Four Swiss rolls

My pursuit of Swiss X, for various nouns X, continues with four Swiss roll chapters, starting with a cake roulade and going on to a rolled hair style; roll short for bread roll; and roll short for roll-up (referring to a bread roulade).

Bonus: the cake roulade is appropriate to the season, since a Yule log or bûche de Noël is one, just dressed up for Christmas.

The cake roulade. Previously on this blog, two postings:

on 6/10/16, in “Ho Ho trees, Ho Ho logs”, with this information from Wikipedia:

Ho Hos are small, cylindrical, frosted, cream-filled [in the U.S., creme-filled] chocolate snack cakes with a pinwheel design based on the Swiss roll. Made by Hostess Brands, they are similar to Yodels by Drake’s and Swiss Rolls by Little Debbie.

(#1) A Hostess Ho Ho

(#2) Drake’s Yodels

on 12/18/16, in “The Yule log”, with a section on the Yule log or bûche de Noël; information there from Wikipedia:

Made of sponge cake to resemble a miniature actual Yule log, it is a form of sweet roulade.

The original “Yule log” recipe emerged during the 19th century. It is traditionally made from a genoise, generally baked in a large, shallow Swiss roll pan, iced, rolled to form a cylinder, and iced again on the outside. [They are composed of various types of cake, various fillings, and various icings.]

(#3) Bûche de Noël of yellow sponge cake with jam filling and cocoa bark  icing (plus meringue mushrooms)

From NOAD:

noun roulade: 1 a dish cooked or served in the form of a roll, typically made from a flat piece of meat, fish, or sponge cake, spread with a soft filling and rolled up into a spiral.

Snack cakes with Swiss Rolls in their names:

(#4) Little Debbie (with vanilla and chocolate fillings)

(#5) Mrs. Freshley’s (also comes with peanut butter filling)

Now on to the Swiss rolls that these snack cakes are cheap rip-offs of. From Wikipedia:

A Swiss roll, jelly roll, or cream roll is a type of sponge cake roll filled with whipped cream, jam, or icing.

(#6) A simple Swiss roll / jelly roll with jam filling

(#7) Swiss roll: chocolate sponge cake with whipped cream filling

(#8) Swiss roll: home-made red velvet cake with buttercream frosting filling

The origins of the term are unclear. In spite of the name Swiss roll, the cake is believed to have originated elsewhere in Central Europe [see my 12/15/18 posting “Regionally ambivalent Switzerland” on Switzerland as located in central Europe], likely Austria. It appears to have been invented in the nineteenth century, along with Battenberg, doughnuts and Victoria sponge.

The connection to Switzerland is probably some combination of the association between Swiss chefs and fine cooking; a reference to French pâtissiers (pastry makers and sellers) in Switzerland; an allusion to Swiss and Austrian desserts of similar type; and Swiss associations with chocolate, as in chocolate roll cakes.

… The earliest published reference for a rolled cake spread with jelly was in the Northern Farmer, a journal published in Utica, New York, in December 1852. Called “To Make Jelly Cake”, the recipe describes a modern “jelly roll” and reads: “Bake quick and while hot spread with jelly. Roll carefully, and wrap it in a cloth. When cold cut in slices for the table.”

In recent times, jelly rolls are made with jam (especially raspberry jam) rather than jelly.

My usage, from childhood on, distinguishes jelly rolls (filled with jam) and Swiss rolls (filled with other spreadable foodstuffs: whipped cream, pastry cream, frosting, Nutella, etc.), and some others share the distinction. More on this terminology below.

The terminology evolved in America for many years. From 1852 to 1877 such a dessert was called: Jelly Cake (1852), Roll Jelly Cake (1860), Swiss Roll (1872), Jelly Roll (1873), and Rolled Jelly Cake (1876). The name “Jelly Roll” was eventually adopted.

The origin of the term “Swiss roll” is unknown. The earliest British reference to a rolled cake by that name appeared on a bill of fare dated 18 June 1871, published in the 1872 book A Voyage from Southampton to Cape Town, in the Union Company’s Mail Steamer “Syria” (London). A recipe for “Swiss roll” also appeared in the U.S. that same year in The American Home Cook Book, published in Detroit, Michigan, in 1872.

