Pianono: Filipino Swiss Roll
Pianono is a Filipino Swiss Roll, a tender cake roll traditionally filled with margarine and sugar, but can be rolled with your favorite filling! Try this easy pianono recipe with jam, custard, whipped cream, or whatever you fancy! My version is filled with coconut jam.
Pianono is a Filipino Swiss Roll, a tender cake roll traditionally filled with margarine and sugar, but can be rolled with your favorite filling! Try this easy pianono recipe with jam, custard, whipped cream, or whatever you fancy!
Late last week, this little spot of mine on the interwebs quietly passed another milestone. Eleven years of cooking and photographing and sharing have gone by, and this little labor of love is, in human terms, an adolescent.
I wanted to share a special recipe to celebrate, and yet again, I turned to my mom’s handwritten recipes for inspiration. I worried that perhaps I’ve exhausted all her recipe possibilities, but as I sifted through my treasured binder with her precious papers, I am relieved to say that there is so much more to share.
Her recipe card for Pianono Roll sat patiently on my desk, waiting for me to give it attention as I tackled showier recipes. For some reason, I was set on something fancy. But one morning, as I tidied up my desk, I found myself looking at the pianono recipe again, and realized, if she took the time to write it neatly and lovingly, clearly, it was worth making.
Admittedly, the cake may look very simple, but as with many Filipino desserts, the beauty is in its simplicity. I am so grateful that she wrote the recipe down, and I have worked on testing the recipe to fill in her gaps and my question marks to share it with you.
I couldn’t think of a sweeter way to celebrate 11 years of Kitchen Confidante than with a slice of pianono. It clearly was meant to be.
(Side note: my husband has fallen in love with pianono. So much so, it has replaced cheesecake as his cake of choice for his upcoming birthday. I thought you should know. That’s how much he loves this cake, and I bet my mom would be so pleased if she were with us today.)
What is Pianono?
Pianono originates from the Philippines’ Spanish colonial and Catholic influence, and is named for Pope Pius IX, who was known as “Pio Nono.” In many countries colonized by Spain, you can find varieties of “pionono,” pastries, or bread, filled with sweet or savory fillings.
The Filipino version is known as “pianono,” and resembles more of a Swiss roll, with its tender cake, similar in lightness and texture to Mamon (Filipino sponge cake). A traditional Filipino pianono is filled with softened margarine and sugar, but these days, there are many versions and fillings, such as jelly or jam. The popular ube roll is technically pianono.
This pianono recipe comes from my mother, and she kept things open-ended when it came to the filling. I personally love filling it with coconut jam, which gives it a little extra touch of sweetness, but feel free to make it your way! The cake roll is very versatile and would be delicious with ube halaya, your favorite jam, chocolate spread, or whipped cream.
To make pianono, start by separating your fresh, cold eggs — it is easier to separate the yolks from the whites when cold, but definitely give your yolks and whites some time to come to room temperature before you begin.
Beat the egg yolks with the vanilla and sugar until smooth, then sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt.
The key to the cake’s lightness is whipping the egg whites into a meringue. Beat the egg whites until frothy, and add some cream of tartar to help stabilize the whites. If you don’t have any cream of tartar, you could substitute with lemon juice or white vinegar, or you can certainly leave it out, however, it really does help to stabilize the egg whites. Gradually add the sugar as it whips up to soft peaks.
Gently fold the meringue into the batter. I like to start by mixing a small amount of the meringue into the egg yolk mixture to loosen the batter. Then add the remaining meringue gently in batches, by folding.
After a very quick bake in the oven, roll the warm cake in parchment paper and let it cool completely before filling. Your filling of choice will determine how much longer to rest/chill the cake before serving. Hint: choose butter and sugar if you can’t wait any longer and want to eat the pianono immediately!
More Filipino Dessert Recipes
Pianono (Filipino Swiss Roll)
- 5 large egg yolks room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 large egg whites room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Traditional: 1 stick butter/margarine traditional and sugar
- Coconut jam
- Your favorite jam
- Preheat the oven to 375° F with a rack placed in the center of the oven. Prepare a 9×13-inch jelly roll pan by lining it with parchment paper that has been buttered on both sides. Be sure to let the parchment line the sides of the pan; it helps to cut slits in the corners so that it fits into the pan neatly. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla, and 3/4 cup sugar. Sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until combined. Set aside.
- In a clean glass bowl or the clean bowl (see notes below) of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, starting on low speed to break up the whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and whisk until it begins to increase in volume. Increase the speed to medium, gradually adding the 1/2 cup sugar in tablespoon increments, until the egg whites are soft peaks. You'll know the meringue has reached soft peaks when you turn your whisk upside down, the meringue is starting to hold and the peak falls back down and droops.
- Gently fold about 1/2 cup of the meringue into the batter, to soften and loosen the batter. Once this is combined, fold the remaining meringue in 3 increments – gently fold with a flick and wriggle of the wrist to incorporate the fluffy meringue into the batter without overmixing and deflating the batter. Transfer the batter to the prepared jelly pan, smoothing it with an offset spatula.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes until the cake is golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean. Remove from oven and drop it from a 1" height onto a wire rack (to help prevent the cake from shrinking).
- Let the cake cool to the touch (about five minutes). Once it is cool enough to handle, sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar. Butter another piece of parchment paper and place buttered side down over the top of the meringue. Top with a light cutting board or another baking sheet and invert the cake onto a work surface. Carefully peel off the top parchment that was in the jelly roll pan. If you want a neater appearance, trim one of the short sides at a 45-degree angle (doing so will allow the cake roll to rest evenly seam side down). Using the parchment paper that is now on the bottom, carefully roll the warm cake from the short (untrimmed) end. Allow it to rest, seam side down, on a wire rack at room temperature until cool, about 1 hour.
- Gently unroll the cake, and use an offset spatula to spread with your desired filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the cake. Roll the cake back up, and if needed, spread a little more filling into the ends. Wrap it back up in the buttered parchment and rest if not serving immediately.
- Your filling of choice will determine how much time to rest/chill the cake. If you are using traditional softened margarine/butter and sugar, you can serve immediately. If you choose to fill it with jam, custard, or whipped cream, chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Trim the ends of the cake roll before serving for a neater appearance. Sprinkle the top of the cake roll generously with powdered sugar, slice, and serve.
- Eggs: use very fresh eggs. Room temperature eggs are best when baking, however, eggs are easier to separate when cold. I recommend separating the eggs as soon as you retrieve them from the refrigerator into two separate bowls, then allowing them to come to room temperature (at least 30 minutes).
- Bowls: use a very clean glass, metal, or copper bowl to whisk the egg whites. Any grease residue can prevent the egg whites from forming stiff peaks – for this reason, I strongly recommend that you avoid using a plastic bowl, which can harbor oily residue in its crevices. You can clean your bowl before using it by rubbing the bowl with vinegar or lemon juice, rinsing with water, and drying carefully.
- Sugar: add the sugar gradually to the egg whites while whisking, one tablespoon at a time
- Storage: Pianono can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.