Carrot Cake Swiss Roll
We open on a pristine field with, I kid you not, prancing lambs all front of the Welford Park estate in Berkshire with lovely music playing in the background. Allow me to remind you, this is not the opening to a movie adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. Gosh, I love this show.
This is our first episode of the season and Mel and Sue open the show by explaining how 12 bakers will be competing for the title of the Greatest British Baker. Cake is the theme for the first episode and the first Signature Challenge of the season is Swiss Rolls. As explained on the show, a Swiss Roll is traditionally a fat-less sponge made with flour, sugar, and eggs. The bakers have two and half hours to complete the challenge and they set to work on their creations putting together beautiful cakes with decoration and flavors like Diana's lemon curd Swiss roll and Richard's strawberry and pistachio Swiss roll.
Get ready to hear this often, but I have never made a rolled cake before. I decided to start this on Easter weekend and, true to Easter bunny fashion, I landed on making a carrot cake roll. Years ago I found an amazing recipe for the most delectably moist carrot cake and it has never failed me, so I thought it would super simple to adapt this to a Swiss roll cake…I’m so naïve.
My first stop was to find a carrot cake roll recipe to use as a base recipe and I found one posted by Crazy for Crust and then I made edits to fit the flavors and textures of my own traditional carrot cake recipe. I do consider myself an advanced home cook, fully confident in straying from recipes to create a different and unique flavor profile, but I am no professional baker. Looking back, I don’t think essentially writing my own recipe was the best path to take for this first bake. Hindsight is 20/20 though, right? Scroll through the photos below for my process.
Putting together ingredients and popping something in the oven is something that any competent human can manage. Flipping something out of a pan obviously requires the courage of Braveheart and an advanced college degree. After pulling my cake out of the oven, I suddenly felt frozen, unable to wrap my head around how I'm supposed to flip this cake out of the pan. I quickly abandoned my foe while I hurried to start up the episode and study the competitors flipping out their cakes. The youngest competitor, Martha, explains that the cake needs to be rolled while it is hot because of molecule dispersion or whatever, so I knew I needed to figure this out fast. I again approached my nemesis; terrified and with the pan still piping hot, I started the dreaded flip onto my parchment paper dusted with powdered sugar. With the pan at almost a 90 degree angle, I lost my nerve and made the fateful decision to flip the cake onto my hand that held a kitchen towel and slowly lower the cake onto the table thinking I could just slide the towel from underneath cake after it was safely laid on the table's surface.
See the disaster above. To be fair, the cake was also so moist and so thin that it ripped apart at the slightest touch. Paul and Mary would have explained my cake was under-baked, too thin, and had too many chunks of fruit in the batter. Well, now I know. My failure forced me to go back, think about what could have gone wrong, and adjust my recipe. I put all the cake pieces in a tubberware (I wasn’t going to trash it; it still tasted delicious!) and set to work on a new cake.
For the new recipe, I was going to cut those pieces of pineapple smaller, save the cranberries for the filling, use less oil, and bake the cake longer. I want this cake to be moist, yet pliable.
This second attempt came out of the oven and seemed much more promising. But the dreaded pan flip was coming up. Working fast with not enough time to even get nervous, I turned that pan upside down on the table and sloooowly lifted it up. SUCCESS! The cake was all in one piece! I rolled that mother #$%@ up in parchment and put it aside reveling in this small victory.
Prior to baking my second cake, I whipped together a cream cheese frosting that I have made a million times and stuck it in the fridge. Naturally, once it was time to frost my cake, the butter and cream cheese had hardened again in the refrigerator, so not thinking, I popped it in the microwave to soften. I didn't take a picture of this, but that decision turned my beautiful, yet stiff, frosting into a gloopy mess. Ok, frosting round 2! My second batch of frosting came nowhere near the microwave and turned out perfect leaving me with just the assembly. I unrolled my cake, covered with icing, and rerolled. Before rerolling, I also sprinkled a few dried cranberries that I had been soaking in a bowl of water. And just like that, I had a completed roll!
I didn’t stop there because I wanted to decorate mine like everyone on the show like Chetna with her chocolate swirls and Luis with his candied oranges, so I decided on some pineapple flowers and candied carrots to adorn my roll. I used this recipe explained here for the pineapple flowers and here for the candied carrots.
And the final result:
In the end, this whole process took about 6 hours but I have to tell you, I was impressed with myself. It looks pretty great for a novice, but the real test was the taste. I took this to Easter lunch at my mom’s house and cutting into it made me quite thrilled to see that distinct roll.
Being honest though - it tasted just ok. My mom, grandmother, and husband were all very sweet to tell me that it was great, but I’m no fool. The flavor was great but the texture just wasn’t there. It was a little tough and not fluffy. Basically, I should not have started this with creating my own recipe. Not to mention, I did not have a jelly roll pan but instead used a half sheet pan resulting in my cake being extremely thin. If you want to make this, I suggest purchasing a jelly roll pan like the one here. Will this create a better cake? I really don’t know. Make this recipe at your own risk and feel free to make suggestions in the comments on how I could make this better.
Carrot Cake Swiss Roll
For the Cake
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cake spice (completely optional)
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cups shredded carrots (2 large carrots)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup fresh finely chopped pineapple
- 1/4 cup cranberries soaked in water
- powdered sugar (for dusting)
For the cream cheese frosting filling
- 8 oz room temperature cream cheese
- 1/2 cup room temperature butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cake spice (optional) in a medium bowl. Whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and oil in a large bowl. Stir in carrots and pineapple. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Pour mixture in a parchment lined and greased jelly roll pan or half sheet pan and spread to cover the entire pan. Bake for 15-16 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and flip cake out onto parchment paper generously dusted with powdered sugar. Roll into a spiral and set aside until cooled completely.
While the cake cools, beat together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla and then slowly add the powdered sugar a little at a time until completely incorporated.
Once the cake is cool, unroll, spread a generous amount of cream cheese frosting, sprinkle with the rehydrated cranberries, and reroll. Adorn with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or go crazy with some dried pineapple flowers and candied carrots.