How to Make Pumpkin Roll

Pumpkin roll— a beautiful classic fall dessert that everyone loves! This homemade pumpkin roll recipe yields a moist and soft spiced pumpkin cake with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting that’s tightly packed inside. We’re demystifying the cake roll making process with helpful instructions, a video tutorial, and all of my tips for success.

pumpkin roll

Let’s Make Pumpkin Roll

While pumpkin roll is certainly not a difficult recipe (I swear it’s so easy), making jelly roll cakes may intimidate you. Admit it, they look complicated. A cake rolled up? What? Today we’re walking through step-by-step photos, a how-to video, careful explanations, and a no-fail pumpkin roll recipe. It’s time to be confident and fearless when it comes to making pumpkin roll.

If you’ve tried my other cake roll recipes, you understand how surprisingly simple they are to make. And if you haven’t attempted a jelly roll cake before, you’ll be a pro in no time.

Let’s get started!

pumpkin roll


Pumpkin Roll Video Tutorial


pumpkin cake batter

Pumpkin Roll Ingredients

  • Flour: We use sturdy all-purpose flour instead of cake flour in this recipe because it is a thick and wet batter.
  • Baking Powder + Baking Soda: These ingredients help the cake rise.
  • Cinnamon + Pumpkin Pie Spice: These are pumpkin’s favorite spices. Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves, and ground allspice. Sometimes I use closer to 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. I like a lot of spice flavor!
  • Vanilla Extract + Salt: Both add flavor. Try using homemade vanilla extract instead.
  • Eggs: Eggs provide structure and moisture.
  • Pumpkin: We can’t have pumpkin roll without pumpkin! Use any leftover pumpkin in these pumpkin recipes.
  • Sugar: I sweeten this pumpkin roll with both brown sugar and granulated sugar.

You’ll notice this pumpkin batter is made without butter or oil. Why? We’re keeping this cake light and sponge-y so it can easily roll up.

pumpkin cake batter

How to Make a Pumpkin Roll

  1. Make the pumpkin cake batter. Spread it into a lined 10×15 inch jelly roll pan, which is the ONLY size pan that works for this recipe. I can usually help with pan substitutions, but you need a 10×15 inch pan here. Good news: the quality pans are pretty inexpensive and you’ll use it again if you bake pumpkin bars. (A must try!)
  2. Bake. This cake is very thin, so it only takes 15-18 minutes to bake through. You know it’s done when the cake springs back when you poke it with a finger.
  3. Prepare the kitchen towel. This is the most important step! While the cake is baking, lay a thin kitchen towel or parchment paper flat on the counter. Sprinkle it with confectioners’ sugar. Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately invert it onto the towel/parchment. 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. The cake will be warm since it just came out of the oven.
  4. Let the cake cool. Allow the cake to cool completely rolled up in the towel/parchment. I stick mine in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to speed it up.
  5. Make the cream cheese frosting. As the rolled-up cake cools, prepare the cream cheese frosting. Cool, creamy, silky, sweet, and smooth, this frosting is the perfect complement to spiced pumpkin cake.
  6. Unroll the cake. Take your time with this step. Gently unroll and flatten the cake out, then spread a thick layer of frosting evenly on top, leaving about a 1/2 inch border around the cake. Carefully and tightly roll the cake back up, without the towel/parchment this time. Some frosting may spill out the sides, that’s ok!
  7. Refrigerate. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes before slicing and serving. Refrigerating the cake for this short amount of time ensures a neater slice and tastier bite!
  8. Slice + Serve! Dust with more confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Roll the Cake When It’s Warm

Roll the warm cake in a thin towel or parchment paper dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Why do we do this? (1) We roll the cake in a towel or piece of parchment to prevent it from sticking to itself– and to make rolling the warm cake 100x easier. (2) Rolling the cake when it’s warm allows it to cool in the rolled up shape. That means no cracks, rips, or tears when you go to roll it up again with the filling inside.

shaping pumpkin roll

After the cake has cooled, unroll it and spread the frosting on top. A thick layer of frosting, obviously.

Cream cheese frosting for pumpkin roll

Just like this:

Cream cheese frosting on pumpkin roll cake

Roll it back up and chill it for about 20 minutes before slicing. This cake is sooooo very yum when it’s chilled. Will you check out this thick layer of frosting?! Pumpkin roll, you delicious beauty you!

pumpkin roll

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge, recipe, and a how-to video, you can master the pumpkin roll this fall season. 🙂 It’s a show-stopper dessert with an epic presentation. How can you not WOW WOW WOW and literally salivate when this swirly twirly beauty is presented before you?

pumpkin roll on plate

More Pumpkin Baking Recipes

If you love pumpkin + cream cheese in any variety you’ll love these recipes, too:

Print
pumpkin roll

Pumpkin Roll

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Yield: 10-12 slices
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

How to make the BEST pumpkin roll! It’s moist, pumpkin spiced, easy, and filled with cream cheese frosting.


Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (150g) canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • for rolling: 3/4 cup (90g) confectioners’ sugar

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 6 ounces (170g) block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick; 60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (210g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Read the instructions through before beginning. Make sure you are prepared for step 7 immediately when that cake comes out!
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 10×15 inch baking pan with nonstick spray or grease with butter, so the parchment paper sticks. Then line it with parchment paper so the cake seamlessly releases in step 5. Spray or grease the parchment paper too. We want an extremely nonstick surface for this cake roll.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
  5. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Give the pan a shake to make sure the batter is level and reaches the corners. Bake for 17-18 minutes or until the cake springs back when you poke it with a finger.
  6. Meanwhile, lay a thin kitchen towel flat on the counter. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar. Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately invert it onto the towel. Peel off the parchment paper then, starting with the narrow end, begin rolling the cake up with the towel. Do this slowly and gently. The cake will be warm as it just came out of the oven.
  7. Allow the cake to cool completely rolled up in the towel. I stick mine in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to speed it up.
  8. Remove the cake roll from the refrigerator and allow to sit on the counter for a few minutes to warm up as you prepare the frosting.
  9. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Beat in the butter until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy.
  10. Gently and slowly unroll the cake. Flatten it out and spread frosting evenly on top, leaving about a 1/2 inch border around the cake. Gently and slowly roll the cake back up, without the towel this time. Make sure you’re rolling it tightly. Some frosting may spill out the sides, that’s ok!
  11. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes before slicing and serving. Dust with more confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: You can prepare the cake through step 7 and chill the rolled up cake/towel in the refrigerator for up to 1 day before continuing with step 8. Prepared cake roll, with frosting, freezes well for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before slicing and serving.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | Rainbow Whisk | Jelly Roll Pan | Towel | Custom Stamped Forks
  3. Spices: Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves, and ground allspice. Sometimes I use closer to 1 and 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice. I like a lot of spice flavor!
  4. Adapted from Libby’s.
The BEST pumpkin roll recipe. You'll be surprised how easy this Thanksgiving dessert is! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
The BEST pumpkin roll recipe. You'll be surprised how easy this Thanksgiving dessert is! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

129 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness, this pumpkin cake roll is delicious! So moist and not too sweet with all the spices hitting the right spots! I’m going to make this yearly as a nice fall dessert because it’s so good! Thanks always for sharing.

  2. Hi Sally! I made this recipe for Friendsgiving and everyone thought it was delicious! My sponge did crack though despite following directions- any more tips to help prevent that? Thanks!

  3. Would this hold up as a base for a buche de noel? Going to prepare for a Christmas party and the host loves pumpkin. Going to cover in chocolate frosting and decorations, but doing researsh to see if it’s sturdy enough. Thanks!

      1. This worked beautifully as a buche de noel! I did cover it in a chocolate frosting, but it totally worked! Thank you so much and sorry my reply is so late, lol.

    1. In an effort to use summer zucchini, I made this recipe and substituted pumpkin puree for grated zucchini that I had squeezed the liquid out of. It worked beautifully. Thanks for the courage to try a cake roll! It was my first.

  4. I like my recipe a little better. Nice and fluffy but still holds a perfectly round shape inside is very creamy and not over the top sweet.

  5. Made this the other day and it was AWESOME. Is it weird that I get insane satisfaction when I sneak vegetables into my kids? was also thinking of making it again with carrot puree, have you ever tried something like that? do you think it will work?

    1. Hi Yael! Not weird at all. 🙂 I haven’t tried carrot puree, but it should work just the same as pumpkin. Let me know if you try it!

      1. I tried it! I made the carrot puree myself so it wasn’t quite as smooth as store bought pumpkin puree. Also, the cake tore a tiny bit but the presentation was still pretty. Tasted great, and honestly very similar to the pumpkin version. Thinking of experimenting with butternut squash or sweet potato next!

  6. I’ve never eaten or made a pumpkin roll before so this was a fun challenge. Made it for the June 2019 baking challenge as we don’t like Angel cake. This was so delicious and my cake didn’t crack thanks for your tips!! I might add more cream cheese to the filling next time but it was really good! Thank you Sally!

  7. If I don’t have access to “block cream cheese” here in Sweden – only regular Philadelphia in tubs – what can I do? Thanks.

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