OTHER NAMES jelly roll, Cream Roll, Roulade (in French)
Swiss Roll is a light sponge cake with a filling such as jam, cream, or lemon curd. It is rolled into a log shape, and has a spiral pattern when sliced.
The origin of Swiss Roll is not Switzerland, but its beginning is still a mystery. Some think it is an old English recipe,  some think it is possibly inspired from the Austrians.  Historians believe it was invented around the 19th century. 
The earliest published reference for a rolled cake spread with jelly was in the Northern Farmer, a journal published in Utica, New York, in December 1852. Called “To Make Jelly Cake”, the recipe describes a modern "jelly roll" and reads: “Bake quick, and while hot spread with jelly. Roll carefully, and wrap it in a cloth. When cold cut in slices for the table.” 
Swiss Roll was particularly popular in the UK. As a result, the cake was well-known among countries that were influenced by the British Empire such as Hong Kong and India. 
During 1960s, manufacturing Swiss Roll as snacks became fairly popular. Big brands such as Little Debbie and Lyons Company began their Swiss Roll businesses around that time.
Today, Swiss Rolls can be easily found in cake shops. Due to its popularity in Chinese cuisine, Swiss Rolls are sold regularly in most Chinese bakeries. 
Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll
Photo by Evan-Amos
Different countries have their own version of Swiss Roll.  Depending on the country's taste, they develop their own flavors of cakes and choices of fillings.
Many might like Swiss Roll must be a hit in Switzerland but the cake is actually not widely eaten there. In France, "Bûche de Noël" or "Yule Log," is a traditional French dessert during Christmas. It is basically a Swiss Roll decorated with chocolate frosting to resemble a chopped off tree branch.  In Sweden, they called it Rulltarta, and some of their Swiss Rolls were made with potato flour instead of wheat/all-purpose/cake flour. 
Asian Swiss Rolls began their roots by spreading the recipe from the British Empire. That is the reason why Swiss Rolls are very popular in Hong Kong and it is deeply influential in Chinese pastries. There are many varieties of Swiss Rolls that can be found in most bakeries in Asia. Hong Kong styled Swiss Rolls are typically lighter than western-style because it usually only uses standard whipping cream filling. Indian Swiss Rolls are called Jam Rolls, and there is one kind that uses pineapple jelly filling. In Japan, it is common to use Matcha (green tea powder) to flavor sponge cake, and red bean flavored whipped cream is sometimes used as fillings. In Malaysia, fruity flavored Swiss Rolls like coconut, strawberry, and blueberry are quite popular. 
Before starting, make sure you have wax paper and sheet pan for baking a sheet of cake. Cut out a piece of wax paper that matches the size of your sheet pan. Butter or grease the pan and wax paper.
Start with your favorite sponge cake recipe. Spread cake batter evenly on sheet pan and bake until set. While cake is baking in oven, prepare your filling such as lemon curd, whipped cream or butter cream.
When the sponge cake is baked and still hot, turn it upside down to remove sheet pan. (Cover with a damp towel on top to keep cake moist if you have problem with dry cake) When it becomes warm, remove wax paper.
Spread your filling on the sponge cake sheet. Then, roll up the cake slowly with a towel or wax paper. Press gently as you go to make sure there is no gap. When it is all rolled, cover the cake with wax paper and plastic wrap. Put it in the fridge until cool.
Before serving, add more toppings if you want. (icing sugar, cocoa powder, fresh fruits, jam, etc) Now, cut the cake into slices for serving. 
Sponge cake, filling
Filling: lemon curd, seedless fruit jelly, cheese, butter cream frosting, chocolate spread, whipped cream with fresh fruit.
Chocolate Swiss Rolls: http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/
Swiss Roll with Strawberry Jam: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/
The word, cake, is of Viking origin, from the Old Norse word "kaka".  The Oxford English Dictionary traces the English word cake back to the 13th century. In other languages, cake is translated to Gateau (Gateaux in plural) in French and Torte in German. 
Cakes can be savory or sweet, light or rich, porous or dense. Determining whether a given food should be classified as bread, cake, or pastry can be difficult.  For example, banana bread is a quick bread, but it has a texture of a cake and uses same ingredients as if a cake would have. There are many dispute on what category these desserts should be classified, but why don't we simply enjoy these goodies!
The earliest cakes were very different from what we have today. They were more like bread and usually made with simple ingredients like moistened crushed grains or nuts.  In Ancient Egypt, emmer and barley were used to make cakes, breads, and beer. Only the wealthy can enjoy cakes made with milled flour. There was no sugar at that time so honey was the primary sweetener. Sometimes, nuts and fruits like dates were added in the recipe too. 
Cakes covering with icing were first introduced in Europe around mid-17th century when cooking tools were more advanced and more ingredients were available. Icing was first made with only sugar and egg whites. 
Cakes were not only a meal or dessert to enjoy, it was used as symbols and representation for religious ceremonies and occasions celebrations from ancient times. Starting from at least the 8th century BC China, it was already a tradition to eat rice cakes during Chinese New Year for bringing good luck in the coming year. 
The first known birthday cake was recorded in the first century BCE from the book, Tristia, written by Latin poet Ovid. From his book, Ovid mentioned about celebrating his birthday with a birthday party and cake.  Today, cakes still play an important role in family gatherings, holiday celebrations, and ceremonial occasions like weddings, anniversaries, Christmas, etc.
In different cultures and regions, different cakes are made to celebrate the same holiday. For example, fruitcake is the Christmas cake consumed in France, Germany, and United States. In Japan, a frosted sponge cake with strawberries are more common during Christmas times.