Spanish Brazo de Gitano: An Authentic Dessert Journey

Spanish Brazo de Gitano: An Authentic Dessert Journey

The world of desserts is vast and varied, with each culture offering its own unique take on sweet treats. One such dessert that has captured the hearts and taste buds of many is the Spanish Brazo de Gitano, Known in English as a “jelly roll” or “Swiss roll”, this dessert is a delightful combination of sponge cake and cream, rolled into a cylindrical shape.

A Brief History of Spanish Brazo de Gitano

The origins of the Brazo de Gitano are steeped in history and legend. Some attribute its discovery to a monk from Bierzo who found the dessert during a trip to Egypt and brought it back to Spain. This has led some to speculate that the original name was “Brazo Egipcio” (Egyptian Arm), which later evolved into “Brazo de Gitano” (Gypsy Arm).

Another theory suggests that the dessert’s name comes from the gypsy coppersmiths of the 19th and early 20th centuries. These craftsmen would travel around Barcelona’s bakeries, offering their services in exchange for leftover pastries. The pastries were rolled up in a sheet of sponge cake for easy transport, often carried under the arm, hence the name “Brazo de Gitano”.

Variations of the Classic Spanish Brazo de Gitano

While the traditional Spanish Brazo de Gitano is filled with cream, there are numerous variations of this classic dessert. Some versions feature a chocolate sponge cake or are filled with different types of cream. Others are topped with powdered sugar, chocolate, icing, burnt sugar, meringue, or cream.

In Madrid, it’s traditional to make it filled with cream, with variations like the “Reina de Nata” (Queen of Cream). In Huesca, it’s a very traditional pastry. The dessert has also found its way into other cultures, with different names and variations. For instance, in Finland it’s called “kääretorttu”, in France “gâteau roulé”, and in Hungary “lekváros tekercs” or “piskóta tekercs”.

Tips and Tricks for Making a Perfect Jelly Roll

Creating a perfect jelly roll cake requires some finesse. Here are some tips to help you master this dessert:

  • Choose the right ingredients: The basic ingredients for a jelly roll cake are eggs, flour, and sugar. For a chocolate version, you can replace some of the flour with cocoa powder.
  • Beat the eggs well: The key to a light and fluffy sponge cake is well-beaten eggs. Beat the yolks with half of the sugar until they’re frothy. In parallel, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then gradually add the rest of the sugar.
  • Be gentle with the batter: After adding sifted flour to your egg mixture, fold it in gently to keep as much air in the batter as possible.
  • Roll while warm: Once your sponge cake is baked, it’s important to roll it while it’s still warm. This makes it more pliable and less likely to crack.
  • Let it cool: After rolling your cake with its filling, wrap it up and let it cool before serving. This helps it hold its shape better.


Whether you call it a jelly roll, Swiss roll, or Brazo de Gitano, this delightful dessert is sure to impress. Its rich history and endless variations make it a fascinating subject as well as a delicious treat. So why not try making your own jelly roll cake? With these tips and tricks at your disposal, you’re sure to create a dessert that’s both beautiful and delicious.

Spanish Brazo de gitano

Spanish Brazo de Gitano: An Authentic Dessert Journey

Discover the history, art, and diverse variations of the iconic Spanish Brazo de Gitano, a dessert that beckons you to savor its sweet elegance. Explore tips, tricks, and the heartwarming tale behind this beloved rolled cake.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Chilling Time 2 minutes
Total Time 54 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Mediterranean


  • 4 Large eggs at room temperature
  • ¾ cup Granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 cup All-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • ¼ tsp Salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup Fruit jam (strawberry, raspberry, or your choice)
  • 1 cup Whipped cream

For the Garnish (Optional):

  • Powdered sugar
  • Fresh fruit
  • Sliced almonds


  • Preheat the Oven:
    Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 15×10-inch (38×25 cm) jelly roll pan and line it with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on each side.
  • Prepare the Sponge Cake:
    a. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer until the mixture becomes thick and pale. This should take about 5 minutes.
    b. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
    c. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
    d. Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until well combined, but be gentle to maintain the volume of the eggs
    e. Pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan and spread it out evenly.
  • Bake the Cake:
    Bake in the preheated oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden and springs back when touched.
  • Roll the Cake:
    a. While the cake is still warm, lay a clean kitchen towel on a flat surface and dust it lightly with powdered sugar.
    b. Carefully flip the cake onto the towel. Peel off the parchment paper.
    c. Starting at one of the shorter edges, roll the cake and the towel together into a log shape. This will help the cake cool in a rolled position, making it easier to unroll later.
  • Assemble the Brazo de Gitano:
    a. Once the cake has cooled completely (about 30 minutes), carefully unroll it from the towel.
    b. Spread the fruit jam evenly over the cake.
    c. Spread the whipped cream over the jam.
  • Re-Roll the Cake:
    Gently roll the cake back up, starting from the same short edge, without the towel this time. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to avoid squeezing out the filling.
  • Chill and Garnish:
    Wrap the rolled cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours to firm it up.Before serving, you can dust the top with powdered sugar and garnish with fresh fruit or sliced almonds if desired.
  • Slice and Serve:
    When ready to serve, slice the Brazo de Gitano into rounds and enjoy!
Keyword dessert

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