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Strawberries and Cream Roulade

A recipe with as many turns of nostalgia as the cake itself.

One 10½-inch roulade (about 12 slices)


2 to 3 hours from start to finish


Strawberries and cream are one of early summer’s enduring tropes. Roll a tender vanilla sponge into the mix and you have June at its most expressive. This is a dreamy, visually elegant cake with an innocent old-fashioned flavor.

We did, however, forsake the Cool Whip filling of our mothers’ generation for one with much more brio. We whipped heavy cream, then folded in crème fraiche, the cultured cream adding a subtle tang and complex flavor as well as a luxuriousness that whipped cream alone lacks. Homemade strawberry syrup lends the filling a pale pink blush and finely diced berries stud it like ruby-hued confetti.

Baking Notes

Even just a trace of oil will prevent egg whites from attaining maximum loft, so when making the cake, separate the eggs without touching the whites and turn them into a dry, sparkling clean bowl. When whipping in the stand mixer, stay close and keep a watchful eye on the egg whites’ progress, as they will go from perfect to overwhipped in a matter of mere seconds.

Immediately after removing the sponge cake from the oven, loosen its sides from the baking sheet with a paring knife, then quickly flip it onto a large, lint-free kitchen towel that has been dusted generously with confectioners’ sugar. The cake should be made, filled, and, ideally, devoured the same day . . . though, in truth, it is still irresistible after a day or so in the refrigerator.

We use gelatin in sheet form to stabilize and give structure to the filling. Gelatin sheets are far simpler to use than powdered; they need only to be briefly soaked in water and squeezed of excess moisture before being dissolved in liquid, in this case in gently warmed strawberry syrup. Make sure to stir the syrup-gelatin mixture as it cools to prevent it from gelling.

equipment mise en place

To make the cake, you will need a digital kitchen scale; an 18 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet (aka a half sheet pan); parchment paper; a large and a medium bowl; a sifter or fine-mesh strainer for sifting; a whisk; a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (both the bowl and attachment must be scrupulously clean); a silicone spatula; an offset icing spatula; a large, clean kitchen towel; a paring knife; and a wire rack.

For the filling and piping cream, you will need a digital kitchen scale, two small bowls, a small saucepan, a small silicone spatula, a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, an offset icing spatula, a whisk, and a large (about 12-inch) piping bag fitted with a large star tip.

  • for the cake:

    • 2
      ounces almond oil, plus additional for coating the baking sheet
    • 5.4
    • 1
      teaspoon baking powder
    • ½
      teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 4.8
      ounces superfine sugar
    • 4
      large eggs, room temperature
    • 2.6
      ounces whole milk
    • 2
      teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1
      teaspoon grated lemon zest
    • teaspoon cream of tartar
    • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  • for the strawberry–crème fraîche filling:

    • 8
      ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and finely diced
    • 1
      teaspoon grated lemon zest
    • 2
      gelatin sheets
    • 2.5
    • 8
      ounces cold heavy cream
    • 1.3
      ounces superfine sugar
    • 1
      teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Pinch of fine sea salt
    • 8
      ounces crème fraîche
  • for the piping cream:

    • 4
      ounces cold heavy cream
    • 2
      teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
    • ¼
      teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Pinch of fine sea salt
    • 2
  • for finishing and serving:

    • 3 or 4
      perfect, evenly sized medium strawberries, unhulled, quartered lengthwise

    Make the cake: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat the bottom of an 18 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with almond oil, then line it with parchment paper.


    Into a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 3 tablespoons of the sugar and whisk thoroughly; set aside.


    Separate the eggs, adding the whites to the scrupulously clean bowl of a stand mixer and the yolks to a medium bowl; be very careful not to contaminate the whites with even the smallest bit of yolk. Set the whites aside.


    To the yolks, add ¼ cup of the remaining sugar and whisk until the mixture is thick and lightened in color. Add the oil, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest, then whisk until homogenous. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and whisk gently until fully incorporated; set aside.


