This classic Pumpkin Roll is one of the best fall desserts! A pillowy soft and tender pumpkin cake is covered with a rich cream cheese filling then rolled, chilled and sliced for a gorgeous eye catching dessert!
Here you’ll learn all you need to make this easy yet impressive, beautifully swirled dessert!
Homemade Pumpkin Roll
This has long been one of my favorite fall desserts! My mom always served pumpkin rolls every fall and I think they every time they disappeared within minutes of appearing on the table.
There’s just something about those sweetened pumpkin, warm autumn spice and cheesecake-like flavors all bundled into one irresistible dessert. It seems almost too good to be true!
This is the classic Libby’s recipe with minor changes like adding extra spices, and skipping the messy powdered sugar towel method and wrapping in parchment instead (besides, I don’t want to roll my cake in something that went through the laundry). And the wax paper called for in the traditional recipe, is it just me or is wax paper not for baking? I thought it wasn’t heat resistant.
This is an Easy to Make Recipe!
This may seem like an intimidating dessert but you can see in the step by step photos I’ve shared that it really isn’t any harder than any other cake. The trick is just to use the proper size pan, create a good non-stick surface and to be sure you roll the cake while it’s warm so it doesn’t tear and so it will hold that curled form once it is cooled.
The hardest part is always just the waiting. It’s so tempting to just slice into it right after you’ve added the filling but for the best presentation you’ll definitely want to wait and let it chill.
And here’s a word of advice, make two and keep one in the freezer for a rainy day! I’ve got two in my freezer now and I have the feeling they won’t be there long. Fall is in the air and so desserts like this are a must right?
Pumpkin Roll Ingredients:
- All-purpose flour – standard all-purpose flour works best here, skip the cake flour, bread flour and wheat flour.
- Baking soda and baking powder – these leavening agents help the cake rise. Just make sure they haven’t expired for best results.
- Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves – these classic pumpkin spices are key ingredients. If you’d like you can use 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice instead.
- Salt – this keeps the cake from tasting flat. Use fine table salt or sea salt.
- Eggs – I like to use room temperature eggs so ingredients bind together better, cake batter is runnier and spreads easier, and so cake rises better and more evenly.
- Granulated sugar – this is what sweetens the cake and also makes it tender. I don’t recommend adjusting the amount.
- Canned pumpkin – don’t use canned pumpkin pie mix as this has added sweeteners and spice. For best results stick with Libby’s brand (this is not sponsored I really just think it has the most consistent consistency and flavor). Fresh pumpkin can be used here as well. If you have leftover pumpkin in the fridge you’ll be using here bring it to room temperature first (I just warm in the microwave briefly).
- Vanilla extract – this is added to both the cake and filling to give it that extra bit of flavor. Stick with real vanilla not imitation for best results.
Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:
- Cream cheese – let this come to room temperature or soften before mixing so it’s not lumpy.
- Powdered sugar – if the powdered sugar is clumpy at all sift it before using.
- Butter – stick with unsalted butter so filling isn’t overly salty, there’s already salt in the cream cheese.
How to Make a Pumpkin Roll:
- Preheat oven and prepare baking pan: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 15 by 10-inch jelly roll pan (this is NOT a standard cookie sheet size, it is this pan HERE) with non-stick cooking spray. Line with a sheet of parchment paper leaving a 1-inch overhang on narrow ends. Spray parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray.
- Whisk dry ingredients: In a medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Set aside.
- Whip eggs and sugar: In a separate large mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer blend together granulated sugar and eggs until slightly pale and creamy, about 1 – 2 minutes.
- Mix in pumpkin and vanilla extract.
- Fold in flour: Add flour mixture and fold with a spatula just until combined. It will be slightly lumpy and that’s okay.
- Spread into pan: Pour batter into prepared pan, spread into an even layer then wiggle pan to evenly level.
- Bake: Bake in preheated oven until cake is set (top should spring back when touched) about 13 – 15 minutes.
- Roll cake: lift cake using overhanging parchment and transfer to clean, heatproof work surface*. Starting on one narrow end, roll cake up to opposite side (somewhat snuggly but not tight as to flatten cake). If needed wrap a kitchen string or ribbon around to keep parchment and cake from slipping.
- Cool: Let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 – 3 hours. Prepare frosting once cake is done cooling.
