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

128 Comments

  1. Do you think a little cardamom and ginger can be added to give it some real spicey zip? I think I might try that…

  2. I made the strawberry roll for May’s baking challenge and shared it with my elderly neighbors and all I got was rave reviews!! I can’t wait to tackle this beauty next. That icing looks delicious!!!!!

  3. So glad you shared this! We are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I was hoping to make pumpkin roll, but I’ve never quite been able to get it right before! This will be great practice this month. Thank you!

    1. I’ve never quite gotten it right either (mine always sag over and the roll never looks “neat” if you know what I mean! But…..this is so lame but my Birthday is this week and I always treat myself to a pumpkin dessert for the occasion. This is it! The dessert I thought I wanted from Wegmans was $24 and too small for my big family!

      1. Hi Laura! If you chill the roll cake after filling with frosting and rolling back up, it will hold its shape much nicer. Sometimes I make it early in the morning to serve at night. All day in the fridge guarantees a beautiful sliced roll 🙂

  4. I love that you make these baking challenge recipes challenging.  I’ve only made pumpkin roll once and my husband always requests it every Fall.  I need to buy some thinner towels, I think I just used a regular dish towel when I made it before, lol.

      1. I always roll my Swiss roll (the British equivalent!) on greaseproof paper.  Saint Delia Smith suggests you should lay the greaseproof paper on a damp tea towel as well, but that’s way too much faff for me!

  5. You make this look so easy! I made these years ago and I remember that they froze beautifully 🙂 I’m thinking cinnamon cream cheese or chocolate cream cheese filling would be fabulous too. So many options….YUM!

    1. Cinnamon cheese cheese frosting would be SO good. And one thing I love most about pumpkin roll is how nicely it freezes, you’re right!

  6. Yum, this looks so good! I like that it’s not a huge cake either so I could probably get away with making it for just the hubs and I. Because who wants to share pumpkin desserts? 
    PS. congrats on the birth of your baby girl! Impatiently waiting for pictures over here 🙂 also, I see your pre natal vitamins have been making your nails long and strong! Haha, mine are too, it’s great! 

    1. Ha! They’ve been growing like crazy the past several months!
      Thank you for the congrats, we’re so so so excited. I’m going to share pictures of her on my blog next week 🙂

  7. Never made a cake roll before! But I have so much leftover pumpkin purée in my freezer I should give this a shot. I can’t believe it’s October 🙂

  8. Hello, Sally! I love your tutorials, especially this one! Pumpkin roll has always been my favorite and now I know how to make it thanks to you.

  9. Your superb recipes and endearing personality make us loyal, loyal followers. I would read your blog even if it didn’t have recipes. You are a hoot.

  10. Sally, do you know if you can freeze the completed roll? I’d like to make several and freeze them for winter while fresh pumpkin is in season.

  11. Sally,
    Thanks so much for the helpful video. I know the recipe is adapted from Libby’s, but can you use fresh pumpkin puree? If so, I will be making this…as soon as I find ground clove and ground all spice since there is no pumpkin spice here. However-they put a tiny grater in the whole nutmeg bottle! 

    1. Fresh pumpkin puree will work, I do suggest blotting it a little bit as it can be very watery. Let me know how you like it!

  12. So beautiful, and “fally”. Really gets me in the mood for autumn. You can feel the crispness of autumn, and its soft tones at the same time. Beautiful job, Sally!!!

  13. my cookie book came . my cookie book came . YIPPY .

    one question on pumpkin roll please…when rolling up in towel do you put some towel over the first edge then start the roll? video not quick enough to see edge of the cake…

    Kisses to the baby xxxx

  14. I’m not the biggest fan of cream cheese icing, do you think marshmallow frosting would work well with this recipe?

  15. I think this may finally be the year I try a long anticipated pumpkin roll! I’ve never gone for it myself (just eaten everyone else’s!), but you’ve inspired me!

  16. I have to ask, where did you get the plates in the picture? I love them!!

    PS: I will be trying this delicious looking recipe soon ! Can’t wait!!! 🙂

    1. Thanks Ann! They were an eBay find for photography purposes. I simply searched “small pewter plates” earlier this year and found them. 🙂

  17. I really love this recipe Sally! It is very unique, and not too complicated either! I will certainly be baking this soon for the autumn season. Thank you so much, you are such an inspiration to me!

  18. I try very hard not to bake with dairy because of food intolerances in the family… and I also have to avoid soy and corn. That means both the cream cheese and marshmallow cream/frostings (in your post and in one of the comments) are out. I can work around the butter to make a frosting, but what would you suggest as a good filling for this that isn’t cream cheese or marshmallow (as divine sounding as they are)? I fear a regularly buttercream (or a brown sugar cinnamon buttercream) would be too stiff… unless I alter the proportions and put in more of the non-dairy butter I use and less sugar. But then will it taste too buttery?

    I would so love to make this for my family, so any and all advice would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Amy! A vanilla or chocolate buttercream (with nondairy butter of course) would be tasty. I would add more vanilla extract, cocoa powder, and/or less/more confectioners’ sugar based on how you want it to taste.

  19. Hi Sally! I hope you, Kevin and your precious daughter are doing well…and adjusting well! I see someone mentioned using your cinnamon cream cheese frosting, which sounds very tasty! What are your thoughts on either your brown butter cream cheese frosting or your salted caramel frosting working here? Thank you!

    1. Oh! I was thinking too of a bourbon (maybe with pecans) frosting, but I’m not sure if they would compliment one another?

  20. I finally received the new cookbook in the mail; I LOVE it!! I was so excited when I opened it cause the inside cover is orange–my favorite color :):) everything looks so amazing; I can’t wait to try all the recipes!!
    And..I’m so excited for this pumpkin roll challenge; a roll cake has been on my baking bucket list for a while now!:)

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