Made with a light and perfectly spiced pumpkin cake and a thick and tangy cream cheese filling, this Pumpkin Roll Cake is a show-stopping fall dessert that is actually quite easy to make!
This recipe for Pumpkin Roll Cake has been in my family for years and is our collective favorite pumpkin dessert.
But after one bite, I am willing to bet this pumpkin roll may just become your new favorite fall dessert as well.
Why You Will Love This Pumpkin Roll
- Show-Stopping Easy Dessert. Even though this pumpkin roll looks impressive and delivers incredible flavor, this recipe is deceptively EASY to make.
- Better than Libby's Pumpkin Roll. This pumpkin roll cake recipe is slightly different than the one featured on a can of Libby's pumpkin puree. My recipe adds lemon juice which helps the flavors pop.
- Amazing Flavor & Texture. Made with a light and airy sheet cake that is flavored with pumpkin and warming spices and a sweet, yet tangy cream cheese filling, every bite of this pumpkin roll is light, creamy, and packed with pumpkin flavor!
- Make-Ahead Dessert. Pumpkin Roll is one of my favorite desserts to entertain with, especially at Thanksgiving, as it tastes better when made in advance and it also freezes beautifully.
Notes on Ingredients
- Canned Pumpkin: Do NOT use canned pumpkin pie filling. It needs to be 100% pumpkin puree.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice: Instead of using storebought pumpkin pie spice, I recommend measuring out cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice yourself or using my homemade pumpkin pie spice, for the best ratio of warming flavors.
- Lemon Juice: Both fresh lemon juice and refrigerated lemon juice work well in this pumpkin roll recipe. Either will help the flavors come to life and balance out the richness of the dessert.
- Cream Cheese: Either full-fat or reduced-fat cream cheese works for the cream cheese swirl. Do NOT use fat-free cream cheese, as it can easily become watery and does not have the same flavor.
∗How to Use Homemade Pumpkin Puree ∗
If you use homemade pumpkin puree, it is crucial to drain off some of the liquid, to match the consistency of canned pumpkin puree. Place the pumpkin puree in a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth over a large bowl. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Measure out ⅔ cups of the strained pumpkin puree to use in the pumpkin sponge cake.
- Jelly Roll Pan: A 10×15-inch jelly roll pan is the only size pan that works for this recipe.
- Parchment Paper: The pumpkin cake is so moist that parchment paper is a must to prevent this cake from sticking to the pan.
- Kitchen Towel: Use a clean linen towel that is at least the size of the jelly roll pan to help roll up the pumpkin cake. This is a HUGE tip for allowing the pumpkin roll to roll up easily without sticking.
How to Make Pumpkin Roll
While cake rolls intimidate many people, there is no reason to fear making Pumpkin Roll. My detailed steps and tips will help ensure you have no issues rolling your pumpkin roll and have a beautiful, professional presentation.
Step One: Prepare Pan. It is crucial to prepare your baking dish in a way that will ensure that your pumpkin cake does not stick to the pan. You want to spray your sheet pan with cooking spray, line it with parchment paper, and then grease the parchment paper with butter or cooking spray. But don't stop there. Lightly sprinkle flour over the greased parchment paper as well. These steps will keep the cake from sticking to both the pan and the parchment paper.
Step Two: Prepare the Pumpkin Cake. The key to this pumpkin cake's light and airy consistency is to whip the eggs until they are light and fluffy. Incorporating the air into the eggs will help the cake to have a sponge-like consistency, which is perfect for this cake roll.
Step Three: Bake. Spread the prepared batter into the prepared jelly roll pan, using an offset spatula to help spread the batter if needed. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
Step Four: Prepare the Kitchen Towel. While the cake is baking, spread out a clean kitchen towel and sprinkle it with confectioners' sugar.
Step Five: Roll the Cake. It is crucial to roll the pumpkin cake into a log shape form as soon as it comes out of the oven, as the cake will be pliable when it is hot, which will help prevent the cake from cracking. Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately invert it onto the prepared towel. Peel the parchment paper off the warm cake, then, starting with the narrow end, gently roll the cake up with the towel/parchment on the bottom.
Step Six: Cool. Allow the cake to cool completely rolled up in the towel. You can opt to do this at room temperature or speed up the process by popping the rolled cake into the refrigerator.
Step Seven: Make the Cream Cheese Filling. The cream cheese frosting that is used for the filling of this pumpkin roll is what makes this dessert absolutely irresistible. It is a basic recipe, but be sure to use room-temperature cream cheese and butter for the creamiest, smoothest filling. I typically whip it up while the pumpkin cake is cooling.
