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 on 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!”
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.
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 and you can use homemade pumpkin pie spice here! But 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.
- 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 left over in the can, and you can use it up in one of these recipes to make with leftover pumpkin puree.
**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.
Here’s How You Bake & Shape Pumpkin Roll
The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through it so you understand each step before you get started.
- 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. Good news: a quality pan is inexpensive, and you’ll use it again if you bake pumpkin bars.
- Bake. You know it’s done when the cake springs back when you poke it with a finger.
- 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.
- Let the cake cool. Allow the cake to cool completely rolled up in the towel/parchment. I usually stick mine in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to speed it up.
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 a pumpkin roll with this recipe. Then you can go on to confidently make other cake rolls, such as this epic vertical cake or even a yule log (Bûche De Noël).
Cream Cheese Frosting
As the rolled-up cake cools, prepare the cream cheese frosting. The recipe is a simple scaled-down version of my regular cream cheese frosting recipe. Now let’s fill the cake:
- Unroll the cooled 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, and that’s ok!
- 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.
See Your Pumpkin Rolls:
So many of you have tried this recipe. Feel free to email or share your recipe photos on social media @sallysbakeblog.
Delicious Homemade Pumpkin Roll
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 18 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
- Yield: 10-12 slices
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
How to make the BEST pumpkin roll! It’s moist, pumpkin spiced, easy, and filled with cream cheese frosting.
- 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 store-bought or homemade 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; 57g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Read the instructions through before beginning. Make sure you are prepared for step 7 immediately when that cake comes out!
- 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.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- Meanwhile, lay a thin kitchen towel flat on the counter. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup 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.
- Allow the cake to cool completely while rolled up in the towel. I stick mine in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to speed it up.
- Remove the cake roll from the refrigerator and allow to sit on the counter for a few minutes to warm back up a bit as you prepare the frosting.
- 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.
- 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!
- Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes before slicing and serving. Dust with more confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
- 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.
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | Rainbow Whisk | Jelly Roll Pan | Towel
- Pumpkin Pie Spice: You can find pumpkin pie spice in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or make your own homemade pumpkin pie spice. If you don’t have either and want to use individual spices, use 1/4 teaspoon each: ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, and ground allspice. This is in addition to the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon—you will still add that.
- Adapted from Libby’s.
Keywords: pumpkin roll, pumpkin cake roll
Reader Comments & Reviews
The best pumpkin roll recipe. It’s so spongy and easy to roll. I make this a Christmas and Thanksgiving, and it gets rave reviews.
I’m going to make it this evening
My son loved his cake! Even though it wasn’t so pretty, it tasted great! He said it was definitely a keeper, and that I should make it again. A few problems I had, besides the inverting issue. The powdered sugar crusted on the cake. Maybe it was because I used parchment paper and there was some condensation with the cooling in the refrigerator? It didn’t detract from the cake as I added more powdered sugar on the top. I probably needed to roll it a little tighter than I did. I was afraid it was going to crack and fall apart. I did cut down on the sugar in the filling because my son really doesn’t like things that are too sweet and it was fine. Even though I had difficulty (through my own lack of experience) I will definitely make this again! Practice makes perfect!
Ok, so I am a total clutz! (disclaimer..LOL) I didn’t have a tea towel, so I put parchment paper onto a very large cutting board and sprinkled it with powdered sugar. Inverting the cake onto this was kind of a bit of a disaster! The cake pan was hot, I couldn’t get a good grip and when I flipped the cake onto the parchment paper board, a corner of it kind of folded under and cracked but didn’t completely detach, not to mention that I did it crooked! LOL so I had to kind of lift the cake, straighten it out and roll. It smelled good out of the oven. I’m hoping I can use the filling as glue to keep it together! It’s currently in the refrigerator cooling. I’ll come back and let you know how it turned out! I’m making this for my son’s 33rd birthday as a surprise as he loves the pumpkin roll we used to be able to get at the bakery.
I’ve made this pumpkin roll multitudes of times. I phoned that I cook the cake on parchment paper, and I cover with parchment paper before I roll. Then I use the towel over the parchment paper with no mess to clean up afterwards, and no need for powdered sugar all over the top of the cake before you frost it. I found this to be much easier and the cake looks much nicer.
