Pumpkin Cake Roll

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Do you have a sweet tooth? Then this cake is for you!

(click on image for larger view and more photos)

pumpkin cake roll I actually prefer savoury dishes to sweet dishes, but the photograph for pumpkin cake roll in this month’s SAVEUR magazine was so tantalizing that I had to make it.

So as complicated as it seemed to make a roll cake, I went ahead and used some of our baked pumpkin and did it! But first I googled to see if others had made the cake. I was surprised to see that in some parts of the world, this is a standard cake for the Thanksgiving table. As far as I know, I’ve never seen anything like it. The closest that I’ve ever seen is a vanilla cake roll filled with lemon butter that Mom used to make from time to time (it’s delicious…)

Deborah (Taste and Tell) wrote:

I knew I wanted to make a pumpkin cake roll because I LOVE pumpkin cake roll.

And so do many of Deborah’s readers. This clinched it. I absolutely HAD to make it! I took a look at Deborah’s recipe and it was virtually the same as the SAVEUR recipe. And Deborah offered a really good tip about what kind of tea towel to use for rolling the cake in her post.

And I baked the cake….

The cake was done just as I was about to mix the filling. I hadn’t absolutely covered the jelly roll pan right to the edges with parchment paper so when I transferred it to the tea towel, there was a tiny edge left in the pan. I tasted it… SWEEEEEET!!!

And I immediately decided to reduce the amount of sugar in the filling. In retrospect, I should have left ALL of the sugar out of the filling. :lalala:

Here is what I did:

Pumpkin Roll Cake
based on a recipe in SAVEUR (Nov2007)


  • 1 tsp butter, softened
  • ¾ c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp seasalt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c white sugar
  • ⅔ c cooked pumpkin
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ c chopped pecans
  • ¼ c pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ c icing sugar, optional*


  • ¼ c salted butter, softened
  • 250 gm cream cheese (roughly 1 c), softened
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ c icing sugar, or to taste**
  • cream, optional


  1. Cake: Turn the oven to 375F. Cover a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and use your fingers to smear a teaspoon of butter over it. Set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, seasalt.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, beat eggs til lemon coloured, fluffy and tripled in size. SAVEUR recommends beating the eggs for 4-5 minutes. (I used our hand-held electric mixer.)
  4. Gradually beat in the sugar to make a thick creamy batter.
  5. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the pumpkin (Of course, canned pumpkin can be used!) and fresh lemon juice.
  6. With the wooden spoon, gently fold in the flour, stirring just enough to remove any lumps.
  7. Pour the batter onto the buttered parchment paper in the jelly roll pan.
  8. Scatter the pecan pieces and pepitas overtop.
  9. Bake at 375F for about 15 minutes until a cooked through. Use a cake tester just to check….
  10. While the cake is baking, sprinkle a cotton tea towel with ¼ c icing sugar.* spread out a clean cotton tea towel. Use the kind of smooth densely woven cotton that flour sacks are made of. I’m guessing that linen would probably be okay too. (Apparently, a terry cloth tea towel is ill advised. See Deborah’s post for details.)
  11. As soon as the cake is done, carefully turn it upside down onto the teatowel (so that the nuts are touching the towel). Use the towel as an aid to carefully, as tightly as you can, roll into a roll. Set it aside, seam side down, to cool completely. (about an hour)
  12. Filling: Cream the butter and cream cheese together and stir in vanilla extract. Add icing sugar, to taste** until the filling is smooth and a spreadable consistancy. If it seems too thick, add a little hot water or cream. (Sour cream or plain yoghurt would also work.)
  13. pumpkin cake roll Assembly: Carefully unroll the cooled cake. Spread with filling and again, use the tea towel as an aid for gently rerolling the cake.
  14. Transfer to a platter, cover and chill*** leave in a coolish place to set. Slice to serve.
* This cake is plenty sweet enough without adding extra icing sugar. Unless you have an incredibly sweet tooth, leave it out of the cake step….

** The SAVEUR recipe calls for a whole cup of icing sugar. Eeeeek!!! Too much!! I cut the amount in half and still it was too sweet.

