Hungarian Chocolate Cake, or, Swiss Cake Roll

When I was a kid, I loved Swiss Cake Rolls. Not the fancy dessert—the Little Debbie cakes. I know, I’m more embarrassed than you, trust me. When I think back now about the weird chocolate coating you can peel off the exterior, that waxy filling, and the dried up cake, it seriously grosses me out. But in the spirit of Smitten Kitchen’s Twinkie Bundt Cake, the idea of elevating that boxed snack to a higher plane of existence by using homemade fresh whipped cream as the filling, the lightest sponge cake ever created as the base, and a quick ganache-style glaze to pour over the whole thing… well, that appeals to me for sure.

However, when I started making this, I had no idea what I was getting myself into: a flourless, butter-free chocolate cake that’s not dense and chewy, but instead so light it will collapse if you just look at it wrong? The directions include ‘lining the pan with waxed paper’ before it goes into the oven and cutting the cake into quarters after it cools, and what does that even mean? Where am I supposed to find a 10x15 pan? Is this actually a Hungarian cake, or is this like the time the recipe box tried to trick me into thinking that this faux-pudding was French?

I have a really hard time finding cocoa in Scotland, but if yours looks like mine, sift it too!

I have a really hard time finding cocoa in Scotland, but if yours looks like mine, sift it too!

Some of these things are unanswerable anomalies: in a country where waxed paper does not exist, I was forced to use parchment. But I at least had the foresight (thanks to myriad episodes of The Great British Bake Off) to know that greasing the parchment, while it would make its texture more similar to waxed paper, would also add unnecessary fat to the cake, which would keep it from rising or make it collapse at the end of its baking time. The parchment wasn’t the death of this cake, to be fair. The death of this cake was the fact that the oven was probably not quite hot enough when I put it in, and then when I tried to get it out, I couldn’t tell if it was done, so I kept opening and closing the oven door, and I think that’s what made it… collapse a bit.

The collapse meant that the middle was thinner than the sides, which meant it didn’t exactly stack well—something remedied (slightly) by spreading a thick layer of whipped cream between and on top of all four quadrants. But that glaze, you guys. That glaze was thick and luscious (as all ganache and ganache-type chocolate sauces should be), and it set up nice and firm and smooth without a hint of grittiness or bitterness… but when I poured it onto the waiting cake, it gushed down the sides just like Gloopy, the chocolate monster from Candy Land. Add to this the fact that I'm not an expert dessert decorator to begin with, and, well, this isn't a cake I'll be taking to a party anytime soon. But man, oh man, is it delicious. And the best part? It somehow gets even better the second day! (Spoiler alert: it gets better because the cake presses down on the layers, the whipped cream soaks into the cake, making it nice and moist, and the chocolate glaze turns into a dense shell that is the perfect foil for the lightweight, airy filling.

It has to be served from chilled, so this isn't a great dish to bring to a cookout or a picnic (unless you have a cooler and a deathwish), but if you're hosting a summertime dinner party and need a nice cool treat, this is perfect for you... Or, if you're afraid yours is going to look like mine, then I beg you to at least just make it for yourself because, seriously, it's just the tastiest.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. (I give it 5 spoons on flavour, but I had to knock off 1 for difficulty's sake because I get really nervous about flourless, meringue-style cakes)

one year ago: Lemon Squares

the recipe:

Hungarian Chocolate Cake

the directions:

Line a 10x15 pan (or the largest rectangular pan you have) with waxed paper (ideally) or parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Separate eggs and set yolks aside.
Beat whites until stiff but not dry.
Beat in sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture is smooth and glossy.
Fold in cocoa as gently as possible.
In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and pale yellow.
Fold yolks and vanilla into cocoa mixture very gently, then spread mixture into prepared tin.
Bake 12-15 minutes until just set.
While cake bakes, line a cooling rack with waxed paper (ideally) or parchment paper.
When cake is just set, remove from oven and turn out onto lined cooling rack.
Remove pan liner that's now on top very carefully.
Allow to sit at room temperature until cooled, then cut into quarters.
Spread the bottom layer with whipped cream and stack the next layer on top, repeating until all layers are used, then spread the top with whipped cream as well.
Put in refrigerator to chill while making the chocolate glaze.


Melt together butter and chocolate over very low heat until smooth.
Beat in boiling water, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth.
If needed, add more boiling water, one spoonful at a time, until mixture is thick, glossy, and very smooth.
Pour glaze over the cake, allowing to drip down the sides, spreading until even.
Refrigerate until chocolate has set, then slice and serve.

the ingredients:
the cake:

5 eggs
¼ tsp salt
1 c powdered sugar, sifted
¼ c cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1 c double cream (for whipping)

the glaze:

2 tbsp butter
2 oz baking chocolate (unsweetened)
2 tbsp boiling water
1 c powdered sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp vanilla