Several 1880s to 1890s cookbooks from London, England, used the name Swiss roll exclusively.

The American Pastry Cook, published in Chicago in 1894, presented a basic “Jelly Roll Mixture” then listed variants made from it that included a Swiss roll, Venice roll, Paris roll, chocolate roll, jelly roll cotelettes, and decorated jelly rolls

… Switzerland: Despite its name, the Swiss roll did not originate in Switzerland. Swiss rolls are called Biskuitroulade or Roulade in Swiss Standard German, gâteau roulé or roulade in French, and biscotto arrotolato in Italian.

… United States: American pastry chefs and menus in fine dining restaurants often use the French term Roulade. The chocolate Swiss roll, sometimes called a chocolate log, is a popular snack. Produced by many commercial bakeries, common brands include Ho Hos and Yodels, which are smaller sized rolls for individual consumption. When the filling is ice cream, it’s commonly referred to as an ice cream cake roll, and although they can vary, these often consist of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.

Back in August, when I started collecting this material on Swiss rolls (my apologies for the delay in posting; I am many hundreds of postings behind, partly because I work very slowly, but mostly because of prolonged medical problems), I was aware that not everyone shared my jelly roll / Swiss roll distinction (some people treat them as rough synonyms) and was also aware that some people use Swiss roll / bun as a rough synonym of French roll / bun to refer to a women’s hairstyle (I do not; it’s all French to me). So I attempted to get some sense of my readers’ usage — through my 8/1/18 posting “Swiss National Day! (with a query)”:

Question: What is a Swiss roll? (“I don’t know” is an entirely acceptable answer, if indeed you don’t know of anything that goes by that name.) Answers to:

(Make your answer specific: don’t just say (for example), “a kind of car”, but say what kind of car.)

Obviously this is part of another chapter in my postings on things with Swiss in their name: Swiss cheese, Swiss Army knives, Swiss steak, the Swiss Hotel, etc.

I asked my respondents to answer without looking things up; I was inquiring into people’s usage, not testing their knowledge. My cautions appear to have scared almost everyone off, but I got two thoughtful responses, both from men, both citing cake roulades with jam in the filling.

From M (in Ireland), who introduces the possibility of both jam and cream in the filling:

A swiss roll is a sponge cake spread with jam (and perhaps a cream filling, as well) and then rolled tightly.  It is served sliced so that you see the swirls of jam (and cream).  I think the sponge was mostly a vanilla sponge though I have vague memories of them being chocolate flavored.  Its possible that the chocolate sponge ones came with a cream filling but the vanilla ones came with a jam filling.  Growing up in Ireland, we would have this for tea sometimes – always store bought, though.

A variation on the theme – is to cover the whole thing with chocolate.  My memories of this, though, are that this was only for miniature swiss rolls.

And from D (in Australia):

A Swiss roll is a kind of cake consisting of a thin slice of plain sponge cake (approx 1 cm thick), spread with red jam (strawberry/raspberry), rolled up into a snail-shell shape, then cut crossways. It might also be dusted with icing sugar or something similar.

Then at the end of August, M wrote again, with two photos. First, from “a shopping centre in Limerick, Ireland”:


And then from “a more upmarket bakery” in a different Irish town:


Sumptuous cakes that would make any Swiss (or Parisian or Viennese) pâtissier proud.

Hairstyles. I’ll start with the graphic, an advertisement for the German clothing company Hutmacherei Martin Wiesner:

(#11) Wiesner dirndls (and Swiss rolls/buns)

Accompanied by a dirndl or similar peasant costume, the hairstyle is likely to be called Swiss; otherwise it’s French.

From NOAD:

noun dirndl: 1 (also dirndl skirt) a full, wide skirt with a tight waistband. 2 a woman’s dress in the style of Alpine peasant costume [of southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerand], with a full skirt and a close-fitting bodice. ORIGIN 1930s: from south German dialect, diminutive of Dirne ‘girl’.

Meanwhile, the hairstyles in question are rolls, buns, or twists — in principle, distinct from one another, though there are transitional forms. Here’s a French/Swiss roll:


And a bun:


And a French twist for curly hair:


All three styles involve gathering up the hair at the back of the head.

