Japanese style chocolate cake roll made from a super soft and fluffy chiffon cake filled with a light chocolate whipped cream. Airy, semi-sweet chocolate goodness, it's so easy to indulge in the whole cake all by yourself!
A "Not-Too-Sweet" Japanese Style Dessert
One of my husband's favorite desserts is a chocolate swiss roll that we used to buy at a Japanese bakery on Robson street in downtown Vancouver. Every time we'd go there, there would be a few other desserts that would pique his interest by their attractive appearance but after trying several kinds, he eventually set his heart on getting this one particular chocolate cake every single time. (I hope that it's a good indicator of his decision making style for life partners too HAHA.)
The cake roll is chocolate flavoured and consists of a soft fluffy chiffon cake base which is rolled up and filled with a light and airy chocolate whipped cream. Like most popular desserts in Asia, it has a light texture and creamy taste and most importantly, it's not too sweet. We had a good few years of dropping by the little bakery to pick up this heavenly cake until one day, to our dismay, it had closed down. I was never able to find a replacement dessert for hubby so I decided that if there was a cake I wanted to recreate in my kitchen, this would be the one! (update: it was such a hit that I ended up adapting it to a strawberry cake roll, matcha cake roll, carrot cake roll, coffee cake roll too.)
The Difference Between Chiffon Vs. Sponge Cake
One of the most appealing aspects of this cake is the soft and fluffy cake body. I have found cake rolls in other Asian bakeries but I wasn't able to find one with such a light airy texture. In developing this recipe, I experimented by making it 7 times, each with different ratios of flour, eggs, etc. I think I finally developed the perfect recipe for a soft and fluffy chiffon chocolate cake which could be rolled into a chocolate cake roll.
For the cake, I decided to use a chiffon cake technique because it is lighter and fluffier. A chiffon cake is a type of cake under the sponge cake umbrella. Technique-wise, the main difference between the two is the use of oil in a chiffon cake vs. no butter/butter in a sponge cake. Oil in a chiffon cake makes the cake lighter and more tender. It is also great for refrigeration since butter hardens up in cooler temperatures.
Another signature technique used in the making of chiffon cake is the separate whipping of the egg whites. A flour mixture is first created with the flour, egg yolks and oil, next the whipped egg whites are then folded into this flour mixture to make the chiffon cake batter. It's an easy cake to master for you macaroners out there since you've probably brought egg whites to a stiff peak condition many times before. And if you're a bit time crunched and want to make a chocolate cake with less steps, try this very easy Chocolate Cream Cheese Pound Cake that doesn't require rolling of the cake or any fillings.
Tips for Making a Great Chiffon Cake Roll
- Use a lower protein content flour like cake or pastry flour. These flours usually have a protein content of 6-8% and 8-9% respectively. I recommend having a bag on hand in the pantry for baking the softest fluffiest baked goodies. In addition to use in cakes, cake flour can also be used to make fancy soft chocolate chip cookies too!
- A strong and healthy meringue (whipped egg whites with sugar) is needed to act as one of the leavening agents in this cake. Egg whites should be whipped in a clean and dry non-plastic bowl since plastic tends to trap oil. Use a paper towel and wipe down the mixing bowl with lemon or vinegar before you start.
- Carefully separate the egg whites and yolks. Make sure no yolks are present in the egg whites. An egg separator can come in handy.
- Bring the egg whites to a stiff peak. This is characterized by egg whites that have a beak that points upwards (instead of slumped over) when the whisk is pulled out.
- Use a Dutch processed cocoa powder like this one. There is a difference between natural cocoa and dutch processed cocoa. Dutch processed cocoa has been treated with an alkalizing agent that makes it darker in color and give it a milder taste. This process neutralizes the cocoa's acidity and makes it less reactive to baking soda. This recipe was written for use with a dutch processed cocoa.
- Once the liquid (chocolate milk in our case here) is introduced to the flour, do not over mix. This will produce more gluten, making the cake less tender.
