Bolo de Rolo (pronounced ‘Bollo de Hollo’) is a much-loved speciality of the northeastern state of Pernambuco. The cake comprises rolled layers of fine, sweet pastry and goiabada (guava paste/jam). I like a slice of Bolo de Rolo for ‘Elevenses’ with a nice cup of tea.


Ingredients (makes enough for 10-15 slices)

  • 250g caster sugar (plus a little more for dusting)
  • 250g butter
  • 250g plain flour
  • 5 medium eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 250g guava paste


  • Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  • Put the guava paste into a small bowl, add a little water and mash it up with a fork. The idea is to loosen it up so you have a smooth, jam-like consistency – you may find gently heating it in a microwave, on the stove, or simply adding hot water will help you achieve this. Once it is smooth and jammy, set aside – you’ll need it later on.
  • Put the sugar and butter in a mixing bowl and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until well combined.
  • Stir in the egg yolks one at a time, mixing each one in well before adding the next.
  • Add in the flour and stir well until everything is smooth.
  • Beat the eggs whites until you have firm peaks, then fold into the cake mixture.
  • Lay baking parchment onto a baking tray, grease with butter and sprinkle with a little flour. Now spread a very thin layer of the batter onto the parchment using a spatula. Make the thickness of the layer is as even as possible – aim for 2mm thick.
  • Put the tray on the top shelf of the oven and bake for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, take a look at the cake layer – it should be just set. If any part is still bubbling or still looks liquidy then give it another 30 seconds or so. Watch it carefully because cake this thin will dry out very quickly.
  • Lay a damp cloth (a tea towel is perfect) on a flat surface. Turn out your thin sheet of cake onto the cloth and spread a layer of the guava jam over the entire surface. Now the fun part! Start to roll the cake up like a piece of paper. The first part is tricky as you don’t want to leave a hole/gap – but don’t worry if it cracks a bit. Once you’ve got the roll going you can either simply roll it up using your hands or lift the damp cloth up and over to roll the sheet up. Put the mini roll to one side.
  • Now you simply repeat the process. Spread a thin layer of batter onto the parchment (I found I was able to re-use the same parchment again and again – just make sure it’s well greased to prevent sticking). Bake for 4 minutes, spread with guava jam and roll it up. Of course, for the second layer (and all subsequent) you will be rolling the main roll into the newly baked sheet – line up the seam on the main roll with the starting edge of the new sheet.
  • Using these quantities, I was able to make 7 sheets, each one around 35cm x 25cm. Once you’ve used up all the batter you can dust the outer surface of the cake in a little more caster sugar (because it isn’t quite sweet enough yet, right?).
  • Finally, trim the edges with a sharp knife to tidy it up.

This looked like sort of recipe that I would make a complete mess of, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the whole process was pretty easy and the end result looks quite impressive I think. Next time I will add slightly thicker layers of jam, not because the cake tasted like it needed it – it would just look prettier.

To finish, a confession: Pernambucanos will probably never forgive me, but I actually used quince paste (marmelada) instead of guava (goiabada) as I had made a massive batch of the stuff a few days earlier and wanted to use it up. And one final warning – do not confuse Bolo de Rolo with Rocambole in the presence of a Pernambucano. Rocambole is much closer to what we Brits call ‘Swiss Roll’ (‘Jelly Roll’ in North America I believe) – it’s a single cakey layer rolled up with any kind of fruit jam and/or cream.