- Make cream cheese frosting: In a medium mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla until smooth and slightly fluffy. Freeze briefly to thicken up if needed.
- Unroll cake, spread with frosting: Slowly unroll cake, spread filling over cake leaving a small border uncovered along all edges. Re-roll cake (don’t roll parchment paper up with the cake). Cover cake with parchment or plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
- Cut into slices: To serve dust top of cake roll with powdered sugar if desired. Cut into 1-inch slices.
- *If your cake is browned on bottom for better appearance you can invert onto a new lightly greased sheet of parchment paper so the top of the cake is what will roll and appear on the outside.
How Should it Be Stored?
Cake should be stored in the refrigerator. For a more tender texture you can let the slices rest briefly at room temperature before serving (about 15 – 20 minutes).
How Long Will It Keep?
This pumpkin log should keep well refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Can I Freeze a Pumpkin Roll Cake?
Yes. Wrap in parchment and store in an airtight container in freezer up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Can I Make it Gluten Free?
Yes. Just substitute a 1:1 gluten free flour blend such as Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur for the all-purpose flour. And of course be sure other ingredients are certified gluten free.
Can I Add Nuts?
Definitely. Just sprinkle 1 cup small chopped pecans or walnuts evenly over cake batter before baking. Once you remove it from the oven invert it onto a new lightly greased sheet of parchment paper before rolling, this way the nuts will be on the exterior of the cake and will have a better presentation.
Tips for the Best Pumpkin Roll:
- Don’t skip using parchment paper or greasing. Having a good non-stick surface is a crucial when making a cake roll (or almost any cake for that matter).
- Whip the eggs (with the sugar) to incorporate air which will help cake rise higher.
- Use room temperature ingredients. They bind better and rise better.
- Freeze cream cheese filling briefly for a firmer consistency that won’t ooze and run out the sides of the cake.
- Don’t skip cool time and chill time. If you frost while the cake is warm it will melt and be a mess, and if you skip chill time once filled you won’t get clean slices.
More Pumpkin Desserts You’ll Love:
- Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
- Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Pumpkin Pie
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
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- 3/4 cup (96g) all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon*
- 1/4 tsp each ginger, nutmeg and cloves*
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature**
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup canned pumpkin (at room temperature if refrigerated)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 15 by 10-inch jelly roll pan (affiliate link) with non-stick cooking spray. Line with a sheet of parchment paper leaving a 1-inch overhang on narrow ends. Spray parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Set aside.
- In a separate large mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer blend together granulated sugar and eggs until slightly pale and creamy, about 1 - 2 minutes.
- Mix in pumpkin and vanilla extract.
- Add flour mixture and fold with a spatula just until combined.
- Pour batter into prepared pan, spread into an even layer then wiggle pan to evenly level.
- Bake in preheated oven until cake is set (top should spring back when touched) about 13 - 15 minutes.
- Working quickly, using parchment overhang lift cake and transfer to clean, heatproof work surface. Starting on one narrow roll cake up to opposite side (use knit gloves if it's too hot to handle, and roll somewhat snuggly but not tight as to flatten cake). If needed tie a kitchen string or ribbon around cake to keep parchment from slipping.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 - 3 hours. Prepare filling once cake is done cooling.
- To prepare filling: in a medium mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla until smooth.***
- Slowly unroll cake, spread filling over cake leaving about 1/4-inch border uncovered along all edges. Re-roll cake from one narrow end to the other (don't roll parchment paper up with the cake). Cover cake with parchment or plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
- To serve dust top of cake roll with powdered sugar if desired. Cut into 1-inch slices.
- Store cake in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months.
- *Instead of using cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice can be substituted.
- **To bring eggs to room temperature quickly place in a bowl, cover with warm water and let rest 5 minutes. Room temperature eggs will help ingredients bind together better and help cake rise better.
- **If frosting has a runny consistency transfer to freezer in 3 - 4 minute increments, stirring between intervals, until it has a better consistency. If it's too runny it will run out the sides of the cake.
- If you'd like to add nuts to the roll, sprinkle 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans evenly over the cake batter before baking. Once removed from the oven invert onto a lightly greased sheet of parchment paper to roll and wrap.
- Recipe adapted from Libby's