Hong Kong's bakers du jour teach us how to roll a fat one

Hong Kong's bakers du jour teach us how to roll a fat one

We're talking about big, fat, moist Swiss rolls from Tsim Sha Tsui's red hot gourmet bakery, Roll

hong kong roll bakery

Hong Kong bakery, Roll, has been hovering at the top of OpenRice's rankings since it opened on Granville Road a little over a month ago. Granville Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is chock-full of trendy stores, but has been conspicuously lacking in food options for far too long. Until now. Two sisters from Canada recently opened the specialty bakery simply known as Roll and with it, have engineered Hong Kong's latest dessert craze: the Swiss roll.

A likely influence of British rule, the Swiss roll can be found at any traditional Hong Kong bakery and is a perennial afternoon tea staple loved by office ladies and grandmas alike. But despite its unwavering status as a Hong Kong food icon, it has never been much of a trend item.

Ada (the one in the pink shirt in the photo above) and Amy Wong (chef's jacket) have given this local favorite a hip makeover, injecting a range of flavors from maple syrup (a dead giveaway that the sisters were raised in Canada) to vanilla. Amy, the younger sister, is a trained dessert chef and handmakes the Swiss rolls each morning.


Amy was kind enough to share with CNNGo her recipe for Roll's best-selling flavor, black sesame and charcoal. The pitch black charcoal sponge cake is rolled together with sweetened black sesame paste and cream for a Japanese-inspired, Hong Kong favorite.

hong kong roll bakery
Amy takes out a layer of sponge which contains charcoal powder.

"Once an old lady actually asked us to let her in on where we buy the charcoal powder from because, apparently, it's used in traditional Chinese medicine to purge toxins from the body."

Well there we go, who said these rolls weren't healthy.

hong kong roll bakery
hong kong roll bakery
After tidying up the edges of the sponge cake, Amy spreads a layer of gooey black sesame paste over the sponge. The black sesame seeds should be toasted and sweetened for the best flavor. The grind of the seeds is fine, but gives a good crunch between the teeth when biting into the finished Swiss roll.

On top of the black sesame paste goes a layer of whipped cream. Taking back what we said about it being healthy ...

hong kong roll bakery
hong kong roll bakery
Then the fun part. Amy uses a long metal rod to help her roll the sponge into shape, but similar objects can be used instead. The sisters say you can't buy these metal rods at kitchenware stores in Hong Kong, instead, they suggest going to a hardware store to get a length of metal piping cut to your desired length.

Amy advises being gentle but firm when rolling the sponge cake. She likens it to rolling a yoga mat. No doubt that should be one of the physical activities you should consider after indulging in these rolls.

hong kong roll bakery
hong kong roll bakery
hong kong roll bakery
hong kong roll bakery
After rolling the sponge cake, use the rod to give the cake a firm nudge all around. Then place the roll in the fridge for 10-15 minutes for easier slicing.

hong kong roll bakery
Amy meticulously measures out the thickness of each slice before cutting to ensure uniformity. With this level of attention and detail to each handmade Swiss roll, these sisters deserve to be successful. They will go on to sell some 500 of these each day.

hong kong roll bakery
hong kong roll bakery
Last but not least, sprinkle some sugar on the top, and there you have it. Your first roll at home probably won't resemble anything like this, but practice makes perfect, and you can still eat it even if it doesn't look very appealing, right? 

  hong kong roll bakery
The sisters recommend buying ingredients from www.twinsco.com, which sources from Japan and France. They insist on only using high-quality ingredients, accounting for their rolls being more expensive than the standard ones you get everywhere else. Hong Kongers who are used to the dry generic Swiss rolls in the average bakery better steal themselves for the flavor and texture-rich punch-in-the-face of Amy's rolls. She also doesn't use any preservatives in her products, which means they will only last for 24 hours (unless you freeze them). A good reason to scoff them down as fast as you can. 

Ingredients (for a 20x30 cm sponge)

3 eggs

1 yolk

90g sugar

70g flour

20ml milk

20g butter
Several tablespoons of charcoal powder


A1, G/F Granville House, 41 C-D Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, tel +852 2191 9212 

Roll's Openrice page

Izzy is a freelance writer based in Hong Kong, where she returned to after spending the better half of a decade in England.

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