Guava Swiss Roll (Brazo Gitano)

Guava jelly roll
Mezhoud Samira / EyeEm/Getty Images
  • Total: 35 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
214 Calories
8g Fat
30g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 214
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 3g 16%
Cholesterol 121mg 40%
Sodium 252mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Protein 7g
Calcium 70mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

It's said that a monk brought the recipe for brazo gitano (gypsy arm) from Egypt to Spain, but it's more likely its name comes from the leftover cake trimmings gypsies used to drape over their arms as part of the payment they received when selling their merchandise in bakeries across Catalonia.

This dessert has many variations, but they all follow the same method of assembly: a soft sponge cake filled with a sugary jelly and/or cream and dusted in powdered sugar or coated with cream. In some countries, it takes the name brazo de reina (queen's arm) which is filled with fresh fruit and cream, or pionono, with dulce de leche (dark milk caramel). A yule log is a very European, chocolate-heavy variation.

Guava is a common fruit in the Caribbean and in Central and South America, and so cheap you can buy it in large amounts. Because it goes bad fairly fast, it's made shelf-stable and delicious by cooking it into a paste. Some cultures eat it with queso fresco for a quick dessert, and others incorporate it into tarts and cakes like in our decadent Puerto Rican Brazo Gitano.

Ingredients

  • For the Cake:
  • 2 tablespoons butter (softened to room temperature)
  • 6 large eggs (whites and yolks separated)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons flour (all-purpose, or cake flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar (for dusting the cooled cake)
  • For the Guava Filling:
  • 17.5 ounces guava paste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Steps to Make It

Before Your Start

Have the following items on hand:

  • One offset spatula, and one silicone spatula
  • One clean kitchen towel
  • Three bowls: one large, one medium, one small
  • One flat baking pan for the sponge. Deeper pans make the cake too thick and impossible to roll. The average measurements for the pan needed are 17 1/4 x 12 1/4 x 1 in.
  • One sheet of parchment paper. Without it the cake might stick to the pan, breaking when you try to place it on the damp towel.

To Make the Cake

  1. Gather the cake's ingredients.

  2. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).

  3. Grease a sponge pan with butter and line it with parchment paper. Grease the top of the parchment paper. You should end up with butter on both sides of the paper.

  4. In the large bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Use an electric beater set on medium.

  5. Add the sugar to the egg whites one tablespoon at a time while increasing the beater speed. Continue to beat the mixture until the egg whites form stiff peaks, and set this mixture to the side.

  6. In the small bowl, beat the egg yolks with a fork until fluffy.

  7. In the medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt.

  8. Using the silicone spatula, gently fold the egg yolks into the stiff peaks of egg whites. Then, with care, fold in the dry ingredients. Lastly, incorporate the vanilla extract. If, when folding in the ingredients, you overmix or aren't delicate enough, the cake will come out of the oven flat, having lost all its air.

  9. Pour the batter into the buttered flat pan and spread it out evenly with an offset spatula.

  10. Place the cake on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

  11. While the cake is baking, prepare a damp, clean kitchen towel to roll the cake in. The towel should be slightly larger than the cake.

  12. When a toothpick inserted in the middle of the sponge comes out clean, remove the cake and turn off the oven. Allow the cake to cool for about 5 minutes so that you can handle it without burning your hands. To be rolled, it should still be slightly warm.

  13. Trim all the crispy ends of the sponge.

  14. Dust the damp towel with powdered sugar. Turn the cake upside down onto the prepared towel and gently peel off the parchment paper.

  15. Roll the cake up in the towel. Start with the smaller side and roll away from you. The towel is rolled along with the cake. Set the rolled cake aside and let it cool while you are making the filling.

To Make the Guava Filling

  1. Mix the guava paste, juice, and citrus zest in a food processor or blender until pureed and smooth enough to spread.

  2. Gently unroll the cake and evenly spread on the filling.

  3. Firmly roll up the cake, using the towel as an aid to push the sponge forward. Because the cake is pre-rolled, this step is fairly easy because the sponge will fall back into the rolled position. Place the seam side of the cake down and, if necessary, trim off the ends in order to make the inner swirl neater.

  4. Place the roll, seam side down, on a serving platter and garnish with more powdered sugar.

  5. Serve warm or cold, and enjoy!

Citrus Flavor

  • Use lemon juice and zest as substitutes for the orange citrus flavors that are suggested. Grapefruit is too tart and could have a bitter aftertaste when cooked in the sponge.