The Jelly Roll Failure Files

My mom has a yummy Christmas dessert that she has been making since I can remember. Chocolate Mint Yule Log (I know, very 80’s). It’s a chocolate jelly roll filled with minty whipped cream and crushed candy canes, topped with chocolate ganache and more candy cane bits, and served semi-frozen.

And I cannot veganize it yet. I’ve been trying every few weekends for a while now.

Traditionally, jelly rolls are made with sponge cake sheets, as the high egg content makes them stretchy and a little less soggy upon prolonged contact with filling.

The first two attempts, I didn’t take photos. First, I tried mom’s recipe, which used both egg yolks and egg whites. I tried some weird custard powder-aquafaba-psyllium powder mixture from the yolk. The egg whites were made from Aquafaba with Xantham gum added in. I recall that this version stuck to the paper like the dickens, and had large holes. I figured I would next try something that didn’t require egg yolks.

So I tried a modification of a “hot milk sponge” recipe from Joy Of Cooking, with Aquafaba egg white whipped stiff, sugar whipped in, and then a dry mixture of flours and baking powder mixed in.  The second version had no xantham gum added to the “eggs”, and fell flat while folding in the dry powders. It also was crunchy on the top once baked.

The third time, I called my gramma and got her recipe (similar to the Joy of Cooking one). It’s lemon, rather than chocolate, but I figured I’d start with the lemon recipe and go from there. It didn’t collapse when folding in the dry ingredients, but I had upped the Xantham gum. It stayed relatively high, but the op of the cake almost seemed caramelized. Once flipped over for filling, it was full of very large air holes.


A few nights ago, I tried gramma’s recipe again, but with some of the flour subbed out for cocoa, and I decided to follow the recipe more closely by using mostly granulated sugar instead of instant-dissolving sugar. However, I goofed and used four times the amount of hot milk – so the batter collapsed as soon as I added it. Undaunted, I baked it anyway, and was rewarded by a thin, gummy sheet. Mme. Minty tried it and said it gave her a stomachache.


I decided to take a different tack and try an already vegan recipe, and make it more like the cake I remember eating in years past. I took the “Wacky Cake” recipe from How it All Vegan and modified the oil and water ratios and added some psyllium powder. It’s a cake that uses leavening from vinegar and baking soda, in addition to baking powder. It baked into the perfect thickness. However, I tried rolling it up before it was cool enough, so it broke. I also think that I need to fold in a little bit of “egg white”, to give it a bit more elasticity.

So here I am, five cakes later and not as far ahead as I had hoped. At least the last attempt tastes and looks good; I just need to make it a bit more durable. Have any of you, dear readers, ever made egg-less sponge cake? Have any suggestions? I’m hoping to have a recipe up here soon that will actually work!!

Top egg replacement options


Are you looking to go egg-free, for health or ethical reasons? Do you actually eat eggs but ran out of them in the middle of your recipe? We often get asked how it is possible to bake vegan desserts. It is actually surprisingly easy to substitute eggs. The key to success is understanding what the role of eggs are in the particular recipe you are trying to adapt.


Eggs in recipes like pancakes, soda bread, or muffins often serve to “fluff up” the baked good. Usually only 1 or 2 eggs are required in the recipe. Acceptable substitutions per egg are:

a) A commercial “egg replacer” from brands like Ener-G (the best!), Pane Riso, Planet Organic, or Bob’s Red Mill. Their recommended amount of replacer plus water per egg is written on the box. Check ingredients on the box if you have any allergies. Mix with a fork until homogeneous.


Egg replacer usually comes in a cardboard box and is white in colour.

b) 1 tbsp corn starch + 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice + 2 tbsp water per egg. Whisk tougher with a fork.


c) If you are making muffins or quickbreads that already have more than 2 tsp of baking powder/soda, try using a substitute from the “enrichment” category instead.


Eggs in these recipes need the stickiness and protein of eggs to glue bits together. If only one or two eggs are needed, such as in a pastry crust, this is doable. Lots of eggs cannot be replaced for this type of recipe, however, such as in choux pastry – the whole recipe would need to be reformulated, which is a topic of its own. This is also what is needed when you are coating things with breadcrumbs, like sliced green tomatoes or tofu nuggets.

COmposite Gooey

Flax egg on the left and psyllium on the right

a) Combine 1.5 tbsp of ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp water per egg. Sit for 2 minutes before using.

b) Combine 0.5 tsp of  pysillium (Metamucil) husk with 3 tbsp water per egg. Sit for 2 minutes before using.

c) Make an emulsion of oil and vinegar. Into a mixing bowl of vinegar, drizzle canola oil with the egg beaters running. When it looks white and frothy, it can be used for dipping things that need to be breaded. Prepare immediately before using.

Composite oilvinegar

d) Mix equal proportions of Aquafaba (see section below) and water.


Eggs give softness and flavour to sweet breads, cupcakes, and muffins. Substitutes in this category are best sticky or mushy. This is the easiest egg to substitute.

a) Combine above quantities of ground flaxseed or pysillium husk with 3 tbsp water per egg. Sit for 2 minutes before using.

b) 2 tbsp of mashed banana or canned pumpkin and one Tbsp of water or oil per egg.


c) 3-4 tbsp of mashed silken or “dessert” tofu per egg.

Composite Tofu


Eggs brushed on pastries and bread combine with the natural starches in the dough to produce a rich brown crust. While this can be eliminated altogether, substitutes will keep the nice appearance you are used to.

a) Soymilk, almond milk, or dairy milk combined with a little melted margarine. If low-fat milk is used, add a pinch of sugar per tbsp of milk.

b) If canned fruit was used to prepare a pie, combine some of the syrup with a few drops of oil and/or a splash of milk. This makes the richest pie glaze ever, but it browns faster than plain milk.

Note: BOTH of these options are improved by the addition of 1/4 tsp of psyllium husk (I use this in my Tourtière recipe), as it helps the wash cling to the pastry

Composite glazes

From left: fruit syrup plus oil, fruit syrup plus oil and milk, milk plus margarine and sugar.


This gets a section of its own. In honesty, I researched, photographed, and prepared 90% of this post back in late winter, before I first heard of aquafaba. It’s a cool alternative to eggs that whisks up really well, just like egg whites.

It is the “juice” drained from a can of chickpeas or navy beans! Full of starches and protein, it’s both gooey and whisks into something fluffy. I’ve mostly used about 3 or 4 tablespoons of liquid per egg with success.


After whisking

I have used them to make numerous variations on homemade marshmallows and marshmallow creme, and have experimented a bit with meringue pies. I’m still working on perfecting using them to make a chiffon cake, so stay tuned for that recipe in a few months! Until then, also check out Seitan Is my Motor and Vegan Dad for some aquafaba recipes.