Swiss roll with Alkermes mascarpone cream and pistachios

It’s done. The manuscript is in. It’s been a whirlwind three or more months, where every spare minute of my day (when not devoting it to a toddler), every day and every evening, was consumed in the pages of my notebook, either scribbling recipes, testing, recording or researching them. It’s been quite an eyeopening experience and one that was made even more challenging with a little one around. Now I feel like I can finally breathe. And it’s good timing too, as D-day also happens to be my birthday.

sponge roll with pistachiosponge roll IMG_4427 blog

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to cook something for myself, since I’ve had time for myself, especially for the blog. So I thought it would be fitting to bake a cake, naturally. Something pretty enough for a birthday, but also something unfussy. Quick.

A sponge roll (perhaps better known as a Swiss roll) came to mind. It’s not the typical birthday cake but I couldn’t be fussed with layering and baking multiple cakes and it also bakes in about 10-12 minutes. One thin, fluffy slab, a layer of cream, all rolled together (it’s really much simpler than the instructions seem). Pretty cake done.

sponge roll with Alkermes mascarpone and pistachios

I’ve done a sponge roll before, to celebrate my 100th post on the blog. It’s a typical cake you see in the Tuscan coastal region around Cecina and depending on where you are it’s known by various names but we call it a tronco. With hot pink Alkermes (read more about this Renaissance liqueur on that post) seeping into it and a centimetre-thick layer of nutella, it’s not exactly subtle.

But I liked the idea of a hint of Alkermes, barely detectable but for a dash of its spices (cinnamon, vanilla, cloves and nutmeg) and a pastel-hue as it’s whipped into a mascarpone cream. I love it so much more this way.

Some roasted, chopped pistachio and some lightly marinated strawberries add a splash of colour. And finally it feels like time for celebrating over here!

Sponge roll with alkermes mascarpone, pistachios, strawberriesSponge roll with pistachios and strawberries

I love looking at Poires au Chocolat’s blog when I want to get inspired for some baking, as Emma always has something clever over there. Even for basics, such as the classic Swiss roll with jam – a good place to start, especially if you are new at Swiss rolls.

As far as Swiss rolls go, this one is pretty forgiving. If you’re slightly distracted during this short baking time, as I was, and you go a little too far you can end up with a rather dry sponge that tends to crack or split when rolling. It seems devastating at first, but because this is lathered in mascarpone cream and sprinkled in pistachios, you seal and hide the cracks and, when you let it rest, the cream also returns softness back to the whole cake. In fact, the leftovers, the next day, are even better.

Sponge roll birthday cake

Swiss roll with Alkermes mascarpone cream, pistachios and marinated strawberries

If you don’t want to make this a boozy cake, you can take out the alcohol by simmering the Alkermes in a small saucepan for a few minutes. Let cool before using. You could also substitute different liqueurs for the Alkermes – cointreau I think would be quite nice. 

For the mascarpone cream:

  • 270 grams mascarpone
  • 70 grams caster sugar
  • 40 ml Alkermes
  • 200 ml single cream, whipped to soft peaks

For the sponge:

  • 3 eggs
  • 100 grams caster sugar
  • 60 grams cornstarch
  • 40 grams plain flour

To serve:

  • handful of raw sugar
  • 50 grams pistachios, shelled, lightly toasted and chopped finely
  • 1 punnet ripe strawberries
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar

For the mascarpone cream:

Beat the mascarpone with the sugar and Alkermes until creamy and well-incorporated. Fold in the whipped cream. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator until needed.

For the sponge:

Separate the egg yolks and whites in two clean glass or metal bowls. Beat the yolks until creamy, add the sugar and keep beating until very pale, about 5-10 minutes.

With very clean beaters, whip the whites in the other bowl until stiff peaks form and you can tip the bowl upside down without anything sliding out.

In a separate bowl, sift together the cornstarch and flour. Gently fold in a third of this to the yolks, then a third of the whites, continuing until the whole batter is only just combined.

Pour into a baking tray lined with baking paper so that the batter is about 1cm thick. I used a 23 x 33 cm tin. Bake in a low oven at 160ºC for about 10-12 minutes or until the top is pale golden and firm and springy to the touch.

To assemble the cake:

Let cake cool in the tin for a minute or two. Prepare a sheet of plastic wrap larger than the baking tin and sprinkle with raw sugar to cover (this is so the sponge won’t stick – it also adds a nice crunch!).

Flip the warm sponge onto the sugar coated sheet and slowly remove the baking paper from the sponge. Trim the edges by 2mm or so to assist with rolling. About 1cm from the short end closest to you, score a line through the sponge. This is where you will begin your rolling.

Let the cake cool slightly until it is not steaming hot but just warm to the touch. Spread about two-thirds of the mascarpone cream liberally all over, so it is about 1cm thick and leaving a 1-2cm border around the edges. Roll the sponge, keeping it firm (but not so tight as all the filling falls out) and use the plastic wrap to hold everything together. Let chill in the refrigerator 1 hour.

In the meantime, prepare strawberries by cutting off green tops and quartering them. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Chill in refrigerator until needed.

Just before serving spread with a thin layer of the rest of the mascarpone cream and sprinkle chopped pistachios all over. Cut into thick slices and serve with marinated strawberries.


  1. Valeria says:

    Happy birthday and hurrah for the book – wow it seemed so fast! Kudos to you for managing it all – time to take a breather! I love the airy feeling of this roll, and the pink hue given by alchermes makes it so elegant – what a lovely birthday cake. 🙂 x

    • Emiko says:

      It was very fast – a flash, really! But in some ways better this way, I don’t think I could wait 2 years to see the final product! Thanks Val xx

  2. Katy says:

    Congratulations and happy birthday! This cake looks like a gorgeous way of celebrating both milestones.

    I’m so looking forward to seeing the final product and cooking my way through Florence with you to guide me.

  3. janie says:

    Happy Birthday and I can’t wait until the book is available to purchase. Congratulations on all your hard work!

  4. Mary Frances says:

    Happy birthday and congratulations on getting your manuscript in! This cake is the perfect celebration, it looks so perfectly sweet and lovely!

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