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.

slice of pumpkin roll on silver plates

Let’s Make Pumpkin Roll

While pumpkin roll is certainly not a difficult recipe, making jelly roll cakes may intimidate you. I admit it, cake rolls 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. And after you master this, you can move right on to Christmas with our yule log cake.

slice of pumpkin roll on a silver plate


Pumpkin Roll Video Tutorial


pumpkin cake batter in a glass bowl

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.

spreading pumpkin cake batter into pan

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 using a tea towel and rolling it up

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

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

slice of pumpkin roll on a silver plate

More Pumpkin Baking Recipes

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

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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 | 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.

Keywords: pumpkin roll, pumpkin cake roll

60 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. So you don’t cool the cake at all when it comes out of the oven?

    1. Nope! Must be rolled up immediately after baking.

  3. I love pumpkin rolls but the pretty (and delicious) confectioners sugar seems to get soaked up by the cake ???? Any tricks ?

    1. That’s bound to happen since the cake is so moist. Try sifting/dusting a little more on top of the cake once it’s all rolled out and before you serve it.

  4. Hi Sally, I just made your pumpkin cake roll recipe and it was SO DELICIOUS! This was my first cake roll and it was a lot easier than I expected. 🙂 I used parchment paper instead of a thin towel, which still worked very well. I also have to eat dairy-free so I substituted a coconut oil frosting. So excited for this recipe, and I will definitely make it again!

  5. I love using this recipe every year for thanksgiving and Christmas. Was wondering can I use this recipe for cupcakes ? 

    1. I don’t recommend it– try my pumpkin cupcakes instead.

  6. Hi Sally!

    I bought by mistake pumpkin pie filling instead of purée.  Do you think I can still use it?  And if so, should I use less sugar and spices since it’s already in the pie filling?  Thank you!  And congratulations on the birth of your baby girl 🙂

    Anne

    1. Hi Anne! You’ll need pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling. The textures are completely different, not to mention the addition of sugars and spices to the pumpkin pie filling. Don’t use the pumpkin pie filling.

  7. This is an excellent recipe. My colleagues at work thoroughly enjoyed it.

  8. My house is a chocolate house any season of the year! I decided to make your red velvet roll. I was surprised at how easy it was to roll up after baking. However, once I tried to unroll it, it cracked a bit. Since it’s just my fam, we aren’t complaining too much because it’s delicious but how can I prevent this in the future? Maybe let the chill come off it a bit more? 

    1. Hey Stephanie! I’m so glad you tried the red velvet cake roll. I would perhaps let it sit at room temperature for a little bit– that will help avoid some of the cracking.

  9. Desiree Sweeney says:

    Has anyone ever added some mini chocolate chips to the filling? My inclination is to make brown butter cinnamon cream cheese filling and sprinkle in some mini chocolate chips. I love cinnamon/pumpkin/chocolate together. Is it overkill ???

    1. That sounds SO GOOD!

  10. NAncy garrett says:

    I made this today and it turned out great!  I wouldn’t change a single thing. Your website is my new favorite! 

  11. If I want to make a spider web design in black to be baked on, should I use the same sponge batter and add food coloring? Is there a different batter I should use for the design portion? I need to freeze the design prior to adding the rest of the sponge batter, correct? Thanks for you help!

    1. Hi Puneet! I’m sorry, Im unsure how to go about this. It sounds like a beautiful dessert; I’ve just never attempted anything like it.

  12. Hi Sally
    I want to make this pumpkin roll. It looks so delicious! Do you use light or dark brown sugar when you make this?

    1. I typically use dark brown sugar, but light brown is great too.

  13. Barbara Carter says:

    Made your pumpkin roll last night. So good. Making another today to freeze for Thanksgiving.

  14. Sally, I made your pumpkin roll yesterday to take to a dinner with friends. And they so enjoyed it. It was so easy to make because of your wonderful instructions.
    The taste was phenomenal, better than the Libby’s version!
    Thanks Sally

  15. Hi Sally — the pumpkin roll was absolutely delicious and much simpler to make than expected. I always appreciate how clear your explanations are 🙂

    I see instructions for freezing the pumpkin roll, but I was wondering how long it’d last in the fridge if I store it in an airtight container. Thanks!