- Use a gentle folding movement with a spatula to incorporate the meringue into the wet flour mixture. Do not stir, this will prevent the air in the meringue from deflating.
- Rap the tray a few times on the counter to get rid of large air pockets.
- Add more cream along the short edge of the cake which is to be rolled first. This will prevent the cake from cracking due to large gaps in between the folds. Instead of putting your hands directly onto the cake, use the parchment paper to push the cake onto itself as you roll.
- Fold gently and do not worry too much about rolling the cake very tightly. As long as the cream is spread out evenly (with a bit more along the short edge as per #7), the amount of cream in this recipe will allow the sheet cake to hold up without cracking due to large gaps. See accompanying video in post on how to roll.
- When peeling off the parchment, try to remove as much of the "skin" as possible. The cake looks better with exposed crumbs. If you have trouble getting off the skin, limit the cooling time and remove the paper as soon as you can handle the hot cake and pan.
- If rolling the cake seems too daunting or you don't have the right pan size, try making this cake in a cup. This post will teach you how to bake this chiffon cake base with any sized pan.
- Lastly, if you want more tips and detailed instructions on how to make the chocolate filling, see this dedicated post on chocolate whipped cream.
How to Roll a Swiss Cake Without Cracking
The accompanying video in this post will show you how to roll up the cake without it cracking. There are several tricks to this: roll it up when the cake is no longer hot but still warm; use parchment paper to roll it and unroll it gently; and let it continue to cool down in this wrapped condition to retain 'muscle memory' until it's time to add the cream.
How To Make Cake Rolls in Different Flavors
To make the cake roll in different flavors, powders, extracts and infusion-method can be utilized in either the cake base or the filling. Like in this recipe, dry powders (like cocoa) can be added into the cake base with the dry mix while liquid extracts can be added into the wet mix.
Another way to add flavor is to add extracts into the cream filling during the whipping process. The flavors can also be infused into the cream by letting the flavored ingredients soak inside the cream before using it for whipping. Just make sure not to use ingredients with high acidity as it will cause the cream to curdle.
You can even try mixing and matching different flavored cake bases with different cream fillings. For example, you can make a mocha version of this cake roll by using the chocolate cream filling in this recipe with the coffee cake base in this recipe. Once you've got your flavors down, you might want to bring the appearance of your cake roll up a notch. Try making beautiful patterns on the cake roll with this tutorial, Tiger Cat Pattern Cake Roll.
I absolutely adore this cake and even after making 7 of these and eating most of it by myself for the purpose of "taste testing", I can say I still crave for more. I really hope you enjoy this recipe as well.
Super Fluffy and Soft Japanese Chocolate Cake Roll
Japanese style chocolate cake roll made from a super soft and fluffy chiffon cake that melts in the mouth. Inside, it's filled with a light chocolate whipped cream. Airy and not overly sweet with all the chocolate goodness, it's so easy to indulge in the whole cake all by yourself!
Japanese Style Chocolate Chiffon Cake
- 50 ml whole fat milk
- 5 teaspoon Dutch processed cocoa powder , (e.g. Fry's Cocoa Powder)
- 20 grams granulated sugar
- 45 grams cake flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt, (see substitutions in notes)
- 3 egg yolks
- 40 ml vegetable oil, (e.g. canola)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 egg whites
- 50 grams granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Light and Airy Chocolate Whipped Cream
- 290 ml whipping cream 33%
- 120 grams semi-sweet chocolate
Japanese Style Chocolate Chiffon Cake
- Line a 8 X 12" rectangular cake pan with parchment paper.
- In a small sauce pan, heat the milk and cocoa powder on medium heat until powder is fully dissolved. Do not let the milk come to a boil. Keep stirring continuously while breaking down big clumps of powder. Once fully dissolved, set chocolate milk mixture aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- In a large mixing bowl, add in sugar, baking soda, first portion of cream of tartar and salt. Sift in cake flour, stir to combine.
- Create a well in the center. Inside it, add yolks, oil, vanilla extract and chocolate milk mixture.
