Pumpkin Roll Cake
This Pumpkin Roll Cake is an easy recipe and beautiful dessert to make in the fall. It’s a pumpkin spice cake rolled with a cream cheese buttercream filling, that’s very resistant to cracking, with a moist and tender crumb. It only takes 30 minutes to make and stores well too!
Roll cakes were often in the fridge during my childhood, so they have a special nostalgia for me.
My mom would buy them from the store, and they always looked so elaborate and fancy, but they’re actually quite simple to make yourself.
This pumpkin cake roll is adapted from a recipe that’s fairly old and well-loved around the country, from the back of a Libby’s pumpkin puree can. I’ve tweaked this classic pumpkin roll recipe ever so slightly over the years that I’ve made it, but it’s still easy to pull off, with a flavorful and moist crumb.
Because the cake is a very thin layer of batter on a sheet pan, it bakes very quickly.
I like doing a classic cream cheese frosting in the center, since it goes so well with the spiced pumpkin flavor, but you could fill it with any sort of frosting or filling that you enjoy, so long as it’s relatively sturdy.
Tips for Best Results
Pre-roll the cake – The main trick to a perfect pumpkin roll cake is rolling it up in parchment paper or a towel right after baking, to set its shape and prevent cracking. Be ready with a clean towel to do this right after the cake comes out of the oven.
Use fresh spices – Ground spices tend to lose their potent flavor after about 3 months. So if you’ve got old spices from last year, replace them with new cinnamon, gloves, ginger, etc. for optimal flavor.
Refrigerate the cake for the cleanest slices – After you spread the cream cheese frosting on and roll up the cake, I recommend refrigerating the cake for 30 minutes in order to have the cleanest slices. This is optional, but it helps the cream cheese firm up better for more precise slicing.
Step by Step Overview:
To start with the dry ingredients, combine all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground allspice, and ground cloves in a large mixing bowl:
I like to use individual spices here, but you can get away with substituting pumpkin pie spice, if that’s all you have.
In a separate large bowl, start the wet ingredients by combining large eggs, granulated sugar, and pumpkin puree.
Canned or fresh?
Either canned pumpkin puree or fresh pumpkin puree will work here. As I discuss in my Fresh vs. Canned Pumpkin post, I like the flavor of fresh more, but it’s a bit more work to prepare, and you have to be careful that your puree isn’t too watery. For the most consistent results, use canned.
Grab a whisk and mix the ingredients well.
It should look smooth and consistent, like this:
Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, and stir until no flour streaks remain, and you have a smooth batter:
Spread the pumpkin roll cake batter into a large rectangle on a silicone mat or parchment lined half baking sheet:
A half sheet pan is about 18×13,” so you want your rectangle to be just an inch or two short of that on all sides, about 15×10.” Better yet, if you have one, you can use a jelly roll pan, which is already sized to 15×10.” But most people don’t have these in the kitchen, myself included, and you can get by fine without one for this recipe.
Bake the tray for about 13 minutes, until there are no longer any shiny unbaked sections of batter, and the cake is springy when touched:
While the cake is still warm, dust the top with confectioner’s sugar (aka powdered sugar), then place a piece of parchment on top of the cake.
Flip it over, then peel the silicone mat off and roll the cake in the parchment paper:
Just like with any roll cake or swiss rolls, this gives the cake “muscle memory” and makes it more likely to hold the roll shape and less likely to crack later on.
Finally, drape the whole cake with a tea towel or other clean kitchen towel.
While you let the cake cool, grab a medium bowl and make the cream cheese filling using an electric mixer on high speed. It’s made with room temperature cream cheese and butter, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla extract:
Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the unrolled cake, leaving room at the edges (because as you roll, the filling will spread a little bit):
Roll the pumpkin roll cake back up, tightly:
Refrigerate for the Cleanest Slices
While optional, I recommend refrigerating the pumpkin roll cake for 30 minutes if you want the cleanest slices possible. This chill time helps firm up the frosting, giving you neater slices.
Try to cover it with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.
Trim the ends off the pumpkin roll, then cut into thick slices, about 1 to 2 inches thick:
Long live pumpkin season!
How to Serve
The full recipe is below, and there’s also a full video below the recipe card if you’d like more guidance. Pumpkin Muffins are another one of my favorite fall baked goods, as well as Homemade Pumpkin Butter. Enjoy!
Recipe Tips and FAQ
Store at room temperature for no more than 4 hours. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Store in an airtight container and keep for up to 3 months. To thaw, leave in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
Pumpkin Roll Cake
For the cake:
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
- confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling
For the filling:
- 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 8 tbsp butter softened
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a half sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and salt.
- In another bowl, whisk to combine the eggs, sugar, and pumpkin.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until no flour streaks remain.
- Spread into a rectangle about 15×10 inches on the sheet pan, then bake for 13* minutes, until the cake springs back to the touch.
- While the cake is still warm, sprinkle the top with confectioner’s sugar and cover it with a piece of parchment paper. Carefully flip the tray over, then peel the silicone mat off the cake. Now gently roll the cake up and set aside. Drape a tea towel over the top to protect against drying out. While it cools, make the filling.
- With a hand mixer, whip together the cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla extract.
- Unroll the cake, then spread the filling evenly, leaving a border at the edges.
- Roll the cake up and refrigerate for 30 minutes, for the cleanest slices.
- When ready to serve, trim the edges off, slice, and serve!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.