How to Make Pumpkin Roll

Pumpkin roll is a classic and beautiful fall dessert that always impresses. This homemade pumpkin roll recipe yields a moist spiced pumpkin cake with a thick layer of tightly packed cream cheese frosting inside. We’re demystifying the cake roll-making process with helpful instructions and a video tutorial, plus you can review all of my helpful tips to ensure your pumpkin roll is a success.

One reader, Lari, says:This is such a great recipe! I’ve made it a few times. I’m not a pumpkin flavor fan at all (except pie) but this is wonderful. I brought it a few occasions to holiday dinners – both Thanksgiving and Christmas and always well received. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of rolling the cake – it’s a good recipe!”

slice of pumpkin roll on silver plates

Like pumpkin pie, pumpkin roll is a classic fall dessert. But unlike its pie counterpart, its swirled presentation is particularly show stopping and impressive. While this rolled cake isn’t a difficult recipe, making jelly roll cakes can seem intimidating. After all, cake rolls look complicated. A rolled-up cake…what? 


Tell Me About This Pumpkin Roll

  • Flavor: This pumpkin roll is full of spiced pumpkin flavor that pairs beautifully with the tangy cream cheese frosting inside.
  • Texture: Enjoy a soft and moist cake, plus cool, creamy, silky cream cheese frosting in every single bite. What a pair!
  • Ease: Did you know that pumpkin roll is actually rolled… twice? The first time you roll the cake, it must be warm to establish the shape. You can see more on that in “Roll the Cake While It’s Warm” below. Cool the cake in this rolled-up shape, and then unroll, fill with frosting, and then roll back up.
  • Time: The batter is fairly quick to prepare, and since this cake is so thin, it has a much shorter bake time than regular pumpkin cake. The shaped roll does need to cool down for a few hours before unrolling, frosting, and rolling back up, so be sure to leave enough time.

slice of pumpkin roll on a silver plate

pumpkin cake batter in a glass bowl

A Few Key Ingredients in Pumpkin Roll

  • Flour: Because of the thick and wet batter, we use sturdy all-purpose flour instead of cake flour for the base.
  • 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. We like a lot of spice flavor!
  • Pumpkin: We can’t have pumpkin roll without pumpkin. If desired, you can use fresh pumpkin puree but I really do recommend canned pumpkin puree if it’s available to you. I usually use Libby’s brand in this recipe. You’ll have some pumpkin puree leftover in the can and you can use it in some of these pumpkin recipes.

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

spreading pumpkin cake batter into pan

Overview: How to Make Pumpkin Roll

The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through it so you understand each step before you get started.

  1. Make the pumpkin cake batter. Spread it into a lined 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan, which is the only size pan that works for this recipe. Good news: a quality pan is inexpensive, and you’ll use it again if you bake pumpkin bars.
  2. Bake. You know it’s done when the cake springs back when you poke it with a finger.
  3. Prepare the kitchen towel or parchment paper. 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. We stick ours 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. 
  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.

Pumpkin Roll Cake Must Be Shaped While Warm

Let me explain why it’s important to roll the cake with a thin towel or parchment paper while it’s warm.

  • We roll the pumpkin roll cake in a towel or piece of parchment to prevent it from sticking to itself.
  • Rolling the cake while it’s warm allows it to cool in the rolled shape. That means no cracks, rips, or tears when you roll it up again with the filling inside.

Like many beginner bakers, you can master pumpkin roll with this recipe. Then you can go on to confidently make other rolls such as this epic vertical cake or even a yule log (Bûche De Noël).

shaping pumpkin roll using a tea towel and rolling it up

2 images of cream cheese frosting in a bowl and spreading it onto pumpkin roll

Cream cheese frosting on pumpkin roll cake

pumpkin roll

slice of pumpkin roll on a silver plate


Pumpkin Roll Video Tutorial

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
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 (94g) 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
  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.

Keywords: pumpkin roll, pumpkin cake roll

More Pumpkin Baking Recipes

62 Comments

  1. I stopped doing the step of flipping it onto a kitchen towel and just rolled it in the parchment paper after it came out of the oven. A lot easier and worked great!

  2. Hi, Sally! Thank you for taking such care to provide your readers with trusty recipes! I’ve baked several of your recipes—my friends and family have high expectations now. ha!

    I had so much fun baking this pumpkin roll. I’d never made a cake roll before, but it was simpler than expected! I have a question. During refrigeration, the powdered sugar coating became clumpy/chunky. Is this normal? I did my best to brush it off the outside. Do you usually dust with more powdered sugar right before serving to hide the imperfections?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    1. Hi Emily! Thank you so much for this kind comment. I don’t usually add more powdered sugar on top of the roll, but you certainly can. Are you sifting it on top? That will help avoid any large clumps.

      1. Oh, of course! Next time, I’ll be sure to sift the powdered sugar evenly across the towel or parchment paper (before flipping the warm cake onto it), rather than spreading the powdered sugar by hand. I’m sure that will solve the problem! Thank you for the hint!

  3. I am ridiculously excited at how well this turned out. The directions were spot on. The cake and filling are not too sweet and pair lovely with a cup of coffee.

  4. This is such a great recipe! I’ve made it a few times. I’m not a pumpkin flavor fan at all (except pie) but this is wonderful. I brought it a few occasions to holiday dinners – both Thanksgiving and Christmas and always well received. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of rolling the cake – it’s a good recipe!

  5. Hi Sally, I’m thinking about making this cake and was wondering if I could add chocolate chips to it? If so, how would you recommend I do that? Could I add some to the batter or while I’m spreading the frosting? Thank you so much for all your amazing recipes!! They seriously are always a hit and make me feel like a real baker

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Darla, Either way would work. You can add chocolate chips to the batter or you can sprinkle some mini chocolate chips on the filling before rolling it up. Enjoy!

  6. Skip the tea towel and line your pan with parchment paper before baking, leaving long ends on the short side of the pan. After baking, grab the long ends and gently lift out of the pan, and roll immediately.

  7. I hope it’s ok to ask a question if so I was hoping someone might have an idea of what size HxLxW holiday gift box is needed for a pumpkin roll baked in a 10×15 jelly roll pan?

  8. Jeanette Horton says:

    I’m going to try recipe today. Is pumpkin puree the same as 100% pumpkin

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes it is, Jeanette. Enjoy!

  9. Samantha Chiquette says:

    This was my first time ever making this, it was amazing. You have the best recipes and the thoroughness makes a not so good baker like me, look talented 🙂 thank you for all of your great recipes!

  10. This is such a hit! Made one and split it between a neighbor and us yesterday. What to do with the leftover puree?? Wait, make another today and freeze it. I’ve also made this gluten free and it turns out perfect.

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Karla, We are so glad everyone enjoyed it!

1 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×