This cake was a huge hit for Thanksgiving. I sprinkled some chopped walnuts on the frosting before rolling it up. Added a nice taste and texture. Will definitely make this again. Thank you!
This turned out so nice and moist and very flavorful. I used Vietnamese cinnamon for some more kick and grated fresh ginger into the batter and it turned out perfect! Brought it to Friendsgiving and everyone thought it was amazing! Thank you for another great recipe.
Why do you pour the wet ingredients into the dry? Isn’t the the opposite of what recipes usually say to do? And what would happen if I poured the dry into the wet?
Hello, Is there a frosting you would recommend for the top? I am going to use your maple star cookies for on top for grandaughters to decorate. Need something on top to stick them in.
Hi Nancy, we’d simply make more of the cream cheese frosting filling. Or for a sturdier frosting, you could use vanilla buttercream on top.
Can this be made the night be for and refrigerated? I’d like to make it Wednesday evening and use it for Thanksgiving day dinner.
Hi Donna, sure!
Made this for my community group’s Friendsgiving. It was a hit and much easier than it may look. I did have not a thin kitchen towel so I ordered cheesecloth from Amazon and it worked well. Hope that’s helpful.
I have always been horrified to freeze anything. Doesn’t freezing this cause any minor taste differences or appearances?
Hi Tori, obviously the appearance may change after freezing and thawing. (Just won’t look as fresh.) But usually the taste, especially in something like this, is pretty much the same.
I want to make this tomorrow but only have a 10.25 x 15.25 x 0.75 baking pan. Would this be ok to use?
That size should be just fine.
I used the correct amount of powdered sugar and rolled in parchment paper. However, the sugar stuck in clumps on the cake. Easy to hide with a sprinkle of powered sugar but how do I avoid this? Thank you
Hi Tiffany! Was the sugar clumpy when you spread it out? Using a fine mesh sifter will help it from clumping.
Made this using cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger since we had a guest who is allergic to cinnamon. It was delicious! The filling was yummy but I would like to try it with a whipped cream frosting as I prefer that texture. The cake rolled up perfectly with no cracks and had a very light texture. I made sure to whip the eggs well and then mixed it as little as possible when adding in the dry ingredients. Great recipe!
I’m going to need to make this ahead of time and freeze it. What are best practices for freezing a pumpkin roll?
Hi Amanda! See recipe notes: Prepared cake roll, with frosting, freezes well for up to 2–3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before slicing and serving. Make sure to cover tightly before freezing.
I’m having trouble finding a tea towel in my local grocery store. I ordered cheesecloth from Amazon. If it doesn’t get here in time, what are other alternatives for wrapping it?
Any thinner kitchen towel will work fine, or parchment paper may do the trick in a pinch.
I baked this today but for some reason, my cake came out super dense and packed. What did I do wrong? I did exactly as instructed.
Hi Venia! Always be careful to not over-mix the batter to prevent a dense cake. Did you use canned pumpkin? If you use fresh, it may be much more wet than canned and it would be best to absorb some of the liquid before beginning.
Could you use paper towels instead of a cloth towel?
We prefer to use a cloth towel and don’t recommend using paper towels. Other bakers have reported using parchment paper, but we haven’t tested it. Let us know if you give it a try!
You can bake it on parchment paper, then roll it up in the parchment to cool. Less mess.
Absolutely delicious! I opted to make Sally’s pumpkin pie spice since I had all those spices and I think that really elevated the flavor of the cake. I make a Buche de Noel every Christmas so I’m no stranger to making jelly roll cakes. However, this time I did try using parchment to roll the cake and I’ll go back to using a towel. The parchment seemed to “smother” the cake and the powder sugar rather melted on the hot cake making it a bit sticky when unrolled (almost like it had been glazed). Overall the cake did not suffer (it had a perfect texture and moistness) but I’ll roll it next time in a towel. Thank you, Sally, for another great recipe!
I’ve made this recipe several times using Bob’s Red Mill gluten free 1 to 1 baking flour. The cake comes out just perfectly!! It’s my daughter-in-laws favorite!
Thanks! Love your recipes!
Thanks so much! I was wondering if GF flour would work. Especially since it is a rolled cake and GF can tend to make cake crumbly.