Cozy on up to Grandma’s Unique Holiday Heirloom Sweet Swirl Cake

Holiday parties are comin’ at us big time and the pot luck food will be rolling to the table. Now’s the time to attend to your special food offering.

Holiday spiced sweet potato roll cake by Bake This Cake com

Is Bigger Really Better? So go big or go home, right? Actually, let’s go small and wonderful with this old-fashioned pumpkin roll — ‘cept without the pumpkin. Or maybe a jelly roll without the jelly. Okay, how about some awesome holiday cookies but without the cookies. Say what??

Old School Sweet Potato Roll Recipe by BakeThisCakecom

Introducing Grandma’s adorable (smaller) rolled cake! We’re subbing sweet potato puree for pumpkin puree to make an old-fashioned sweet potato rolled cake, just like the one Grandma used to make, ‘cept a tad better with a hint of citrus (and maybe even a splash of holiday cheer). Any way you roll with this, it’s gonna be fun to make and even more fun to serve.

Old School Jelly Roll Cake Recipe by Bake This Cake com

What’s a roll cake? When it is frosted, rolled and sliced, it makes fun spiral cake slices.  Otherwise known as a roulade or a jelly roll (without the jelly) and even called a Swiss Roll, this is a super moist and lovable cake, I swear! Grandma’s recipe is more like a roulade or swiss roll because the eggs are whipped to lighten and lift the cake. But don’t tell Grandma that because she considered this a way-country creation. No fru-fru cakes for her!

Vintage sweet potato roll cake by Bake This Cake com

It has my favorite spice in it… Allspice.  Although you can easily find the spice called Allspice (not a mixture of spices, but its own awesome spice) in stores, I took a few whole pods and used the mortar to quickly powder up some fine Jamaican Allspice for this cake. The flavor from a Jamaican pod of Allspice is enhanced with a fresh mortar grind and, I must say, it is right up there at the top of my favorite spice list!

Heirloom Vanilla Custard Filling for Spiced Roll Cake by Bake This Cake com

See our blog post on how to make your own Homemade Pumpkin Spice Mix HERE.

I had to toss in a bit of tangerine zest and some tangerine juice for a little bright punch. Not because the cake called for it really (though it does brighten the flavors) but – who could resist using the first little tangerines of the season from my cute little urban garden? 

Grandma's sweet potato rolled cake filled with custard by Bake This Cake com

Because I love rolled cakes, it became my first choice for the annual Food Bloggers Los Angeles (FBLA) Annual Holiday Cookie Exchange Party. After all, cake that is small and soft and round with frosting tucked inside seems like a party, I mean, like a soft pillowy cookie to me. Or, at least, as close to cookie perhaps as cake can get, except perhaps for whoopie pies. What other cakes are good to use for cookies? Tell me in the Comments section below.

So — serve it up as a cake, or roll it differently and cut it for smaller rounds as “cookies” as I did for this event. Slathered up with traditional cream cheese frosting its great — but slathering it up with our special Vanilla Heirloom Custard Frosting, is even better, though I admit that I may have gotten carried away with the frosting. You really don’t need to spread that much custard frosting on this cake. I think I was just having too much fun with it.

FBLA Food Bloggers Los Angeles Cookie Exchange by BakeThisCakecom

Okay, let’s do this thang!

Grandma’s Holiday Spiced Sweet Roll Cake
This recipe makes 2 cakes to roll up and frost.
When sliced in the fashion described here, these 2 cakes make about 25 cake slices the size of a whoopie pie, about 3″ to 4″ in diameter.  If you roll the cakes from the other side of the cake, you will produce about 12 to 14 larger slices. You can also adjust the thickness of each slice for different quantities.

“Dry Bowl” Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups flour (we used King Arthur’s All-Purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder (we used Rumford’s)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon Jamaican Allspice (we used a mortar to pound out about 6 pods)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (we used Saigon cinnamon)
1 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt (we used “Real” brand salt)”
1 teaspoon loosely packed, finely grated tangerine zest (substitute finely grated orange zest)

“Egg Bowl” Ingredients:
6 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/3 cups sweet potato puree
2 teaspoons fresh tangerine (or orange) juice

“Sprinkle-the-towels” ingredient:
½ cup powdered sugar (for sprinkling the rolling towels)