    1. I’m SO glad you made the pumpkin roll and that you were pleasantly surprised by its ease! A few days stored in the fridge is just fine.

  16. Hi Sally, where I’m from, it’s not possible to buy canned pumpkin puree. Is it ok if I just pureed some fresh pumpkin and use this instead? TIA

    1. I would blot it a little before using. It’s a little thinner than canned pumpkin, so blotting a little moisture out should help.

  17. The Pumpkin Roll is at the top of my list. I made it over the weekend for a party and it was gone in about 5 minutes and heard nothing but positive comments, wished I had made a few rolls. I was worried how the roll would come out never having attempted such a recipe, but it was perfect. Thank you so much Sally!

  18. First time making a pumpkin roll. It turned out great, thanks to your instructions. We loved how it turned out.

  19. I am so happy I found your website! My family is too because they love everything I’ve made so far. I wanted to ask you a question. I made your pumpkin roll recipe and it turned out perfect. I want to make several for Thanksgiving. Can I freeze these? I have always been afraid to freeze baked goods so I never have. Any advice would be appreciated! THanks again for your wonderful website and cookbooks. 

    1. Hi Nancy! See my make ahead tip.

  20. Hi ! 
    First time finding ur page. Would love to make this for thanksgiving. Am I able to do a test without making whole thing while it’s baking ? So for instance if I put a little to side how long would I bake it to just try the texture. I like to make sure I make it correctly before I serve at someone’s house lol. I k ow it won’t be the roll but at least I can taste ! Thanks ! 

    1. I’m unsure exactly what you’re asking, I’m sorry! I recommend just trying the recipe. It’s wonderful. Lots of readers have written to me with rave reviews!

  21. Hello Sally. Id like to try making this recipe. This might be a silly question but I do own a jelly roll pan. I have the Wilton and it measures 15 1/4 x 10 1/4 x 1in. Will this still work for the recipe?

    Thank you,
    Jacquelyn

    1. Yes that size will work perfectly!

  22. Hi Sally. I made not one but three rolls in two days and it was my first time ever!! Like many, I stayed away from making them out of fear. Fear of the rolling, fear that they would tear or split. Gotta say, my fear was completely unfounded!

    On day one I made my first one. Because hubby doesn’t like cream cheese (I know, he’s nuts, lol) I made your marshmallow frosting for the filling. And since I was on the page for your pumpkin cupcakes, I made those too. I really didn’t think I would like that filling but boy was I wrong. I didn’t use all of the powdered sugar that it called for and it still came out tasty and thick enough to spread without it pouring out. I did have an issue with the cupcakes but I think that may have been an issue on my end. I’ll leave a review there because I do have a question…

    Yesterday, day two, I made the other two rolls. One filled with the left over marshmallow filling, the second one with my fav, your cream cheese frosting. OMGosh, all three came out amazing!! I was so proud of myself on day two because I whipped up those batters and rolled them as if I had been making them for years, lol…

    Thanks again for another amazing recipe. Now that I’m no longer in fear, I plan to make rolls of different varieties…

    My next bake is going to be your strawberry cake. I made the strawberry reduction today. Now it’s time for me to rest up for tomorrow… ;). I’ll leave a review on that recipe once it’s made and eaten…

  23. Marilyn Roche says:

    I made this yesterday for my mother in law and it was delicious and it’s too easy not to make! Love your recipes!!

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. 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!

  29. Michelle Cole says:

    Sally how do you recommend freezing? Do you wrap in plastic wrap and foil?

    1. Yes! I usually use Press and Seal and then foil and then place it in a container in the freezer. You can see exactly how I do it in this post (works for a roll cake too!): https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/how-to-freeze-cakes/

  30. Love pumpkin roll, make it every fall, usually I do Libby’s and wanted to try yours this year. I follow everything to the T for the recipe and every year the cake breaks when I unroll it slowly from towel and it’s loaded with powdered sugar, this year both rolls busted on the side seams, filling falling out. So delicious though still, but would love to be able to have that perfect roll!

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