis, wrapped artfully in a light as air sponge cake. I mean honestly, that sounds pretty damn good, doesn’t it? Every step of making this dessert went wonderfully and each component tasted amazing, but at the very last step–the most important step–eh, not so successful.

The last step, you see, is where you roll this up into a beautifully presented cake, the roll in Swiss Roll. Basically, you have a large, rectangular sheet of cake with the filling spread out on it, and then you roll it up tightly to get a nice, pinwheel kind of look. I had a tough time getting it to roll properly and the fillings would slip out of place a bit. I was nervous, trying to support the gentle cake so it wouldn’t rip, adjusting things slowly and deliberately, hoping that somehow I could get this thing to roll up. These cautious movements didn’t get me very far, so instead, I thought that like other desserts that require fast, decisive movements, I would just go for it. So in one swift motion, I rolled that damn thing as best I could, and then, in slow motion, I watched as it came crashing down on itself, vomiting its delicious contents all over the counter top and unrolling into a sweet, sticky mess of what wonderful things could have been.

Normally, when things go sour in the kitchen, I might have a bit of a temper. However, this time, standing there with pastry cream and strawberry spread everywhere, I wasn’t mad. I just laughed and thought of picking a sprig from my pathetic mint plant to stick in the middle of it for a photo, you know, to dress it up a little. 😉 So here’s how things looked after a bit of clean-up (sans mint):

The result: hmm, not quite as great

I’ve had a tough time naming this dish. Sure, I set out with the goal of making a Strawberry Swiss Roll, but the result was more of a humble pie. Fail cake? Strawberry Swiss Unroll? Strawberry shortcake cobbler? Strawberry pastry crumble? Strawberry disaster? I’m very open to suggestions–surely the photo inspires you? Throw some names out there–you won’t hurt my feelings. 😉

Strawberry Seduction LogoBut an important note about not judging a book by its cover: while this looks like hell, it tasted awesome. Flavor-wise, I wouldn’t change a thing–the cake was incredibly light and fluffy, letting the pastry cream and strawberries really shine while absorbing any errant juices. Strawberries and cream are a natural combination, but going a step further with Creme Mousseline was really quite a treat because that stuff is rich (if you’re not sure of what it is, think rich, buttery pastry cream). I would most certainly revisit this dessert, just armed with a better plan for how to assemble it, perhaps not in swiss roll form.

This also, is the last of my numerous entries to Strawberry Seduction, an event focused on strawberries. I derived some portions of this dish from Le Cordon Bleu’s Complete Cooking Techniques (which as far as cooking books go, is an incredible reference for…everything. Brief, but thorough).

  • Sponge cake
    • 4 eggs
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup flour
  • Creme Mousseline
    • 6 egg yolks
    • 1/2 cups sugar
    • 4 Tbsp flour
    • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
    • 2.5 cups milk
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
    • Optional: vanilla bean
  • 1 lb strawberries

Sponge cake

Whip the eggs over gentle heat until fairly thick

The ingredients to the cake are pretty minimal, so a big part of actually fluffing this cake up is beating air into the eggs. Of course, without any cream of tartar, baking soda, or other leavening agents, that could be a tricky one. The trick? Patience and gentle heat. And a good mixer–either you take steroids and can beat the hell out of eggs for an extended period of time, or you have an electric mixer. Guess which category this software engineer falls in?

Before you do anything, prepare a pan by greasing the bottom/sides and press in a piece of parchment paper (for easy cake removal) against the bottom of the pan. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

So begin by adding the eggs and sugar into a heat-safe bowl. Set this up over a pan of hot water (very gently simmering) such that the bowl is not making direct contact with the water (just like you would for melting chocolate). With this all set up, using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs on high speed until fairly thick–thick enough, that you can lift the beaters and do a figure eight, sort of like you see in the above photo. This could take several minutes, so don’t panic if nothing seems to be happening right away.

Gently fold in flour

Once the eggs have thickened nicely, take the bowl off of the heat and continue to whisk as it cools down for about 3-5 minutes until it is very thick. After this, very gently fold in the flour in batches, doing as little as necessary to avoid beating out all of that air you’ve worked on beating in.

Sponge cake fresh out of the oven and nicely colored

Carefully pour this into the prepared pan, keeping the handling to a minimum, and transfer this to the oven for about 5 minutes. The cake should turn golden, rise, and be spongy when pressed lightly. Once done, get this out of the oven, knife the sides free, and carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack so that it can cool off.

Creme Mousseline

Mix the creme well until fairly thick

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. If you’re using the vanilla bean (I didn’t bother, but its always a nice touch), slit the bean, scrape the insides, and place all of this in the milk pan. Drop the heat and let the vanilla steep in the milk for about 30 minutes before you continue, after which, you should raise to boiling again.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until well mixed, at which point, you should then whisk in the flour and cornstarch. Once the milk is boiling, slowly mix it into the egg yolk mixture (temper it first with a small amount of the hot milk or risk scrambling the eggs!). Mix this well and transfer the entire mixture back into the hot saucepan.

Cook the creme a bit more to thicken it up even more

Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring all the while (it will be tough, that mixture thickens up quickly!), stirring until large bubbles begin to breach the surface. Drop the heat to low and just keep stirring until the mixture becomes very thick, and just when you decide you’re done, add in the butter bits at a time, mixing until entirely melted down and incorporated. Let this cool off a bit before you continue–life will be easier and it will become more pastry-cream looking (since right now, its not so attractive or easy to work with).