Tools Needed:
1 or 2 jelly roll pans (10” x 15”) We didn’t use a real jelly roll pan. Substitute a cookie sheet pan with a lip all around but decrease the cooking time up to 5 minutes for a thinner cake).
Electric mixer, preferably a counter mixer for long mixing time but a hand mixer is fine.
2 large mixing bowls
Rubber spatula (for scraping dough into pans)
2 clean dishtowels (linen or tea towels work best, but any cotton or smooth dish towel works, or just use parchment or wax paper or plastic wrap).
Optional: Offset knife for spreading dough but a regular kitchen knife will do as well.
Measuring cups and spoons

Prep the oven, pan(s) and rolling towels:
Set the oven rack to middle position and pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using a jelly roll pan (I used a smallish cookie pan with a lip and put the second batch in the same pan after removing the first cake), but you could use a larger cookie pan with a lip around it resulting in a slightly thinner cake dough. If you use a larger cookie pan you must shorten the cooking time so watch carefully starting at 8 minutes to be sure the cake doesn’t over cook.

Use wax paper to line the cake pan, creasing the corners and edges as much as possible without tearing the paper so corners will bend. Spray the wax paper with cooking spray.

Old school roll cake dusted with powdered sugar by Bake This Cake com

Use a sifting tool to layer two smooth clean dish towels with powdered sugar on a large flat clean surface.

Sifting powdered sugar over tea towel by Bake This Cake com

Shake, shake, shake!

Powdered sugar on the tea towel for jelly roll cake by BakeThis Cake com

Dry ingredients bowl:
In a large mixing bowl, measure out all dry ingredients and use a whisk to fully combine.

If you like an amazing Allspice, you’ll want to mortar about 6 pods of Jamaican Allspice (it only takes a few minutes to produce an amazing dark powder and you only need ½ teaspoon).

The tangerine zest may not technically be considered a dry ingredient but it works best to add this to the flour mixture.

Sweet Potato Cake Roll dry ingredients by BakeThis Cake com

Dry mix all the ingredients together and add:
The prepared orange zest

Whisking dry ingredients for sweet potato roll cake by Bake This Cake com

Wet “Egg Bowl” ingredients:
Bring 6 large eggs to room temperature (or not) by placing the whole eggs in their shells un-cracked in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes, or “leave them set” in the mixing bowl on the counter for for 20 minutes until the chill subsides. This is optional but it does seem to make them fluffier. 😊

6 eggs for old school sweet potato roll cake by bake this cake com

Beat eggs in mixer on high-speed for 5 to 7 minutes until at least doubled in volume. Eggs will increase in volume while they thicken and lighten in color to a pale yellow.

Creaming the eggs for a good long time by BakeThis Cake com

When the eggs are light and as thick like a smoothie or malted milkshake, you will see the egg run off the beaters in a thick trail.

Creamed eggs for sweet potato cake roll by Bake This Cake com

Beat the sugar into beaten eggs on high-speed for an additional 3 minutes.

Adding sugar to creamed eggs for sweet potato roll cake by Bake This Cake com

Beat the sweet potato puree into the egg mixture on medium speed until fully blended.

Beating in Sweet Potato Puree for Cake Roll by Bake This Cake com

Combining wet and dry ingredients:
Use a whisk (do not fold with a spatula) to combine dry ingredients a little at a time into the batter, being sure to get out any lumps.

Whisking sweet potato cake batter by Bake This Cake com

Preparing the cake batter in the pans:
Use one-half of the batter in each cake pan that has been lined with wax paper and sprayed with cooking spray (one of mine was thicker than the other but you could weigh or make in half batches to have an exact match)

Smooth the dough as much as possible and be sure to fill each corner because the batter will not “spread” in the oven during baking – so what you see is what you’ll get.  Bang the batter in the pan (hard) on counter hard a few times before putting in oven in order to get the bubbles to rise to the top and burst. Let the batter sit for a couple of minutes on the counter to let more bubbles rise to the top and bang it again on the counter to help the bubble rise to the top. Use a toothpick to pop any stubborn large bubbles.

Sweet Potato Roll Batter spread in baking pan by BakeThisCake com

Bake This Cake!
Put the cake pan in the centered rack in the pre-heated 375-degree oven.

At about 5 minutes into baking time, rotate he pan once in oven quickly without losing too much oven heat to be sure both sides of cake cook evenly.

At about 10 minutes into baking time, quickly check doneness of the cake by very lightly touching the center top to see if the batter is still tacky or if it is done – when the cake very lightly springs back to the touch.

I tested my cake at 10 minutes, 12 minutes and 13 minutes. For the slightly larger cake I made, 14 minutes total was required. Maximum amount of baking time will likely be 15 minutes.