- Stir to combine until fully incorporated, do not over mix. Set this chocolate-flour mixture aside.
- In a clean and dry, non-plastic mixing bowl, whip egg whites on slow speed until frothy, add second portion of cream of tartar. (Note 1)
- Increase speed to medium, once the whites become opaque and bubble size have tightened up, add sugar a little bit at a time.
- Increase speed to med-high, whip until stiff peaks. You've now made a meringue. (Note 2)
- Gently fold ⅓ of the meringue into the chocolate-flour mixture to get it moving. Once incorporated, fold in the rest of the meringue. Do not stir. Use batter immediately.
- Dab a bit of the batter onto the sides of the parchment paper to keep corners together. Dab a little more onto the paper and stick it to the pan to prevent the parchment paper from tipping over into the cake batter.
- Pour into lined cake pan from one spot, spread out the batter evenly with an angled spatula.
- Tap the pan on the counter to release large air pockets.
- Bake for 14-16 min. at 325F until a skewer pulls out clean and cake springs back in the center.
- Let cool 5 min. in the pan before removing.
- Place cooling rack over cake pan.
- Flip cake over onto the rack, gently remove paper.
- The side facing up will eventually become the top of the cake roll. Try to remove as much of the "skin" as possible since the cake will look better with exposed crumbs. Let it sit on cooling rack for 5 min.
- Place a piece of new parchment paper on top
- Flip the cake over and start rolling, allowing the parchment paper to be in between the folds. This will prevent the cake from sticking to itself. It's important to roll the cake before it cools completely, otherwise, it will crack while rolling. Refer to video in post on how to roll.
- Let it cool in this wrapped condition while making the chocolate whipped cream.
Light and Airy Chocolate Whipped Cream
- Place a mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer to chill. It will help the cream whip better.
- Chop up chocolate into small pieces.
- Place chocolate in a small pot along with the cream.
- Heat over medium heat until chocolate is fully melted. Do not bring to a boil.
- Let cool to room temperature then place in the fridge to chill. Check on it every 10-15 minutes and give it a gentle stir. It should be chilled before whipping but do not let it cool for too long as it will become too stiff to whip.
- Place the chocolate and cream mixture in the chilled mixing bowl, then beat on low speed and slowly increasing to medium. Stop when it start to get stiff. Do not over whip.
- Very carefully unroll the cake.
- Gently add one even layer of the chocolate whipped cream onto the unrolled cake.
- Very gently roll the cake back up using the parchment paper to help push the cake onto itself. This will help prevent cracking. To further prevent cracks, add more cream along the short edge that is folded first and do not try to roll the cake too tightly. Cut off the sides before placing on a presentation plate. Enjoy!
- Use half the salt when using table salt.
- Always whip egg whites in a clean and dry boil non-plastic bowl free of oil and water. Use a clean paper towel to wipe down the bowl with some lemon or vinegar.
- Stiff peaks is characterized by egg whites that have a beak that points upwards (instead of slumped over) when the whisk is pulled out.
- Some ingredients are repeated, use them in the same order as outlined in instructions.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Rectangle Baking Pan
Rectangle Baking Pan
Ghirardelli Unsweetened Dutch Process Cocoa Pouch, 8 oz
McCormick Gourmet All Natural Cream Of Tartar, 2.62 oz
PaperChef Culinary Parchment Multipurpose Non-Stick Paper, 205 sq ft
Wilton Industries Perfect Results Mega Cooling Rack, Black
Joseph Joseph Spatula with Stand
RYBACK Stainless Steel Egg White Yolk Filter Separator Cooking Tool Dishwasher Safe Chef Kitchen Gadget
Vollrath 47934 4-Quart Economy Mixing Bowl, Stainless Steel
Cuisinart CTG-00-3MS Set of 3 Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers
Serving Size8 servings
Amount Per Serving Calories 329Total Fat 24gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 111mgSodium 158mgCarbohydrates 25gFiber 1gSugar 18gProtein 5g
This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although indulgewithmimi.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
Here is the much anticipated version with a vanilla cake base. You can use this cake base to roll with any fruit. Click to get recipe for Fresh Strawberry and Cream Japanese Cake Roll.