Step Eight: Assemble the Pumpkin Roll. Once your cake is cool and your cream cheese frosting is prepared, it is time to fill the pumpkin roll! Simply, unroll the cooled cake, spread the filling evenly over the cake, and then roll the cake back up.
Step Nine: Chill. Just like most recipes with cream cheese, such as Classic Cheesecake or Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Pumpkin Roll tastes best after it has fully chilled. Place the pumpkin roll into the refrigerator and chill until cold, for at least 4 hours, overnight is even better.
∗ important to remember ∗
We covered a lot of tips! Let's recap the most critical to ensure you have a perfect pumpkin roll.
- Do not overmix your cake batter. Overworking the flour into the egg mixture will activate the gluten and make the pumpkin sheet cake tough and harder to roll.
- Roll the cake as soon as it is removed from the oven. The best way to prevent the cake roll from cracking is to roll the cake up in the kitchen towel as soon as it comes out of the oven. The hot cake will be pliable and able to roll up without cracking.
- Use a kitchen towel NOT parchment paper to roll the cake. This cake is so moist that as it cools it may stick to the parchment paper slightly and tear off some of the delicate cake when unrolling. By using a kitchen towel that has been sprinkled with powdered sugar, not only do you add a bit of sweetness to the cake, but you prevent any tearing of the cake.
- Use room-temperature cream cheese and butter for the frosting. This will ensure a nice, creamy filling without lumps.
- Chill the cake before serving. For the best flavor, chill the pumpkin roll for at least 4 hours, 12 hours is best, before serving. This allows time for the soft pumpkin cake to absorb the cream cheese filling. It also makes it a great dessert to make ahead for the holidays!
Pumpkin Roll can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and frozen for up to 3 months, following the following storage directions. And keep in mind a prepared pumpkin roll will taste best after chilling for a full 12 hours.
- Refrigerate: Wrap the assembled roll cake in plastic wrap and then place it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The plastic wrap helps to keep moisture from collecting on the cake, which would make the cake soggy. As the cake sits in the refrigerator, the powdered sugar dusting may absorb into the cake. It will not affect the flavor or consistency of the cake, but you may want to dust it with powdered sugar again before serving, for presentation purposes.
- Freeze: To freeze a prepared pumpkin roll, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap it in foil. Place the wrapped pumpkin roll into a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thawing Instructions: To thaw a frozen pumpkin roll, remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Unwrap the pumpkin roll and dust it with powdered sugar to serve. Once thawed, the pumpkin roll will last in the refrigerator for 3 days. I do not recommend refreezing.
More Perfect Fall Desserts
- Instant Pot Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Dutch Apple Pie
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Homemade Pumpkin Pie
- Pumpkin Cake
- Apple Crisp
Did you try this pumpkin roll? Be sure to leave a comment and rating below! I love to hear from you!
Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- Butter for greasing pan
- powdered/confectioners sugar for dusting
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup pure pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour plus a few teaspoons for preparing sheet pan
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
Cream Cheese Filling
- 1 cup powdered/confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons butter softened
- 6 ounces cream cheese softened
- Preheat the oven to 375℉. Grease a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan and line it with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and then lightly sprinkle the parchment paper with flour.
- Lay a clean linen towel on the counter and sprinkle evenly with confectioners sugar. Set aside to use once the cake is baked.
- In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs using a handheld mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes. Once the eggs are light and fluffy, slowly add in the sugar and lemon juice, continuing to mix until well combined and thick.
- Add in the pumpkin puree and mix on medium speed until just combined. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and use a spatula to fold the flour into the mixture until fully combined.
- Spread the cake batter evenly into the prepared pan, using an offset spatula. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
- As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, immediately turn the cake out onto the prepared towel. Slowly peel off the parchment paper and starting with the short side of the cake, gently roll the cake up in the towel. Let the cool completely while rolled up in the towel.
For Cream Cheese Filling
- In a medium mixing bowl, cream the vanilla, butter, and cream cheese using a handheld mixer on medium speed until smooth.
- Add in sifted powdered sugar, and beat on low speed until fluffy.
Assemble Pumpkin Roll
- Carefully unroll the cake and spread the cream cheese filling over the cake to within 1 inch of the edges. Use the towel to roll the cake up again.
- Remove the towel and wrap the cake in plastic wrap tightly and refrigerate to chill until cold.
- Remove the chilled pumpkin roll from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature for about 15-30 minutes before serving. Unwrap the roll and then use a fine mesh strainer to dust the cake roll evenly with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.
- jelly roll pan