Reduce the strawberry puree a bit

The strawberries were very simple to prepare: hull and slice the berries thinly. I pureed some of them (about 1/4 of them) and reduced the puree for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat to be more syrupy and reserved the slices.

Putting it all together

Spread the creme over the sponge cake, followed by the sliced strawberries, and finally, drizzle on the puree. Oh so close!

This is where things have the opportunity to go south–I would know. 😉 So you have the completed cake, which has cooled off, the creme which has also cooled off a bit, and the strawberries and puree. First, spread the creme out as best you can evenly over the cake, after which, lay out the strawberry slices and drizzle on the puree.

The goal: wow, sure looks great!

And here we are. The moment of truth. This is where, with great ease, you should roll the cake along the shorter side (so you’d have a long thin roll). We’ll just say mine came out very close to this photo. 😉 Some pointers: put a towel or something that won’t slip underneath the cake, followed by a layer of wax paper. Use the wax paper to help you roll and grip the cake, rolling as tightly as you can. If you think “just going for it” will do the trick, go back to the top of this post and look at my photos. 😉 If you successfully roll it up, sprinkle some powdered sugar over the top, have a drink to celebrate, tell me the secret, and enjoy! If it falls apart, have two drinks and enjoy!

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18 Responses to “A very loose interpretation of a Strawberry Swiss Roll”

  1. a. grace Says:

    i’d call it a sad sack of strawberries. then i’d apologize and eat it gleefully.

  2. Meeta Says:

    who cares what it looks like – if it tastes good give me extras! nice one mike!

  3. kittie Says:

    Mike – out of all the strawberry creations you’ve been presenting to us recently, this is the one that I just *know* I could eat the whole lot of myself!

    I reckon it’s more of a ‘log’ than a roll…

  4. RecipeGirl Says:

    So funny- I sometimes wonder how those cookbook authors get those perfect looking pictures. It looks like it tastes good anyways!

  5. Bellini Valli Says:

    I have heard that you can brush something on like kirsch or warmed jam and then roll it up. It may work…and if not just drink the kirsch. No matter what I’m sure it tasted delicious:D

  6. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    It’s the taste that counts!

  7. Helene Says:

    So far I love all your strawberries desserts.

  8. Kevin Says:

    It looks like it tastes really good even if it did not roll up too well.

  9. Nina Says:

    My mom always said: “It can never go down your throat in one piece, so eat up.” The flavor makes up for the looks that went all wrong.

  10. anticiplate Says:

    Those food stylists make everything impossible:)

  11. Jeff Says:

    Rolling stuff is going to be my downfall. Compared to what I would have put out yours looks 100x better.

    Mine probably would have ended up on the wall.

  12. Laurel Says:

    Your problem is that your cake was too thick. If you had cooked it on a sheet pan(cookie sheet), it would have spread out more, been thinner, and thus rolled easier. 😉 I’ll be trying this once the price of strawberries comes down in about a month.

  13. Thip Says:

    Wow! you have a long series of strawberries… :)

  14. noble pig Says:

    I think it looks great! I wouldn’t complain a bit if it was put in front of me!

  15. Mansi Says:

    hehehhe…I faced this the first time I tried swiss roll, but apparently, refrigerating it for a couple hours or more works:) but I agree, what tastes good never goes waste!! sorry Mike, I’ve been so busy with my event I just missed your deadline:( I was planning to make a shortcake this weekend..will see if I actually get to it!:)

  16. We Are Never Full Says:

    So funny you posted a baking “failure” (even though this is def. NO failure!) – I just did the same and it also contained strawberries! Hmmmm.

    I still think this looks good. I also think you should start a new blog called mikes-strawberry-table.

    amy @ http://www.weareneverfull.com

  17. mike Says:

    a.grace — rofl! I like it! And I’d be glad to share 😉

    Meeta — thanks! Haha, so much for finishing my strawberry desserts on a strong note, lol

    kittie — very glad to hear that! 😀 But yea, log sounds more spot on…haha, a fallen over, kicked around looking log.

    RecipeGirl — definitely confounds me! The more I compare mine with their photo, the funnier it is to me. Ah well, one more thing for to practice…with such delicious mistakes, lol.

    Bellini — thanks for the tip! I’ll have to try that next time, and like you said, even if it doesn’t work out, drinking the kirsch sounds like it would mean a happy ending either way. Thanks! :-)

    Lydia — haha, thanks! I’ll have to revisit this one later to figure out a way to make it look better because I definitely loved the taste.

    Helene — thanks 😀

    Kevin — thanks! It did, so I can get past my stellar presentation this time, lol.

    Nina — haha, I like the motto! Thanks :-)

    anticiplate — welcome! And that they do. Haha, I’m here to bring them down a notch.

    Jeff — lol, funny you should mention the wall… 😉

    Laurel — I agree now when I compare my photos to the book…the book one is definitely thinner. I’ll have to keep it in mind the next time I try this sort of thing. Thanks for the tips! Let me know how you fare when you give it a go

    Thip — haha, I try 😛

    noble — thanks! :-)

    Mansi — thanks for the pointer, I’ll have to try that as well! And no worries about the event thing, I entirely understand! :-)

    We Are Never Full — haha, well thank you! :-) And I saw the post–it looks great to me! And lol, mikes-strawberry-table will be done soon 😛

  18. Carla Says:

    Well, I’m just a few years late to this bandwagon.
    but, when I’ve made a cake roll, this is what I did. When you take the cake out of the pan, you want to roll it up in a tea towel or the like. Let it set. ( Don’t let it cool laying on a flat surface).
    When you’re ready to fill, unroll, fill, re-roll. Worked beautifully.

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