Thank you for this wonderful recipe. Very soft and fluffy.
I'm so happy to hear that! Thanks for coming back to let me know. I hope you'll try some of the other flavors in the cake roll series. There's a pumpkin one I published this year for fall and gingerbread will be coming soon! Thanks again!
Lesia Comperatore says
Have you ever done this with 1 for 1 gluten free flour. Thinking it through in my mind I don’t see why it wouldn’t work, do you have any thoughts?
I've never used gluten free flour and I'm not sure how it will translate. Sorry, I can't weigh in. If you give it a try, let us know how it goes 🙂 Happy new years!
Hello! This is a wonderful recipe and i can’t wait to try this. I was wondering if I am able to substitute cocoa powder with melted chocolate instead? If so, how may I adjust the recipe? I have some specialty chocolate at home and wanted my cake roll to showcase the flavours of them. Thank you in advance 🙂
I have not tried it myself so I can't say if it would work from my own experience. All my published recipes have been tried and tested multiple times and I have utmost confidence in the directions I've given. If you do feel like experimenting with melted chocolate, I would try subbing that for the milk and cocoa powder in the recipe 🙂
Hi. I made this cake roll and it was delicious. But it was cracked as when I unrolled it it had stuck to the parchment paper causing it to break. Do you know why this happened?
Try not to roll it up too tight, just roll it enough so it has muscle memory. Also, don't do it too late or too early. If rolled too early, there will be too much moisture left and the cake will get very sticky and soggy inside the wrap. If it's done too late, it can crack because it has already cooled down. Aim for the time when it's just become cooled.
Can I make this cake and fill it with cream the night before and store it in the fridge in plastic wrap until the next morning?
Definitely. You can pre-make it in advance and serve it within 1-3 days. It will be freshest during this period.
Ok thank you!
Lombard Sandra-Dee says
Hi Mimi, I have only purchased this type of cake and it’s one of our favorite; I’ve noticed they are getting smaller and smaller with less filling, so I am going to attempt baking my own. I’m not an regular baker but I can do most recipes. Our favorite flavour is mocha (chocolate & coffee) how do I modify this recipe for get the coffee into it? Oh then I will use thin sliced almonds on top as like the one we purchase. Thank you in advance 🌹🌹🇨🇦🇨🇦
That's a great question and I definitely have plans in the future to write a coffee cake roll recipe in the near future. For the cake, you can take a bit of the cocoa powder out and add in instant coffee powder. For the cream potion, you can add the instant coffee into the pot with the cream and chocolate as you're melting it. Let me know how it goes 🙂
Hey is there any substitute for cream of tartar as it is quite hard to find it where I currently stay at. Please let me know! Thank you so much
For the dry mix, you can omit the tartar and soda and use 1 tsp baking powder. For the meringue (egg white part), use lemon juice in double the amount.
Hi, would love to try this recipe. I noticed you call for an 8x12" pan - this is a really unusual size, generally the common size is 9x12". Can I use a 9x12" for this recipe?
You can find this size easily online by a quick google search or even on Amazon. You can use the other size you mentioned as it's only a 10% difference but the cake will be slightly less tall, watch out for an earlier bake time too.
Rachel Lew says
Hi! Is there anyway to prevent the cake from hardening in the fridge? The cake becomes dense and tough when eaten out of the fridge
I'm sorry you're having troubles. Hm..I'm a bit surprised with the hardening as I've never heard of this result before. May I ask if you put it in an airtight container? It's important to keep it wrapped and not exposed to the elements, the fridge can be a very dehydrating environment. This is a chiffon cake made without butter so the cake portion itself doesn't usually harden after refrigeration.
How can I bake this in an 11 by 17 pan?