    Attach the mixer bowl and whisk attachment to the stand mixer. Beat the whites on medium-low speed until foamy, then add the cream of tartar. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until the whites form soapy bubbles, 30 to 60 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the whites form soft, loopy peaks, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, gradually pour in the remaining sugar. Once all the sugar has been added, continue to beat until the whites are glossy and hold soft peaks, about 1 minute longer.


    Using a silicone spatula, scoop out about 1 cup of the whites and fold them into the flour-yolk mixture just until only a few streaks of white remain. Add the remaining whites and fold until fully incorporated. Gently pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet, scraping out the bowl. Using an offset icing spatula, quickly spread the batter into an even layer all the way to the corners and sides of the baking sheet, smoothing the surface. Bake until the cake is light golden brown and the center springs back when lightly pressed with a fingertip, 15 to 17 minutes. Do not overbake.


    While the cake is baking, lay a large, clean, lint-free kitchen towel on your work surface, positioning a short end parallel with the counter’s edge. Smooth out the towel, making sure there are no wrinkles. Spoon a couple heaping tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar into a fine-mesh strainer and dust the towel with a generous coating. Using your hands, very lightly rub the sugar into the towel; this will reduce the reach of the sugar cloud when the cake is inverted onto the towel.


    When the cake is done, very quickly run a paring knife around the inside edges of the baking sheet to loosen the cake, then immediately invert the baking sheet onto the prepared kitchen towel, with a short end of the baking sheet parallel with a short edge of the towel; this action will create a sugar cloud. Lift off the baking sheet and carefully peel off the parchment. Starting at the end nearest you and using the edges of the towel for assistance, loosely roll up the hot cake with the towel like a rug; do not roll it too tightly. Carefully transfer the roll to a wire rack and let cool completely, 1½ to 2 hours.


    While the cake is cooling, make the filling: In a small bowl, toss the strawberries with the lemon zest; cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Fill a second small bowl with water and add the gelatin sheets, pushing them down so they are completely submerged; set aside until the gelatin is fully softened, about 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, warm the strawberry syrup over medium heat just until it begins to steam, then remove the pan from the heat. Using your hands, lift the gelatin sheets from the water, squeeze them to wring out the excess water, and add them to the warm syrup. Stir with a small silicone spatula until the gelatin fully dissolves. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until barely warm to the touch.


    In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt on medium-high speed until just shy of the soft-peak stage, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and with the mixer running, gradually pour in the gelatin–strawberry syrup mixture. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the cream is tinted pink and holds soft peaks, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the crème fraîche and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is thick, lilting, and well-combined, 30 to 60 seconds. Detach the bowl from the mixer and give the cream mixture a few folds with a silicone spatula. Add the strawberries and fold until evenly distributed. If you own a second mixer bowl, cover the filling and refrigerate until ready to use; if you don’t own a second mixer bowl, transfer the filling to a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.


    Gently transfer the rolled-up cake from the wire rack back to the work surface, positioning it so you are able to unroll the cake away from you. Carefully unroll the cake. If it does not lay perfectly flat, do not press it down; instead, let it settle for a few minutes. Spoon the filling onto the cake and, using an offset icing spatula, spread the filling into an evenly thick layer, stopping just shy of the long edges and the far short edge. Roll the cake back up into a neat cylinder, using the towel to help you begin rolling. Rotate the roulade so that the seam side is down, if it isn’t already. Using a serrated knife, trim off the edges to create tidy ends. Carefully transfer the roulade to a platter, making sure it sits on the seam, then cover with plastic wrap. If you are ready to finish and serve the cake, set it aside while you make the piping cream, otherwise, refrigerate it for up to 1 day; let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before finishing and serving.


    Make the piping cream and finish the cake: Fit a large (about 12-inch) pastry bag with a large star tip. In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the strawberry syrup and beat on medium-high until the cream is uniformly pale pink in color and returns to the soft-peak stage. Transfer the cream to the prepared pastry bag, then pipe evenly spaced 1-inch rosettes on top of the cake, along its length. Arrange the quartered strawberries on the rosettes. Cut the cake into slices about ¾ inch thick and serve with strawberry syrup.

recipe developed by Nina Levin