Pumpkin Roll

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Spin up a sweet fall dessert.

pumpkin roll and slices on plates
Photo:

Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

Active Time:
45 mins
Cool Time:
3 hrs
Total Time:
4 hrs
Servings:
8 slices
Yield:
1 roll

When the calendar flips from summer to fall, the pumpkin-flavored foods pop up everywhere, and pumpkin pie spice goes from pumpkin seeds to Pumpkin Pie Martini. And if you positively cannot get enough pumpkin, never fear—we have plenty more recipes to fill your fall cooking calendar.

Let's start with this classic Pumpkin Roll, a moist, delicately-spiced cake roll that's filled with tangy, decadent cream cheese. The presentation certainly is impressive, but the flavor and comforting combination of ingredients are the real stars. It's no wonder a Pumpkin Roll is beloved on holiday tables. In fact, some may prefer it over a pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Roll Ingredients

Most of the ingredients for this Pumpkin Roll are pantry staples, so you may only need to pick up a few things at the store.

  • For the cake: Flour, baking powder, and kosher salt are the dry ingredients. Eggs, granulated sugar, canned pumpkin, and vanilla extract form the wet ingredients. They're combined for a simple cake sponge.
  • Pumpkin pie spice: You'll also add a bit of pumpkin pie spice to the dry ingredients for a hint of warming spices. You can buy a bottle, or make your own.
  • Pumpkin puree: You can use canned pumpkin (we certainly will), but you can make your own homemade pumpkin puree if you have the time. But if you go the canned route, you'll have a bit of it left over, so consider making these Pumpkin Spice Muffins with the remainder, while you have a hot oven.
  • For the filling: The decadent cream cheese filling is a lot like our classic Cream Cheese Frosting, but it's a bit richer thanks to the addition of white chocolate. You'll also need cream cheese and powdered sugar.
pumpkin roll

Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

How To Make a Pumpkin Roll

The Pumpkin Roll looks impressive, but don't be intimidated by it. With the help of a thin kitchen towel or parchment paper, you can roll pumpkin cake into a perfect spiral. This tutorial will show how:

  1. Make the cake: Combine the dry and then the wet ingredients in separate bowls, then together. Pour the batter into 15- x 10-inch jellyroll pan. This size is important. Any smaller, and the cake will be too thick to roll. Any larger, and it'll crumble because it's so thin.
  2. Roll the cake: Once the cake comes out of the oven, you're working against the clock. You need to roll it up within 5 minutes so it doesn't get too cold and crack. To do this, you'll want to sprinkle a kitchen towel with powdered sugar, then turn out the cake immediately. Let the cake sit no more than 5 minutes. Then, working at one of the short ends, start rolling gently until the whole cake is in a spiral.
  3. Chill: Once the cake is swirled up, put it in the fridge. Cooling the hot cake while in the spiral shape will help it retain its form. Let it sit until cold, or up to 24 hours.
  4. Make the filling: This filling is perhaps the most involved element of this entire dessert. You'll want to create a makeshift double broiler by heating a saucepan of water to boiling. Then, put a glass bowl over the steam, and drop the white chocolate into the bowl. The residual heat will melt the chocolate. Slowly add pinches of cream cheese, and stir until well blended. Lastly, add the powdered sugar to the chocolate-cream cheese mixture. It will thicken up slightly, but don't worry if it's not frosting-thick. It will eventually get there.
  5. Roll again: Spread the frosting over the pumpkin cake; spin again. Put the pumpkin roll back in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or until the frosting is firm.
  6. Slice: When you're ready to serve, slice the ends off the roll, then slice into 8 pieces. (Those edges can be a tasty snack while you finish the meal.)

How To Keep a Pumpkin Roll From Cracking

Heat is your friend. A warm cake is soft and pliable, but a cool cake cracks. So once the cake is out of the oven, you're on the clock: You need to roll the cake within 5 minutes.

pumpkin roll

Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

How to Make a Pumpkin Roll Ahead of Time

Like layer cakes, a Pumpkin Roll can be made ahead of time. You can do this in two ways: First, bake and roll the cake, and let it sit up to 1 day in the fridge before frosting. Or second, make the whole Pumpkin Roll, frosting and all, and store up to 3 days.

What's the best way to store Pumpkin Roll?

You'll want to refrigerate any leftovers. Be sure to wrap the slices or whole roll in plastic wrap, and store in an airtight container in the fridge. If kept in the fridge, a Pumpkin Roll will last up to 5 days.

Can I freeze a Pumpkin Roll?

Yes, you can! A Pumpkin Roll is a great make-ahead dessert. Make the entire Pumpkin Roll, and then wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Keep it in the freeze for 2 to 3 months. When you're ready to eat it, remove it from the freezer, and let it thaw overnight in the fridge. Then, slice and enjoy.

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin (from 1 [15-oz.] can)

  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided

  • 3/4 cup (about 3 1/4 oz.) all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided

  • 1 ½ cups (about 6 oz.) powdered sugar, divided

  • 1 (4.4-oz.) white chocolate bar (such as Lindt), chopped (about 3/4 cup)

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 15- x 10-inch jellyroll pan with cooking spray, and line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat parchment with cooking spray.

  2. Whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, pumpkin, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the vanilla in a large bowl until well combined. Whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a small bowl until well combined. Gradually sift flour mixture over egg mixture, folding just until combined and no flour pockets remain. Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading in an even layer with a small offset spatula.

    batter for pumpkin roll

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  3. Bake in preheated oven until center of cake springs back when pressed with a finger lightly coated with cooking spray, about 12 minutes.

  4. While cake bakes, lay a clean linen towel that measures at least 16- x 12-inches on a work surface; sift 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar in a 16- x 12-inch rectangle on towel.

    towel with powdered sugar

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

    Turn cake immediately onto sugar-coated towel; carefully remove and discard parchment.

    pumpkin sponge cake on towel

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

    Starting with one short end, gently and slowly roll up cake and towel together, jellyroll style. Let cool completely on a wire rack in towel, seam side down, about 2 hours. Cake can be stored, loosely covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature up to 18 hours.

    pumpkin roll

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  5. Fill a medium saucepan with water to a depth of 1 inch. Bring saucepan to a boil over medium-high, then reduce heat to a simmer over medium-low. Place white chocolate in a medium glass heatproof bowl, and place bowl on top of saucepan, making sure bottom of bowl doesn’t touch water. Cook over medium-low, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl from heat, and slowly add cream cheese in 1-ounce increments, stirring after each addition until completely melted, smooth, and combined. (The mixture will look a bit broken, but it will come back together later when the powdered sugar is added.) Stir in 1 cup of the powdered sugar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Chill, covered, until frosting is firm enough to spread, about 1 hour. 

    ingredients for pumpkin roll filling

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  6. Very carefully unroll cake; spread frosting evenly on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides.

    pumpkin roll

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

    Reroll cake without towel, and transfer, seam side down, to a platter. Trim edges, if desired. Dust with remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Leftovers can be stored, covered, in refrigerator up to 3 days.

    rolling pumpkin roll

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

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