How To Make an Easy, Foolproof Pumpkin Roll

How To Make an Easy, Foolproof Pumpkin Roll

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Meghan Splawn
Nov 20, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

This delicately sweet and warmly spiced pumpkin cake tastes just as gorgeous as it looks, and bakes up tender and moist. The cake itself is designed to be flat (making it easy to roll), and you'll spread it with just the right amount of cream cheese frosting to help hold the spiral shape in place.

We know rolled cakes can be a little intimidating, which is why we're sharing all our secrets for rolling a cake with no cracks, and filling it with just the right amount of frosting so it doesn't spill out the sides. Plus, we've got a few make-ahead tips that help make this pumpkin roll absolutely foolproof.

Foolproof Pumpkin Roll: Watch the Video

How to Make a Cake That's Flexible Enough to Roll

Roll cakes, sometimes called Swiss roll cakes, require a certain type of cake. You can't just bake your favorite cake in a thin layer, because although it will be flatter, it likely won't be flexible enough to roll. Instead, the batter for a roll cake has a higher ratio of eggs to flour, as well as more sugar and moisture than your average cake. This makes the finished cake pliable enough to roll without cracking.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

This particular cake also has a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar added to the batter. The acid helps make the cake tender and keeps it from being too spongy, and we pinkie promise you can't taste the vinegar in the finished cake.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

4 Key Steps for a Foolproof Pumpkin Roll

1. Bake the cake in a 10- by 15-inch rectangle. A 10- by-15-inch rectangle (slightly smaller than a standard-sized baking sheet) is the ideal size for this pumpkin roll. Why? If spread into too thin of a layer, the cake will be dry and brittle. Too small, and the resulting roll won't be as impressive.

To help you achieve the right size, use a measuring tape to measure and draw a 10- by 15-inch rectangle on the underside of your parchment paper. Then, spread the batter out until it fills the lines. If you've got a jelly roll pan, by all means use that — it's slightly smaller than a standard baking sheet, so it's the perfect size for a roll cake.

2. Keep an eye on the baking cake. A dry, overbaked cake is much more likely to crack. Be sure to pull your cake out of the oven when the edges are just beginning to look dry and the center is still moist-looking but springs back when pressed.

3. Roll the cake while it's hot! This is the secret to a perfectly-swirled roll cake. While the cake is still hot, use the parchment to transfer the cake from the baking pan onto a clean kitchen towel. Using the towel as a hot mitt, roll the cake into a tight spiral from the narrow side. Don't wrap the towel into the cake or you won't get quite as tight a roll. Then wrap the cake in the towel to slowly cool the cake.

4. Let cool completely before filling. The rolled cake needs 30 to 45 minutes to cool completely before filling. Once cool, gently unroll the cake, using the parchment paper to help you do so. Spread the frosting onto the cake in an even layer, leaving about 1/4 inch on all sides (it will squish into these empty spaces as you roll). I like to roll small sections at a time, using the parchment to guide the cake on to itself, and then peeling the parchment away before rolling the next section.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Serving and Storing Your Beautiful Pumpkin Roll

Chill the cake for at least an hour before serving, and just before serving, dust it with powdered sugar. Use a serrated bread knife to help you slice the roll without squishing it.

You can make this cake ahead of time and freeze it for up to two months. Leftover slices can also be frozen on a baking sheet, then moved to a zip-top bag when solid and stored for up to one month. Thaw the cake (or slices) in the fridge overnight for the best taste and texture.

How To Make an Easy, Foolproof Pumpkin Roll

Serves 10 to 12

Prep time: 1 hour ; cooking time: 30 minutes

What You Need

Ingredients

  • For the cake:
  • 3/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon

    pumpkin pie spice

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    salt

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup

    pumpkin purée

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon

    apple cider vinegar

  • For the filling:
  • 4 ounces

    cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 4 ounces

    unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup

    powdered sugar, plus more for dusting the cake

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • Equipment
  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Can opener

  • Large mixing bowl

  • Parchment paper

  • Rimmed baking sheet

  • Clean kitchen towel

Instructions

  1. Prepare the baking sheet and heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. To make shaping the cake easier, draw a 10x15-inch rectangle on a sheet of parchment paper. Flip the paper over and use it to line a rimmed baking sheet; set aside.  

  2. Whisk together dry ingredients. Place the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Add the sugar, pumpkin, and eggs and whisk to combine. Add the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla and whisk to combine.

  4. Spread the cake into the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even 10x15-inch rectangle using the template you drew. Bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, 25 to 30 minutes.

  5. Roll up the cake while still warm. Using the parchment paper, immediately slide the cake onto a large, clean kitchen towel. Working quickly and carefully and starting at a short end, roll the cake and parchment paper up into a tight roll. Use the towel to guide the cake into the roll and to make the cake easier to handle. Wrap the rolled cake completely in the towel.

  6. Cool the cake in the towel for 30 minutes. Let the rolled and towel-covered cake cool completely, at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling.

  7. While the cake cools, make the filling. Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on low speed until smooth.

  8. Unroll the cake, fill, and reroll. Carefully unroll the cooled cake. Spread the filling over the cake in a thin, even layer, leaving a 1/4-inch border around all sides. Gently reroll the cake, tucking the short end into the frosting and using the parchment to gently ease the cake up over itself and creating a tight roll.

  9. Chill and slice. Refrigerate the rolled cake for at least 1 hour before slicing. A serrated knife helps cut through the cake without squishing your well-earned spiral.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: You can make this cake ahead and freeze for up to 2 months.

Storage: Leftover slices can also be frozen on a baking sheet, then transfered a zip-top bag and stored for up to 1 month. Thaw the cake (or slices) in the refrigerator overnight for the best taste and texture.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)
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