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Pumpkin Roll (with Cream Cheese)

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This recipe for Homemade Pumpkin Roll is the perfect Fall dessert! Spongey pumpkin cake is rolled with a sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting for a treat that looks beautiful on any Thanksgiving table. 

Before my family and I moved away from the South, we lived near my grandmother. Each year, she made several pumpkin rolls and sent them home with various family members to enjoy over the holidays.

Everyone in the family absolutely loved them. John and I always ended up with at least two at our house. He usually ate them because I wasn’t a big fan of pumpkin. 

One year, he talked me into trying a bite. Grandma’s pumpkin roll recipe was so good that I wanted to be able to continue to make them long after she was gone.

The next time we visited Grandma, I asked for her pumpkin roll recipe. My grandmother was thrilled to share her recipe with me, and I’m so glad she did.

Even though the pumpkin roll may look complicated to make, the recipe is quite simple! All you’ll need to do is make a thin layer of pumpkin cake and spread an easy sweetened cream cheese frosting on the top. Roll it up for the perfect holiday dessert that looks visually stunning and perfect for any fall holiday.

Pumpkin roll sliced on a white platter.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • The cake layer and creamy cream cheese filling are a perfect match. 
  • It’s a great dessert recipe to serve at Thanksgiving or any holiday dinner. 
  • Pumpkin roll has a beautiful swirl that looks beautiful on any dessert table. 
  • The ingredients used are simple and can be found in any grocery store. 

Pumpkin Roll Ingredients

Pumpkin Cake Batter:

  • Granulated Sugar – Helps to sweeten the cake layer of the pumpkin roll. 
  • Pumpkin Puree – Gives this dessert a fresh pumpkin flavor and a beautiful orange hue. 
  • Baking Soda – Helps the cake layer rise to make a fluffy cake. 
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice – Adds warming spices to the cake that tastes just like fall. 
  • All-Purpose Flour – The main dry ingredient holds everything together and helps form the cake properly. 
  • Eggs – Binds the cake layer together and helps to set as it bakes. 

Cream Cheese Filling: 

  • Butter – Gives a rich buttery taste and texture to the filling. 
  • Cream Cheese – Adds a tangy and tart taste that pairs well with the warming flavors of pumpkin.
  • Powdered Sugar – Sweetens up the filling and dissolves easily in the filling ingredients. 
  • Vanilla Extract – Infuses the filling with a light vanilla flavor. 
  • Chopped Pecans – Although optional, chopped pecans add rich texture and flavor to the pumpkin roll. 

Equipment: 

  • Kitchen Stand Mixer
  • Baking Sheet or Jelly Roll Pan (10×15-inch)

How To Make Homemade Pumpkin Roll

  1. Prepare for baking: Preheat oven to 375°F degrees. Using cooking spray or butter, grease the bottom and side of a jelly roll pan. Place a layer of parchment paper on the greased baking sheet, then grease the exposed side of the parchment paper. Set aside. 
  2. Assemble the cake batter: Add all cake batter ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment just until all ingredients are combined. 
  3. Bake the cake layer: Pour the prepared pumpkin roll cake batter into the greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes and remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. 
  4. Sugar the cake layer: Once the cake has cooled slightly, lay a kitchen towel on a flat surface and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Carefully remove the cake onto the kitchen towel and peel off the parchment paper on top. 
  5. Roll the cake in the towel: Carefully roll up the cake layer along with the towel until a swirl shape is formed. The cake will cool completely while in the towel as the filling is being made. 
  6. Make the cream cheese filling: Add all of the filling ingredients to a kitchen stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, mix until all of the filling ingredients are combined. If using pecans, fold them into the filling using a rubber spatula. 
  7. Fill the pumpkin roll: On a flat surface, carefully unroll the cake layer without forcing it to lay flat. Using a rubber spatula, evenly distribute the cream cheese frosting all over the cake layer leaving some room at the edges. Roll the cake layer back up without the towel.
  8. Set and serve: Cover the rolled cake with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours so the cake sets completely. Slice and serve cold or at room temperature.
Collage showing how to make a pumpkin roll.

