Nothing says fall like a classic pumpkin cake roll filled with fluffy cream cheese frosting! With a few helpful, key tips in hand, homemade pumpkin rolls have never been easier.
This dessert just speaks fall, doesn’t it? A good pumpkin roll is one of my very favorite pumpkin-flavored treats. I love them. Love them. Looooove them. I don’t know if there is a more beautiful combination than soft, spiced pumpkin cake rolled with a filling of soft, sweet cream cheese.
This is my Aunt Marilyn’s go-to recipe; she sent it to me years ago, and it’s long since become my go-to recipe, too. Chances are if you’ve been around here for a while, you may have made it as well. I’m bringing it back into the limelight with updated pictures and a few step-by-step pictures below the recipe.
Cake rolls in general can seem intimidating but they are actually super easy if you have a few key tips and tools to aid you.
I have tried over and over to make this recipe work in a 9X13-inch pan or even a larger, rimmed baking sheet, since you know that I am the last one to advocate buying a special size of pan for certain recipes. But, honestly, if you want cake rolls, specifically pumpkin rolls, in your life, I highly, highly recommend biting the bullet and buying a jelly roll pan.
Sometimes the term “jelly roll pan” is used interchangeably for several different pan sizes but for me, jelly roll pan means the 15- by 10-inch pan. I have this jelly roll pan and love it (nothing EVER sticks but it also isn’t dark coated so nothing EVER burns, either…sweet).
The other thing that’s key so a cake roll doesn’t give you grief is to use the right kind of towel. I know the whole rolling-up-a-hot-cake-in-a-towel-thing can cause serious anxiety, but it’s not hard (see pictures below the recipe), especially if you use the right kind of towel. Avoid using terry cloth towels or towels with texture and instead go for a thin tea towel or flour sack towel.
I use these flour sack towels (not just for cake rolls, I use them every day in my kitchen; they are hands-down my favorite kitchen towels). They work great for this pumpkin roll! They are large, so I fold them in half before using.
The dreamy thing about this fall treat is that it can easily be made ahead of time – refrigerated for several days or even frozen, well wrapped, for a couple months. And there’s no joy quite like opening your freezer to see a pumpkin roll staring at you in the deep, dark, cold depths of January.
I've found that using light cream cheese in the filling makes for a hard and messy to cut pumpkin roll, so I use full fat cream cheese.
Also, this is a great make-ahead treat! It can be made several days in advance and kept in the refrigerator or even frozen for several months.
- 1 cup (7.5 ounces) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 large eggs
- 2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened (see note above)
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar
- Additional powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15- by 10-inch jelly roll pan. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and leave an inch overhang on each of the short ends of the pan. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the jelly roll pan.
- In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, eggs and pumpkin until just combined and no dry streaks remain.
- Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the walnuts, if using, on top of the mixture. Bake for 14-15 minutes until edges pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Lay a large kitchen towel on the counter top (it is best to use a dishtowel without any texture – a tea towel or flour sack towel works best). Spread a dusting of powdered sugar all over the towel.
- When the cake comes out of the oven, turn the pan upside down on the powdered sugar-laden towel so the cake falls out onto the towel. Peel off the parchment paper, being careful not to tear the cake roll.
- Starting at one of the short ends, roll the pumpkin cake up with the towel and let it cool completely while rolled up.
- While the roll is cooling, mix the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer until it is light and creamy.
- Once the cake roll is cooled completely, unroll (but don't flatten out the cake roll; it's ok if it's slightly curved still), and with an offset spatula, carefully spread the filling in an even layer over the cake.
- Roll up the cake without the towel and place it in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, to firm up, at least an hour.
- Dust the top with powdered sugar, if desired, and cut into slices.
Recipe Source: Aunt Marilyn
This recipe was originally posted October 5, 2009; updated with new commentary, pictures and recipe notes.
Disclaimer: there are a few Amazon affiliate links for products I’ve bought there.