This pan size will be too big at almost twice the size. You can double the ingredients or use some aluminum foil to create a dam in your current pan to create a "smaller pan". Look online to see some pictures of how this can be done 🙂
Thanks for the wonderful recipe!! I LOVE this soft and fluffy version of roll cake. I saw that you have (this) chocolate version, and another Matcha version. Do you have a "normal" original egg version ? What are the changes i need to make if i use this recipe? Remove cocoa powder and replace with.......?
Thanks in advance
I'm so happy to hear you love the cake roll. Yes, I do have an original version where you can fill with vanilla cream and fruit etc.. It's this strawberry cake roll.
Just wondering if I can use this recipe to make green tea cake roll instead? Also the reason it makes this cake light and fluffy is because less amount of dry ingredients? Cake flour is much less when comparing to the amount of milk and oil combined.
I have a recipe that is written especially for Green Tea Cake Roll, please follow that recipe instead.
Hi Mimi, I made this today, and it was a hit! Not too sweet, strong cocoa flavor, soft and fluffy... just delicious!! I made a few changes to make things quicker and save time: used chocolate milk instead and reduced the amount of cocoa + sugar by 1/3; left out cream of tartar bc we do not have it here; microwaved the chocolate for the whipped cream, and added 3 tbsp of confectioner sugar for sweetness. I also increased the entire recipe by 1/3 to adjust for a 12x18" sheet pan. It came out beautifully, tasting better than if I'd purchased from a bakery. I'm so enjoying baking these days, the process of it, the trials and errors~ but it's pure joy when something complicated like this comes out perfectly the first try! Thank you!
Thanks so much for sharing such a great adaptation with us. I actually have used chocolate milk before too! That was when I used to have a bit more chocolate in my diet haha. Your experience will help others who want to make their own changes too. Thanks so much for the feedback and I am happy you love this recipe!
Marg Ng says
Hello Mimi, thank you for sharing the recipe! I tried it today and though I wasnt so good with the rolling but the overall taste was great! My family members enjoyed it as well 🙂 Couple of qns:
1. Am I right that only a thin layer of the filling should be spread? I felt mine had too much cream oozing out as I was attempting to roll it
2. Can I use the gelatine method you had recommended to stabilise the whipped cream? I felt the filling was rather soft despite chilling the roll.
Thanks in advance for your advice! 🙂
I'm happy you liked the taste and everyone enjoyed it. It's so nice of you to prepare something for everyone to enjoy. Use your judgement... I like to fill mine with about half an inch of filling and a little bit thicker along the inside short edge right in the beginning. The volume of your cream might be increased due to how you whip it/how cold ingredients are so it can vary. Secondly, yes, you can add gelatin to make it to make it more stable if you like it even more stable 🙂 Just add it a little before you see the cream getting to stiff peaks.
Hi Mimi! I commend you for this perfect recipe. I have to admit that I've tried many many chiffon cake recipes from well known bakers...but none that I liked. Yours is a keeper (and I've thrown away all previous written recipes since your chiffon cake recipe is THAT good!). I've added 1 tsp of instant coffee into the milk/cocoa mixture, and the cake has risen beautifully. I made a Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream as it is very light and it paired very well. Furthermore, as I live alone and can't share the cake due to the Covid outbreak, I've put the iced cake in the fridge for 2 hours and then sliced it all into regular portions; I then put each cake slice between 2 squares of parchment paper and stored into a freezer bag to be kept in the...freezer! The result: once the cake is thawed, it is just as delicious as if it was freshly baked and iced. Thank you for your recipe and such generosity. Please stay safe and healthy! 🙂
Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us about your experience. It will help other readers as well. I love that you tried modifying it. It really takes time and patience to do this, very commendable. I hope you've been having fun baking this holiday season, it is so nice to have the ability to make homemade cake any time you want 🙂 Have a great new year and look forward to hearing from you again. XOXO, Mimi
Hi, can i use all purpose flour instead?
Definitely! It won't be as soft and fluffy but you can try it first and see if you like the taste. To better fine tune the texture, you can buy cake flour next time.
Do we have to adjust the amount of all purpose flour?
No, it's not necessary to a readjust it. Good luck!