Recipe Tips

  • Don’t overwork cake batter. When mixing the cake batter ingredients, make sure you mix just until combined. Overworking the cake batter can cause the cake to flatten. 
  • When making the filling, you’ll need to make sure the cream cheese and butter are softened for it to blend together properly.
  • An overbaked cake will dry out too much leaving it to not roll properly. Make sure the bake time is 15 minutes for a soft and spongy cake layer. 
  • When adding powdered sugar to the kitchen towel, sprinkle lightly. Too much powdered sugar will be melted by the heat of the cake.
  • When adding the cream cheese layer to the cake, make sure you leave some room at the edges. This will prevent the filling from oozing out the side when rolling it up. 
  • Do not use pumpkin pie filling to make this cake as it already contains sugar and spices. Plain pumpkin puree is what works best for this recipe. 

Variations

  • Gluten-free pumpkin roll: To make this recipe gluten-free, use a gluten-free all-purpose flour that is a 1:1 ratio to regular all-purpose flour. Also, make sure the blend already includes xanthan gum. 
  • Don’t like pecans? Try using chopped walnuts, cashews, or peanuts for a great texture and crunch. 
  • Add a dash of pumpkin pie spice to the filling for additional warming fall flavors. 
  • Pureed butternut squash or sweet potato can also be used in place of pumpkin puree to make this dessert. 
Four pumpkin roll slices on a white plate.

Storing and Freezing

Storing: Leftover pumpkin roll will stay fresh in the fridge in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap for 3-4 days.

Freezing: If you’d like to freeze a homemade pumpkin roll, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap it in a layer of foil. Place it in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag for 3-4 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before slicing and serving.

What is a pumpkin roll made of?

A pumpkin roll consists of a thin cake layer made with fall spices and pumpkin puree. It then gets rolled up in a tangy and sweet cream cheese filling before slicing and serving as a swirled piece of cake.

Why does my pumpkin roll crack?

One of the biggest reasons for a pumpkin roll to crack is that the cake layer is overbaked. The cake should only be cooked for 15 minutes so it stays moist and spongy which helps it roll properly with the filling. 

What is a jelly roll pan substitute?

If you don’t have a jelly roll pan, you can use a half-size baking sheet to make this recipe. 

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Close up of sliced pumpkin roll.

Pumpkin Roll

Yield: 1 Pumpkin Roll
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 5 minutes

This recipe for Homemade Pumpkin Roll is the perfect Fall dessert! Spongey pumpkin cake is rolled with a sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting for a treat that looks beautiful on any Thanksgiving table. 

Ingredients

Cake Batter

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Filling

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Grease the bottoms and side of a jelly roll pan or baking sheet (mine was 10 x 15 inches).
  3. Place parchment paper in the pan then grease the paper.

Cake Batter

  1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin puree, flour, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, and baking soda.
  2. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes.
  3. Remove the cooked cake from the oven and place the cake upside down onto a clean kitchen towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully remove the paper.
  4. Roll the towel and the cake together, and allow the cake to cool. (The towel will be rolled up inside the cake.)

Filling

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla. Fold in the pecans if using.
  2. Gently, unroll the cooled cake.
  3. Use a spatula to spread the filling over the inside of the cake, but don't try to make it lay flat. The cake will try to roll at the ends.
  4. After filling the cake, roll the cake back up and wrap it tightly  in plastic wrap. Store it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to set.
  5. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar before serving.
  6. See post for storage recommendations.

Notes

*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of 1 slice of pumpkin roll. Actual calories will vary.

*Pumpkin pie filling is not a substitute for pumpkin puree.

*For more information, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to the post.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 254Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 176mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 1gSugar: 32gProtein: 4g

*The calories are an estimate and are based on the ingredients and serving size listed. The calories can vary depending on the brand of product purchased.

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