Dirndls and hairstyles come together in the beloved Heidi books. From Wikipedia:

(#15) Heidi is depicted in almost every imaginable hairstyle; here she is in a dirndl and a Swiss roll or twist

Heidi is a work of children’s fiction published in 1881 by Swiss author Johanna Spyri, originally published in two parts as Heidi: Her years of wandering and learning (German: Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre) and Heidi: How she used what she learned (German: Heidi kann brauchen, was sie gelernt hat). It is a novel about the events in the life of a young girl in her grandfather’s care in the Swiss Alps. It was written as a book “for children and those who love children” (as quoted from its subtitle).

Heidi is one of the best-selling books ever written and is among the best-known works of Swiss literature.

… Heidiland, named after the Heidi books, is an important tourist area in Switzerland, popular especially with Japanese and Korean tourists. Maienfeld is the center of what is called Heidiland; one of the villages, formerly called Oberrofels, is actually renamed “Heididorf”. Heidiland is located in an area called Bündner Herrschaft; it [has been] criticized as being a “laughable, infantile cliche” and “a more vivid example of hyperreality.”

(#16) (Festival of five countries) Maienfeld highlighted in red, in the center of the map, just below the country of Liechtenstein; Austria to the right (east) of this, Germany in the top  right corner, bits of Italy at the bottom right, otherwise Switzerland; with the town of Mollis, Canton Glarus — where the Zwickys come from — a bit to the west of Maienfeld

Breadstuffs. I’ll start with X roll composites naming types of bread (rather than cake or hairstyle), in particular a local specialty, the Dutch crunch roll, or just Dutch roll. From the American Food Roots site “Dutch crunch is San Francisco’s other bread” by Casey Brand from 11/3/14:

Unlike sourdough, Dutch crunch is not a particular type of bread. Rather, the name refers to the crackling, crispy topping created by painting dough with a paste of rice flour, yeast, sugar, salt and a fat such as butter or oil. The bread rises as it bakes in the oven, but the gluten-less rice flour paste does not, causing the topping to crack. Dutch crunch can be added to any type of bread, but it typically tops soft, slightly sweet French rolls, creating an intriguing contrast in taste and texture.

(The word roll here refers to ‘ a very small loaf of bread, to be eaten by one person’ (NOAD).)

That leads us to French roll, that is French bread roll,

[ French bread ] + [ roll ] ‘roll of French bread’

with first element French bread ‘white bread in a long, crisp loaf’ (NOAD), and, by extension, similar baked bread in other forms.

Parallel to this, Swiss roll ‘roll of Swiss bread’. Here there’s an incredible variety; Switzerland has no single national bread, though almost all the traditional breads are crusty. From the Newly Swissed site, “Is Switzerland the ultimate land of bread?!” from 6/14/12:

To a Swiss person, Switzerland is not so much the land of cheese or chocolate, it is the land of bread. However, if you ask most any North American or British person about the bread in Switzerland, they will tell you how they miss their soft, crust-less bread from back home.

… Swiss breads are generally very crusty.

… If you love bread, Switzerland is a country for you. There are over 200 different traditional breads in Switzerland, including 22 special cantonal bread varieties. They were officially recognized in the middle of the 19th century when Switzerland officially became a democratic republic.

(#17) An overwhelming display of Swiss breads

In any case, one sense of Swiss roll referring to bread. But there’s another,  in which roll is a shortening of roll-up. From NOAD:

noun roll-up: 2 US an article of food rolled up and sometimes stuffed with a filling: ham roll-ups.

If we combine this item roll with a first element Swiss, short for Swiss cheese (as in a Swiss on rye ‘a Swiss cheese on rye bread sandwich’), we get Swiss roll ‘Swiss cheese roll-up’, as in this recipe from the Pillsbury site:

(#18) Ham and Swiss Sweet Hawaiian Rolls

There are Pillsbury Sweet Hawaiian Crescent Roll dough wrapped around slices of ham and Swiss cheese and an apple slice, and then baked.

Well, four Swiss rolls ought to be enough. Though you could imagine a gymnastics movement called a Swiss roll, or a particular type of cylinder, or a sound (say, the noise made by Alpine thunder).

One Response to “Four Swiss rolls”

  1. Barb Albonico Says:

    Excellent article Arnold! Hope you feel better!

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