Pumpkin Roll is a classic fall dessert that my family has been making for years! A light and perfectly spiced pumpkin cake is rolled around a thick, sweet, and tangy cream cheese filling for the most delicious pumpkin roll recipe ever!
I love all things pumpkin, but my most favorite pumpkin dessert ever is Pumpkin Roll.
A pumpkin roll is made with a perfectly spiced, light pumpkin cake that is wrapped around a creamy and tangy cream cheese swirl. Every bite of this pumpkin roll is filled with the perfect ratio of cream cheese frosting to cake. This pumpkin roll is truly the perfect fall dessert!
For decades this pumpkin roll was the dish my sister brought to every fall gathering. And while I was happy to be the first to indulge in this delicious dessert, I have to admit for years I was a bit intimidated to make a pumpkin roll myself. Given its impressive appearance with the cream cheese swirl, I assumed it was a bit difficult to make.
But when I found myself many hours away from my sister, I knew I needed her recipe for Pumpkin Roll.
I asked her if I could just make the recipe off the can of Libby’s pumpkin, but she told me she had made a few modifications to the classic recipe over the years, making this truly the best recipe for Pumpkin Roll.
I must say, this recipe for pumpkin roll was SO much easier to make than I anticipated! Truly, it is a simple recipe to make and one that everyone always loves!
Pumpkin Roll Ingredients
- Canned Pumpkin–Do NOT use canned pumpkin pie filling. It needs to be 100% pumpkin puree.
- Sugar–The pumpkin cake batter uses granulated sugar, while powdered (or confectioner’s) sugar is used for the filling and for dusting the baked cake with.
- Flour–All-purpose flour is best to keep this pumpkin cake light.
- Baking Powder and Baking Soda–You need both for the cake to rise perfectly.
- Spices–Instead of using a pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice, I recommend measuring out the individual spices yourself for the best ratio of each spice.
- Lemon Juice–This is one of my sister’s secret ingredients–and it makes a world of difference in the batter. The lemon juice really helps the pumpkin flavor to pop.
- Cream Cheese–Be sure to use room temperature cream cheese for a smooth filling. Either full fat or 1/3rd less fat (neufchatel) cream cheese works for the cream cheese swirl. Do NOT use fat-free cream cheese.
- Butter–This recipe does not use as much butter in the cream cheese swirl, which allows the frosting to be lighter and tangier–making a much better flavor contrast to the pumpkin cake.
- Vanilla Extract–Be sure to use 100% vanilla extract not imitation vanilla.
- Jelly Roll Pan–This is a 15.25 x10.25 inch rimmed sheet, which is the exact size you need for this roll cake.
- Parchment Paper–The pumpkin cake is so moist, 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 to allowing the pumpkin roll to roll up easily without sticking.
- Microplane–-Freshly grated nutmeg has so much better flavor than dried nutmeg, so I highly recommend using freshly grated nutmeg.
How to Make Pumpkin Roll
Step One: Prepare Pan
- Grease a jelly-roll pan and then line with parchment paper (this helps the parchment paper stick to the pan).
- Then grease the parchment paper and sprinkle the parchment paper with flour evenly.
- Lay a clean, damp linen towel on the counter and sprinkle evenly with confectioners sugar–this needs to be ready for the cake as soon as it is baked.
Step Two: Prepare Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt in a small bowl.
- In a separate large bowl, beat eggs until light and fluffy, this will take about 5 minutes.
- Slowly add in sugar, lemon juice, and beat until thick. Beat in pumpkin.
- Stir in flour mixture.
- Spread evenly into prepared pan, using an offset spatula.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
- Immediately turn the cake out onto a prepared towel.
- Peel off the parchment paper and gently roll the cake up in the towel, starting with the short end.
- Cool cake completely on the counter.
Step Three: Prepare Cream Cheese Filling
- Mix together powdered sugar, vanilla, butter, and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. It is crucial to have the cream cheese at room temperature so it blends up creamy and smooth.
Step Four: Ice the Cake
- Carefully unroll the cake and spread filling over cake to within 1 inch of the edges.
- Tightly roll up the cake again.
- Cover pumpkin roll with plastic wrap and chill until cold, for at least 1 hour, best after 2-3 hours.
- Remove from the fridge and dust with powdered sugar and slice for serving.
Storing Pumpkin Roll
In the refrigerator:
- Pumpkin Roll will last for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- I recommend wrapping the leftover cake in plastic wrap and then place in the refrigerator. 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 with powdered sugar again before serving, for presentation purposes–but totally not necessary!
In the freezer:
- Be sure the pumpkin roll is fully cool before freezing.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap in foil, then place in freezer safe bag and place in the freezer. Freeze for up to 1 month.
- To thaw the pumpkin roll, remove from the freezer and place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.
- Unwrap the pumpkin roll and dust 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 Desserts
Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- Butter for greasing pan
- 3 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
- Confectioners/powdered sugar for dusting cake with
- 1 cup powdered/confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons butter softened
- 6 ounces cream cheese softened
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan and line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and then sprinkle with flour.
- Lay a clean, damp linen towel on the counter and sprinkle evenly with confectioners sugar.
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt into a small bowl.
- Beat eggs until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly add in sugar, lemon juice, and beat until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan, using an offset spatula.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
- Immediately turn the cake out onto the lined towel. Peel off the parchment paper and gently roll the cake up in the towel, starting with the short end. Cool cake completely.
- Mix together powdered sugar, vanilla, butter, and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.
- Carefully unroll the cake and spread filling over cake to within 1 inch of the edges. Roll cake up again.
- Cover and chill until cold.
- Remove from fridge and dust with powdered sugar and slice for serving.
- jelly roll pan
- Pumpkin Roll is best served chilled completely.
- This pumpkin roll will last for 3 days refrigerated and for 1 month frozen.