Pantry Basics: Roll Cake (ロールケーキ)

Japanese roll cake

When my toddler, T, had his first taste of this roll cake his wee face broke into a wide smile that lit up his eyes and entire face. Like him, I can’t seem to get enough of this light-as-a-feather roll cake. Asian incarnations of the Swiss roll are decidedly lighter than their European forebear. The Japanese, in particular, have catapulted the roll cake (ロールケーキ or ro-ru keiki) into another stratosphere. Their roll cakes tend to be lightly, rather than assertively sweetened. And they have a soft, delicate texture and moist, fine crumb I absolutely love. I was heartbroken when the Arinco stall in the basement of Ion where I had indulged in many a salted caramel roll cake air-flown from Japan closed down.

Souffle roll cakeIn my teens and early twenties, I could easily and very happily put away an entire boxful of Polar mini sugar rolls in one sitting. Those are like the basic white T-shirts of the roll cake universe—soft yellow sponge cake held together by the slightest hint of buttercream and dusted with sugar (or not, you can choose). My tastes were simple, but I must confess that my appetite was not quite, ahem, ladylike. My brother-in-law once most embarrassingly described me as having “the appetite of a Mongol warlord”. But with age and a plummeting metabolism, I have since been able to tame my inner warlord. There are few temptations that induce me to ingest food in vast quantities, boa constrictor style. A good roll cake is one of them. Especially one made using the recipe below. I kid you not. I rarely eat more than a single serving of the desserts and baked goods I make, but there is something about the airy texture of this roll cake and the very simplicity of its construction (I consider it a ‘what you see is what you get’ sort of confection) that makes me go weak at the knees. For a red velvet inspired version, check out my recipe here.

About Su-Lyn Tan

Su-Lyn is Aun's better half and for many years, the secret Editor behind this blog known to readers simply as S. Su-Lyn is an obsessive cook and critical eater whose two favourite pastimes are spending time with her two kids and spending time in the kitchen. She looks forward to combining the two in the years to come.


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  1. Bee 7 October 2012

    Hi Aun and Su-Lyn,

    Thanks for featuring RM on your Awesomeness food blogs page. Love it. 🙂

    Baby T is so big now and such a cutie. Cherish the good times.


    • S 8 October 2012 — Post Author

      Hi Bee, You’re most welcome. Thanks for stopping by! You sound like you’re having a blast with Baby G 🙂

  2. Allison Day 9 October 2012

    This cake sounds delightful! Unfortunately didn’t get to try any of these souffle roll cakes last time I was in Japan, but I’m definitely going to make an effort to whenever I’m able to get there next. ^_^

    • S 10 October 2012 — Post Author

      Dear Allison, definitely do! And perhaps you’ll then be inspired to try your hand at making your own 🙂

  3. bao-kim 20 December 2012

    Dear Su-Lyn,

    Thank you for this recipe. Could I do it as a regular round cake, without rolling up? Will it be sturdy enough for a buttercream frosting?

    Thank you,


    • S 20 December 2012 — Post Author

      Hi Bao-Kim
      Because this recipe only relies on whipped egg whites (there’s no baking powder), I’m not certain that it will rise reliably as a regular cake as I haven’t tried it myself. You will need to line the base and sides of your cake pan to ensure that you can unmould it. It may hold up to the lightest layer of buttercream but not much more than that, I think. Just imagine chiffon cake without the sturdiness of a crust. It’s really soft. If you want a cake form, I would make this recipe in the 28cm pan and stack it up in layers. But you can always try baking it in a cake pan and see how it turns out 🙂

  4. DIane 11 January 2013

    I just made this … i was desperate for a sponge type of cake to do a layer- birthday cake for my boy tomorrow … first one was an utter failure. By God’s grace, yours popped up when I was hunting for another recipe … needless to say, i was puzzled by the need to cook a roux … but … the texture is simply amazing … THANK YOU!!!

    • S 11 January 2013 — Post Author

      Dear Diane
      I am so glad the recipe worked well for you! Did you bake it in a square sheet pan or in a regular cake pan? Curious because a reader asked if it would work in a cake pan.


      • DIane 12 January 2013

        I did it in a swiss roll pan, 28 X 35. I think it would work in a cake pan, but the cooking time will have to be increased.

  5. Samantha 4 March 2013

    I love the texture of this cake and they tasted real good! Is there anyway to prevent it from shrinking? My cake shrank quite a bit.

    • S 5 March 2013 — Post Author

      Dear Samantha, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it does rise to impressive proportions and then resides. But it should still remain a decent 2cm thick. Did it shrink from the sides? Because I’ve found that lining the pan with aluminum foil really helps on that front. Perhaps try baking it for a few minutes longer?

  6. Sunmin 1 January 2016

    I have a question,,,when make the batter,
    Isn’t the first pour the milk? Egg first?

    • S 27 September 2016 — Post Author

      Dear Sunmin,

      Nope. The flour goes into the butter first, then the egg mixture, then the milk.

  7. decookie 8 June 2016

    Hi, the optional 5-10g of matcha powder is on top of the 60g of flour, or along with 50-55g of flour?

  8. Tutti 24 September 2016

    Thanks for sharing this recipe:.. It is indeed awesome… I made over thirty rolls (including durian) and have never received bad feedback.

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