Brazo Gitano

This is a Spanish cake, one that used to be made for me by my mother’s Spanish domestic couple, Ferdinand and Isabel. The name always intrigued me as a child, and I still love the richness of the recipe.


For the sponge cake

  • 5 extra large eggs, separated
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup superfine sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour

For the filling

  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 3 extra large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • cups milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup rum


Take a 15- by 10½-inch jelly roll pan and line it with parchment paper. Grease the paper well with butter.

Put the egg yolks, lemon zest, and half the sugar in a bowl, and whisk hard until the mixture looks like thick, pale custard. This should take 2-3 minutes. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar and whisk to a glossy meringue. Fold the meringue into the egg yolk mixture, cutting down with the side of a large metal spoon. Sift some of the flour over the top and fold in. Continue to fold in the flour a little at a time.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 12-15 minutes or until pale golden brown and springy to the touch.

Sprinkle a piece of parchment paper with sugar. Unmold the cake directly onto the sugared paper and remove the lining paper. Roll up the cake with the sugared paper inside. Wrap in a dampened dish towel and leave to become cold.

For the filling, melt the chocolate in a bowl set over hot water, stirring occasionally. Mix the egg yolks, flour, cornstarch, and cinnamon together to make a paste, adding a little of the milk if needed. Bring the rest of the milk and the sugar to boiling point in a heavy-based saucepan, and pour onto the yolks, stirring continuously. Return to the pan and cook over a low heat, stirring, until the custard is thick and smooth (it will be lumpy at first). Remove from the heat, and stir in the chocolate, vanilla, and rum. Leave until cold.

Unwrap the sponge, unroll it, and remove the paper. Spread with the chocolate filling and reroll. Keep wrapped in the paper in the fridge until it is needed. Serve the same day.