Our Best Pumpkin Roll

October 25, 2019
4 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi.
  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Makes 1 cake
Author Notes

The Pumpkin Roll—not to be confused with The Pumpkin Roll—is a type of Swiss roll cake baked and shared during the holiday season. The sponge is flecked with pumpkin pie spice and the buttercream, beefed up with tangy cream cheese. In tracing the recipe’s history, I learned that the pumpkin roll was largely popularized by the canned pumpkin purée brand, Libby’s, which inspired this recipe.

The challenge: to develop a cake that’s tough enough to roll, but not tough. Because fat creates tenderness, there is no oil in this cake (!); but fear not, the pumpkin pureé provides moisture and the eggs, just enough richness. There’s both baking powder and baking soda in here to provide maximum-lift at minimum-height (poured and spread, the cake ends up being roughly ¼-inch tall). I played around with a few ratios of butter to cream cheese for the cream cheese filling, and liked 1:2 best. The recipe below yields a creamy, tangy, not-too-sweet frosting (thanks to salt, cider vinegar, and ground ginger) that plays politely with the spiced cake. That all said, I’ve also come to realize that many people have many strong feelings about pumpkin rolls. So, do feel free to inverse the ratios (5 ounces butter: 2 1/2 ounces cream cheese) if you want a more buttercream-y frosting.

If you can’t be bothered to buy a jelly-roll pan, you can try this: Draw a 10”x15” rectangle onto a sheet of parchment, then line your pan with said parchment drawing-side-down. When baking, spread the batter within the drawn rectangle. And if you happen to have pumpkin pie spice around, feel free to swap in an equal quantity instead of the called-for spices in the cake. —Coral Lee

Test Kitchen Notes

This is one of Food52’s Best Recipes. In this series, our test kitchen sets out to create the ultimate version of your favorite recipes. Let us know on the Hotline if there's one you'd love to see next. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Pumpkin cake
  • 3/4 cup (96 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (107 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (151 grams) pumpkin puree
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • 5 ounces (142 grams) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons (71 grams, 2.5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatureams) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 7 1/2 tablespoons (59 grams) confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment, leaving 2 inches of overhang on the 2 long sides, and grease with cooking spray.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, salt, and cloves into a large mixing bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs, sugars, and pumpkin on medium speed until smooth and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low to incorporate the dry ingredients.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when pressed with a finger. Allow the cake to cool slightly in the pan, about 5 minutes.
  4. Lay out a large tea towel and wire rack. Using the parchment paper, gently lift cake out of the pan, and transfer to the towel parchment-side down. (If your towel is much larger than the cake, fold the two long sides of the towel to the middle of the cake before rolling.) Starting with the narrow end, roll up cake and towel together. Transfer rolled cake to the wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a stand mixer or by hand, combine all of the ingredients and beat until smooth and fluffy.
  6. Carefully unroll the cooled cake, and evenly spread out the filling, leaving a ¼-inch border. Gently re-roll the cake, using the parchment to help with tension and unpeeling as you go.
  7. Refrigerate the rolled cake for at least 1 hour to set, and dust with powdered sugar just before serving in thick slices.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • vdalis
  • judy
  • Lesjaffe

5 Reviews

vdalis November 1, 2021
I rarely write reviews of recipes, but this one takes the cake!! Honestly, I can see why it's one of Food52's best recipes!!! Delish in every way.
judy October 29, 2021
This is a great cake. While the roll is an amazing presentation, don't be afraid to simply serve it as a cake with the filling as frosting. So good. I don't have the ability to make a roll any longer--no kitchen space. But still a nice fall treat.
Lesjaffe October 29, 2019
Can you tell me what size the jelly roll pan is?
Lorraine N. November 18, 2019
The proper size jelly roll pan for making pumpkin rolls is a 10” wide X 15” long X 1 inch pan high, but good luck finding one if you don’t already own one. Most jelly roll pans that are advertised as being this size are now usually 14 1/4" X 9.375" X 1" which is doable but will result in a little smaller than usual pumpkin roll. The most important thing about the pan you choose is that it should be a heavy duty pan that will not warp and is non-stick for easy release of the pumpkin roll. USA Pan makes excellent jelly roll pans from aluminized steel which is the same material used in commercial bakeries which are very durable. These pans are made with the perfect metal thickness which helps ensure even heat distribution. They also have steel wire added to the rim of the pan which is why they are resistant to warping as it makes the pan stronger.
Eric K. October 25, 2019
This tastes truly divine. Love the chewy texture; toothsome, not dumb and cakey.