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Saturday, 22 June 2013

Baking with my Grandmother: Swiss Roll with Strawberries and Cream

My Grandma is a phenomenal baker and sugar-craft artist. And I’m not just saying that because she is my Grandma, she really is. Just look at these photos and you will understand what I mean (sorry about the image quality). Apparently she was once asked to make cakes for Harrods, but refused, not wanting to turn her hobby into a chore.

I had a very cake-privileged childhood, and my standards for birthday cakes, and most other desserts were very high for an early age.

Looking back, it seems pretty amazing, but at the time it was just normal. I’m sure her baking has affected my own perception of what a perfect baked thing should be like. Not that having high standards is a bad thing.

One of my biggest regrets in life is that I really haven’t spent that much time baking with my Grandmother. It is one of the few things we have in common, and I really wish that I had more of an effort to cultivate it earlier on in my baking-conscious life. I’m sure that our relationship now would have been a lot better if I did. A few weeks ago I spent the day baking with her, probably for the first time ever, or at least a very long while.

My Grandma has been really feeling her age lately and when I demanded the baking day (quite bossily), she was really uncertain. An understanding was reached that she would sit and drink tea and I would do all the hard work. Of course on the day, she was on her feet the whole time, and I was relegated to the role of Sous-Chef – not that I minded of course. It was brilliant. It was a lovely day, and I learnt so much. Grandma could just look at a bit of cake batter or dough and know what it needed, and didn’t even need to set a timer for the oven – she just knew.

Swiss Roll is a light, fatless sponge rolled with strawberries, whipped cream and a little jam. It may seem a bit retro, but it does taste heavenly and freezes very well. And a perfect way to enjoy the new season British strawberries. I’m sure other variations would also be delicious – I was thinking of trying it one day with lemon curd and blackberries, or something. Make sure you serve it on a doily.


3 oz self-raising flour
3 eggs – it is very important that you make sure they are at room temperature
3 oz caster sugar
Some berry or apricot jam
Whipping or double cream, whisked until thick
1 punnet strawberries (not Elsanta), cored and cut into little bits. Grandma was deeply unimpressed that I asked for a chopping board for cutting the strawberries, instead of cutting directly into my thumb - and that I asked for a different knife - the one she used was little sharper than a butter knife.


You will need a 9 by 12 inch baking tray with raised edges, lined with greaseproof/baking paper coming a little higher up the sides. The cake is very delicate, so make sure you line the tray well, no matter how non-stick it might be.

Cut a rectangle of greaseproof/baking paper a little larger than the baking tray, and sprinkle liberally with sugar – it might help to put this on top of a wire cooling rack.

Preheat the oven to 220 c

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until it is really thick and 'leaves a trail' when you move the whisk. In a free-standing mixer this took about 5 minutes, on a high-speed setting.

When the egg/sugar mixture is thick and fluffy, gently fold in the flour, taking care to knock out as little volume as possible. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes.

When the cake is ready, turn it out of the tray onto the sugary paper, and carefully peel off the paper that was on the underside of the cake. Don’t worry if it gets a bit crumbly. You will have to work quite quickly to get the cake rolled as soon as possible. At the edge from which you are starting to roll, make two little horizontal cuts about ½ an inch deep, about ½ an inch from the edge. This helps the cake roll into itself, without breaking at a point you don’t want it to break at. Now roll the cake up, in the paper, and leave to cool.

When the cake has completely cooled, unroll it and carefully spread a thin layer of jam over the surface, followed by a thick-ish layer of whipped cream and strawberries. Roll it back up and you are done!

The cake freezes really well, and I recommend it if you are not serving it very soon after making it. If you serve it from the freezer and it hasn’t fully defrosted, it becomes a little bit like strawberry ice cream Swiss Roll, and that isn’t bad either.

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