Quince swiss roll, a Shakespearean cake, and a guilty secret


I love swiss roll. It looks so romantically pretty, and every bite offers an equal portion of light sponge, jam and cream. How not to like it? Growing up, my favourite one was filled with guava jam. Which brings me to another great love of mine: guava. On one of the many hours of my life I waste creating lists of top 5 best dishes, best ever desserts, or 5 ingredients I couldn’t live without (butter heads that list, thanks for asking), I recently asked myself what my Desert Island food would be. And I have almost decided it would be guava. Apart from the fact that it smells and tastes like a dream, it is also full of vitamin C – that’s that scurvy dealt with when I’m sailing away towards shipwreck. Considering the amount of time it takes to eat it, with all those millions of pits to spit out, and then the other many hours to get rid of the smaller pits stuck in your teeth, it’s the ideal fruit to keep me occupied at the island.


IMG_3042Now I live in England and guava is so hard to come by, I am always on the lookout for alternatives. It was with that mother of all problems in the back of my mind that I came to the Flavours of Spain stall at my beloved Brockley Market. Amongst manchegos and serranos and ibericos and olives, they had this beautiful block of quince paste. In Brazil, aIMG_1102 popular use of the versatile guava is a paste called goiabada, which must be one of my favourite things on this earth. Relatives and friends visiting from Brazil, take note: goiabada always makes a wonderful present. Similar in looks to quince paste, it has a very concentrated guava flavour, a thicker and stickier consistency and, in typical Brazilian fashion, a ton of sugar in it. If you can’t feel the tooth decay advancing as you eat it, you’ve been robbed. A classic dessert in Brazilian cuisine is called Romeo&Juliet (how lovely is that?), and consists of a big fat slab of goiabada next to a slice of fresh cheese. You see where I’m going with this. What if I replace goiabada with quince paste,  add some cheese and fill a swill roll with it?

Reader, that is exactly what I did! But first, a confession: my love of swiss roll reaches someIMG_1197 dark corners of my appetite. I also love that cheap, industrialised one with synthetic strawberry flavour. The one only available in the worst corner shops, with the big yellow 99p price stamped on the packet and not an ounce of natural anything in it. I can’t help it. Now and again, I get a craving that will not be quenched by anything but the junk shop bought strawberry swiss roll. So, you see, in making the transfat-free quince swiss roll I was hoping to achieve something pure and beautiful and be free once and for all of this ugly addiction.


The market attracts all sorts of punters

The market attracts all sorts of punters

Given that I was looking for Brazilian flavours, I went with a local recipe from the wonderful Brazilian food site Panelinha. Different from a classic British swiss roll, it does not use any raising agent. It relies on the stiff egg whites for volume. It also bakes for a shorter time. Along with a smaller quantity of flour, it uses potato starch. I’m not sure what the science behind this is, but I believe potato starch is a stronger and quicker thickening agent than flour, which helps keep the dough from breaking when you roll the cake. I think. Or if you know any different, please tell. I didn’t add any vanilla to the dough, as I wanted a neutral taste that would allow the quince to shine.


IMG_1123The quince behaved like a star. Much less sweet, yet very marked taste even after baked.  And no, it does not taste anything like guava. I also looked it up, and they do not seem to be related, despite it looking so similar. I picked up a cheese called Rosary while I was still l at the market. It’s a goat’s cheese, but very fresh and did not taste savoury, but quite refreshing as a filling.

I’m still calling it Romeo and Juliet swiss roll because it’s too good a name to miss. And the good news is,  after eating this, I have not yet given the 99p variety a second thought!

Romeo and Juliet Quince Swiss Roll

adapted from Brazilian food site Panelinha


  • 5 eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 4 tbps all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp potato starch
  • 5 tbsp caster sugar
  • 200g/1 cup quince paste + 2 tbps
  • 100g/ 1/2 cup fresh cheese: I used Rosary. What would also work: ricotta, cream cheese, Spanish queso blanco, mascarpone.


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
  2. Grease and flour a small swiss roll or baking tray of 30x20cm /8×12 in
  3. Beat the eggs until soft peaks form
  4. Still beating, add the sugar, one tablespoon at the time
  5. Gradually add the egg yolks, beating well after each addition
  6. Stop the mixer, add the flour and potato starch gently with a large spoon and mix. Beat with the electric mixer only enough to incorporate the dry ingredients into the dough. Do not overbeat.
  7. You will have a lot of dough and it will look like too much for the small baking tray. It is not. The dough will fill the baking tray and won’t rise, but stay light and fluffy.
  8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it starts to look golden. (mine took less than 20)

While it bakes:

  1. Dampen a tea towel and place it on a working surface. Sprinkle it generously with caster sugar.
  2. Make the filling: Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the quince paste and melt it in a small saucepan on low-medium heat. You can replace water by port or some other tipple of your preference. I was having a teetotal day. Remove it from the heat and add the cheese, mixing it well. I left a few white streaks of cheese to contrast it with the red of the quince.
  3. cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of quince into small cubes


  1. Remove the cake  from the oven and only allow it to cool for a couple of minutes before turning into the wet tea towel.
  2. Spread the filling over the cake. Distribute the remaining quince it over the filling.
  3. Hold on the tea towel and carefully roll the swiss roll. It really is quite easy. Make sure the cake is still warm and just roll it really slowly.


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