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Jelly roll (Brazo de Gitano)

August 20, 2013


“Brazo de Gitano”,  translated as “Gypsy’s Arm”,  is enjoyed throughout much of Latin America as well as the U.S.  It is of European origin, though it is unclear exactly where or how it was invented.  It is also known as a Swiss roll,  cream roll (if filled with cream), and pionono or brazo de reina in some parts of Latin America.  A sponge cake batter is used along with an array of options  for fillings.   Some classic fillings are whipped cream flavored with rum and sugar,  dulce the leche,  guava or other fruit fillings,  and buttercream.  As a kid I enjoyed commercially made jelly rolls filled with a sweet strawberry or raspberry jam.  Though my dad didn’t have much of a sweet tooth,  he was especially fond of them.  Sponge cake is made with more eggs and less fat and flour so as to produce a more delicate texture than a typical cake.  Whipping air into the eggs helps give it a more airy feel.  This round I went for the classic guava preserve jellyroll and two of a more experimental try,  membrillo (quince) and Nutella.  The membrillo worked out well while the Nutella will need some tweaking.  It tasted excellent,  but the Nutella was too soft and made for a messy jellyroll.  I’ll have to work out a more manageable version.

You can use your favorite sponge cake recipe for this one.  I followed the jelly roll recipe in “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion” since I’ve had good results with it in the past.  It will make one jellyroll.


For the sponge cake:

3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


For the filling:

1 heaping cup of jam, preserve, or any thick fruit puree.


Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan with waxed paper or parchment.

Sift together the flour,  baking powder,  and salt in a small bowl.

Beat the eggs in your mixer on medium until foamy,  about 3 to 4 minutes.  Gradually add the sugar while the mixer is still going, and continue until the batter is light lemon in color.  It took me about 8 to 10 minutes. The batter should be doubled in volume.  It is ready when the it falls in thick ribbons, remaining on top of the batter for several seconds before being reabsorbed. Add the vanilla just before you stop beating the batter.  Gently fold in the flour mixture.  Spread the batter evenly on the prepared pan.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  It should be golden brown and springy to the touch.  Remove it from the oven and invert it onto a (non-terry) dish towel that’s been lightly sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.  Peel off the paper and trim off the crusty edges of the cake if necessary.  Starting with the short end, roll the cake along with the towel into a log.  Let it cool completely on a rack.

When you are ready to serve,  unroll it,  spread on your filling,  and re-roll.  Place it on a serving platter and dust the top with confectioner’s sugar.

A mistake I made when I first began making them was putting in too much filling. The slices did not hold together well.

The jelly roll making process reminds me of the “Buche de Noel” or “Yule log”  which I enjoy making around the December holidays.  It gave me the idea of lightly brushing Grand Marnier on the sponge cake just before spreading on the filling. The orange liquor added a nice touch to the overall flavor.


This is the one with a membrillo paste filling.  (Whipped cream is a very nice topping for jelly rolls.)   Quince paste, found in the Latin American section of your supermarket,  usually comes in a block form and is too rigid to spread.  I placed about 1 pound in a small sauce pan and added a couple or so tablespoons of water.  I set it over a low heat and smash it with a fork or spoon until it turned into a more spreadable consistency. If it becomes too wet, let it reduce.  Remember it will solidify a little as it cools.

While the name “Brazo de Gitano” is odd,  what is even more curious is that “Ladyfingers” are also made with a sponge cake type of batter.

One of the great things about blogging is connecting with others from all over the world.  I have a hunch that jelly rolls can be found in all corners of the globe.  I would love to hear about your experience with them,  wherever you may be from.  Now I wonder if I should also include metric measurements in the recipes.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2013 1:38 am

    Bravo!!!! IAn immediate huge grin came up as soon as I saw the post, Bravo man!!!!! Beautiful!

  2. August 20, 2013 2:23 am

    Thanks Roberto! These brought out some childhood memories for me.

  3. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    August 23, 2013 10:56 pm

    One of the first desserts I ever made when I was married was a jelly roll. I had a similar experience to your Nutella jelly roll. I used some kind of chocolate syrup that kept oozing out and my roll was too rubbery. It rolled well, but the texture was awful. I had to throw the whole thing out and I never made it again! Yours look beautiful and I bet they taste great too!

  4. August 25, 2013 1:53 am

    Hi Marcella, Thanks for sharing your experience with the chocolate syrup jelly roll. I often have to tweak recipes until they work and taste right. I’ve had some practice with these since I make them at work from time to time. The Nutella jelly roll is worth a revisit though. I’m a late comer to the Nutella obsession and feel like I’ve been missing out!

  5. ReloNavigator permalink
    September 2, 2013 6:48 am

    Love cake like this!

  6. September 3, 2013 12:40 am

    Our family has always loved these too.

  7. September 20, 2013 6:06 pm

    Oh my God! I am salivating like a Pavlov dog just from seeing the images of ese Brazo Gitano. Is truly one of the most heavenly desserts ever! Thanks for stirring the good memories about great food!

    • September 20, 2013 7:43 pm

      Hi Andre, Thanks for liking! Early memories are one of the big motivators in my pursuit of baking and cooking. Here’s to the stirring of good memories and sharing of great food!

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