Out of the oven – now the fun begins!
The hot cake is very spongy and easy to handle and easy to roll when it is warm (but it will likely break if it cools before trying to roll (but try putting it in a microwave on high for a few seconds to warm it if it gets away from you and cools before rolling – and let us know in the Comments if this worked for you).

Removing and rolling the cake:
Your kitchen is now filled with the heavenly aroma of a spice cake. The cake is softly springing back to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean at the center of the cake.

Sweet Potato Roll Cake hot from the oven by BakeThisCakecom

And here’s the second one hot from the oven…

Holiday spiced roll cake by BakeThis Cake com

Flip the cake upside down onto heavily powdered-sugar-coated tea towel. (You will get some powder dust when the cake flips onto the powdered towel so proceed gently.)

Remove the wax paper, paying careful attention to the corners and edges so as not to tear the cake.

Peeling wax paper from swiss roll cake by BakeThisCake com

Sift a heavy coat of powdered sugar over the bottom’s-up side of cake. The powdered sugar keeps the cake from sticking to the towel.

Old school roll cake dusted with powdered sugar by Bake This Cake com

For “cookies” or smaller side desserts: Roll up the cake in the towel starting with the longest end (not the narrow end) so the rolls will be smaller than normal.

For a larger “main event roll cake”: Roll up the cake in the towel starting with the short end so the roll will be thick.

Rolling up an old school roll cake by BakeThisCake com

Now that it is cooled (or even cold), it is time to unwind this puppy as far as it will go without breaking. This is the strange shape of cake when it is awaiting a slather of custard frosting.

Unfurling a jelly roll to frost it by BakeThisCakecom

Place towel-rolled cake(s) on a wire rack on the counter to thoroughly cool to the touch, about 40 minutes before frosting. To store a bit longer, remove the towel and wrap it up tight in plastic wrap to store in the refrigerator.

jelly roll cakes cooling in sugar dusted towels by Bake This Cake com

Use an off-set spatula or the back of a tablespoon to spread the vanilla custard frosting over the cake and into the curving folds on either side. BTW, I think I got a little carried away with the custard frosting. I could have used half as much, ha! That was me and my slightly sweet tooth talkin’!

Heirloom Vanilla Custard filling sweet potato roll cake by BakeThis Cake com

This is how she’ll be dressed for success. Now all we have to do is chill and slice her. This is a super easy travel cake when left whole to slice at the party…or you can slice ahead and pack-er up in baking pans.

easy Traveling cake sweet potato roll by BakeThis Cake com

I arranged my adorable slices with a few sprigs from the tangerine tree and some fun holiday lights tucked around the cake plate.

Vintage sweet potato roll cake sliced on a cake platter by BakeThis Cake com

Time to check out the finest cookie recipes from some awesome food bloggers!

Food Bloggers Los Angeles FBLA Holiday Cookie Exchange pic by Bake This Cake com

An amazing array of delectable holiday cookies from the fabulous Food Bloggers Los Angeles (FBLA) cookie team!

FBLA Holiday Cookie Swap pic by Bake This Cake com

Thank you for exploring Grandma’s old-fashioned rolled cake recipe and please check out the cookie exchange recipes or the FBLA blogger sites. These food bloggers are such awesome cooks!

Stay warm and cozy! And happy vintage cake baking to you!




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Betty’s Fresh Banana Layer Cake Cake by

Applejack Spice Cake by

Mary Lincoln’s Vanilla Almond Courting Cake by

11 thoughts on “Cozy on up to Grandma’s Unique Holiday Heirloom Sweet Swirl Cake

  1. I love, love, love rolled cookies and cakes. They always surprise my mouth with goodness! This recipe, I can tell by the photos, is no exception! I can’t wait to try it this weekend! Thank you, once again, for making me HAPPY! (and my family, too)…Suzanne

      • Sounds like a fun plan to me! That old-fashioned vanilla custard recipe is so fun to make, especially when all you have in the cupboard is table sugar and you need a fabulous frosting. Go for it and be sure to let us know how it goes! Hugs, Leslie

    • Thank you, Suzanne! Always a pleasure to hear from you. Happy holidays to you and here’s to an amazing New Year, including fun vintage desserts, a little slice at a time as we continue on our respective health kicks. 🙂

  2. Looks so
    good! My mother made a jelly roll once. It was good but I think it was more work than she wanted to do. I might try this once too…..right now I’m trying to get to the fruitcake. Tomorrow maybe

    • Donna, These roll cakes take a little finesse for the rolling action but I find the cake baking part is perfectly breezy and easier than most layer cakes. Sounds like you’ll be having some nice baking adventures. Best, Leslie

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