Lemon Roly Poly – Dessert

4.9/5 - (9 votes)

Lemon Roly Poly is a wonderful variation on Jam Roly Poly, which is a traditional and old fashioned dessert in the UK. A roly poly is often wrapped up and steamed. However, particularly these days, they are cooked in the oven over a pan of steaming water.

I decided that I wanted to bake mine in the oven, wrapped of course. But still with a pan of water to create steam whilst cooking.

It is necessary to wrap the roly poly in parchment paper and then also in aluminium foil. But the wrapping should be loose as the roly poly will rise during cooking.

Lemon Roly Poly - Sliced
Lemon Roly Poly – Sliced

A roly poly should be made with shredded suet. That is very easy to obtain in the UK as it is in all the supermarkets. The most common suet os beef suet but these days there is also a vegetable suet alternative that works very well too.

For my roly poly I decided I wanted the flavour of lemon, through the use of lemon curd. However I wanted an extra hit of lemon too. So I decided to make a simple lemon syrup to brush over the rolled out suet pastry. The lemon syrup is optional, of course. But it will give an extra hit of lemon flavour. Indeed, since the recipe I detail below has more syrup that I suggest using there is some that can be drizzled over the top too, before serving. I simply saved the extra syrup to use for other purposes.

Simple Recipe

The recipe is very simple indeed. It does,however, take a while since the roly poly needs to be baked for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I used shop bought lemon curd instead of making my own. The only reason for that is that eggs are in short supply at the moment and I didn’t want to use mine for that when I might need them for baking something else.

My Lemon Roly Poly

Lemon Roly Poly - Sliced
Lemon Roly Poly Sliced

Having made the pastry and filled it with my lemon curd and syrup I rolled it and wrapped it in parchment paper and foil. Then I placed it directly on the middle rack of my oven with a pan of boiling water on the rack below.

I baked it for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Then I removed it from the oven and left it for 5 minutes before opening the wrappings to reveal the roly poly.

It was well baked and rose nicely. I sliced it and served myself a hearty portion with some thick custard. It tasted so good, with the dense texture you get with suet, and that wonderful lemon flavour.

I took the remainder round to my niece who reported back that is was ‘amazing’. Either I did very well or she is easily pleased.

Lemon Roly Poly – Video

A savoury roly poly is Bacon & Onion Roly Poly.

Lemon Roly Poly – Dessert

Recipe by geoffcooCourse: DessertsDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time






  • 175g(1 cup+3 tbsp, based on scooping packed flour into a 250ml cup) self raising flour – *see note below for plain flour

  • 25g(2 tbsp) caster sugar

  • 100g(3/4 cup) shredded suet

  • 75ml( 5 tbsp) cold milk

  • 125g(4 tbsp) lemon curd

  • 30ml(2 tbsp) lemon syrup, from that made below (optional) *see note below

  • Lemon syrup
  • 100g(1/2 cup) caster sugar

  • 45ml(3 tbsp) lemon juice

  • 15ml(1 tbsp)water


  • To make the syrup, if using, place the sugar, lemon juice and water into a saucepan.
  • Bring that to a boil and then simmer, stirring from time to time, for about 5 minutes until the sugar has fully dissolved.
  • Pour the syrup into a clean container and take out 2 tbsp into a dish to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350.
  • Prepare a sheet of parchment paper and another of aluminium foil, large enough to wrap loosely over an 8 inch/20cm pastry roll. Have a deep roasting type pan ready too.
  • Bring a kettle of water to the boil.
  • In a large bowl place the flour, suet and sugar and mix to combine.
  • Add the milk and use a knife to stir the mixture together until it clumps together. If necessary use just a little more milk to ensure it comes together.
  • Use a hand to squeeze the clumps into a dough.
  • Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a 20cm x 28cm(8 inches x 11 inches) rectangle.
  • If using lemon syrup brush it over the surface of the dough.
  • Spread the lemon curd over the top, leaving about a 1/2 inch border around the edge. You may not need all the lemon curd.
  • Roll up from one short side into a log, trying to avoid all the curd squeezing out.
  • Place the foil on the counter and cover it with the parchment paper.
  • Put the rolled dough into the centre of the parchment paper and wrap it up, loosely, leaving room for the roly poly to expand during cooking.
  • Wrap the foil over the parchment paper, again loosely, crimping it on the top and at the ends to form a seal.
  • Place the wrapped roll directly onto the middle rack of the oven.
  • Place the roasting pan onto the lower rack of the oven and pour in enough boiling water to be 1 inch deep.
  • Bake the roly poly for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
  • Remove it from the oven and leave it for at least 5 minutes before carefully opening the foil and parchment paper. Then slice the roly poly for serving.


  • If using plain flour weigh out 175g and then remove 1 and 3/4 tsps and replace it with the same amount of baking powder and mix thoroughly.
  • The lemon syrup is optional. I detail how to make it and it will make at least 1/2 cup. Simply use 30ml and store the rest in a clean jar to use for other purposes. You can also drizzle some over the cooked roly poly to an even more intense lemon flavour.

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