*** If there is icing sugar on the cake, the icing sugar will melt into the cake if it is covered. I wouldn’t bother covering the cake at all until after it has been cut.

pumpkin cake roll Did I remember to mention that the SAVEUR recipe suggests sprinkling the towel with icing sugar? Don’t do it!! The cake is already quite sweet enough! As soon as I saw the rolled up cake, I knew it was too much and made a futile attempt to brush some of the sugar off. (ha. not a chance… I hardly removed any!)

People who love sweets will LOVE this cake. I LOVED the first bite of the cake. (On the second bite, I felt dizzy from the sugar rush.) I know I will love every bite when I make the cake again using far less sugar.

Hmmm, it shouldn’t be a surprise, but it tastes quite a lot like our carrot cake! As you may have guessed, for me, the SAVEUR cake was just a bit tooooooooo sweet. Next time, I would omit the icing sugar step from the cake entirely. It just isn’t necessary! I might be tempted to cut the amount of white sugar too and perhaps use a half and half mix of brown and white sugar as I do for carrot cake…

And I’d use probably our cream cheese icing for the filling.

Still, I’m really glad I made the cake. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. And it was very fun to use the hand-held mixer.

What I really like about the cake is the rolling technique. We may do this for the next chocolate cake we make. I bet it would be a great way to assemble Black Forest Cake too.

Even though cake is fine, I really must remember that I prefer savoury dishes!


I was sorry to have missed getting a post together for WTSIM… layered cake. I wonder if Andrew would have been swayed into agreeing that a roll cake could be considered as a layered cake. (Heh, with some judicious *cough* cajoling and whining, I might have been able to persuade the slightly more lenient Jeanne, but somehow I suspect that Andrew might have been tougher. Probably just as well that I didn’t try. :-))


7 responses to “Pumpkin Cake Roll

  1. Katie

    I normally like savory over sweet – but pumpkin with cream cheese? I could eat this. For breakfast..with coffee. Then I could enjoy the sugar high all day.. (Maybe I’d get more done…)

  2. ejm Post author

    It would be a good for breakfast with coffee, Katie. But do play with the sugar amounts if you make it. (and please do let me know what you do…)

  3. Jeanne

    Oh no – I’m getting a reputation as the soft touch in the WTSIM hosting panel! My reputation lies in tatters… :o) In any event, this would have been accepted – there are definitely distinct layers here!

    Serously, good for you for making this – the rolling looks rather daunting to me! I do like your idea of cream cheese filling instead of icing – that should bring the tooth-aching sweetness right down too.

  4. ejm Post author

    It was pretty darn good, Kelly, and it would have been even better if it hadn’t been so sweet.

    In retrospect, Jeanne, it might have been a good idea to add no sugar at all to the cream cheese filling. The cake is really far too sweet for my taste. When I make it again, there’s no way I’ll add as much sugar as called for.

    Rolling the cake is REALLY easy… far easier than it looks. It’s actually easier to make a cake roll than it is to make a traditional layer cake.

  5. brilynn

    I wasn’t successful with the last layer cake I tried, but I keep seeing them pop up everywhere, (Nicole of Pinch My Salt made one recently too I think…), so I feel like I need to try again.

    You had asked me why there wasn’t any kirsch in my blackforest cake- there was! I just forgot to mention it, I soaked the cake layers with a kirsch syrup before putting the whole thing together!

  6. ejm Post author

    Glad to hear that you didn’t leave the kirsch out of your black forest cake, Brilynn. Although, I’m sure that chocolate cake with cherries and whipped cream would be good – just not black forest cake.

    Ha! I knew that in spite of the fact that I had never heard of it before, I would start seeing these cakes everywhere! I just took a look at Pinch My Salt (, and you’re right! Nicole transformed banana bread into a cake roll using the pumpkin cake roll recipe she uses that she says is “yummy” (it is the one on the Libbys pumpkin can and looks virtually the same as the SAVEUR pumpkin cake roll recipe).

    Hmmm, I’m beginning to think I must be the only one who thinks this cake is too sweet.


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