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What Is a Pumpkin Roll?

By Nicole Etolen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Pumpkin roll is a type of dessert made by baking a spongy pumpkin cake, spreading sweetened cream cheese filling over it, and rolling it into a spiral shape. It is traditionally a seasonal dessert made during autumn, when pumpkins are more plentiful. While the cake and cream cheese filling are the main ingredients, there other extra ingredients can be added, including nuts and raisins.

The cake forms the base for the pumpkin roll, and is the most difficult part to make. Main ingredients include sugar, flour, eggs, and baking powder. Fresh or canned pumpkin mixed with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg give the pie its flavor. When following a specific recipe, it is important to use plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix, as the mix already has spices added. Wheat flour can be used in place of all-purpose flour, but the resulting texture may be different than a traditional pumpkin roll. Chopped nuts or raisins can also be added to the cake mix prior to baking it.

When baking the cake layer, it is best to use a jellyroll pan, although a shallow baking pan may also work. Once the cake finishes baking, the tricky part comes in to play. The cake needs to be laid flat on a clean linen towel, parchment paper, or wax paper that has been dusted with powdered sugar. Care should be taken to ensure the cake doesn’t fall apart, as if it breaks, it will be very hard to roll into the proper shape.

The filling is typically made using cream cheese sweetened with sugar and vanilla. Although regular cream cheese produces the best results, those who want a lower-calorie dessert can use reduced-fat cream cheese. Some types of artificial sweeteners may be used in place of sugar to save more calories. The amount of filling can be adjusted for those who prefer a thicker or thinner pumpkin roll.

Once the cake cools, the filling is spread across its entire top in an even layer, and the entire cake is rolled into a spiral shape. This step can be challenging, and should be done slowly unless the baker is accustomed to making the dessert; moving too quickly can cause cracks or crumbling of the cake. After rolling, the pumpkin roll can be eaten right away, but typically tastes better if it is chilled prior to slicing. It is also best to keep the roll in the refrigerator until it is finished, as the cream cheese filling can go bad if left out too long.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On May 01, 2014

I can make the cake part with no problems. The problem comes with rolling it all up! People do it all the time, but I have yet to master the art. I've about decided the next time I try it, I'm just going to bake the cake in two pans, and then stack the layers with filling in between and on top. That actually makes some kind of sense.

By Rotergirl — On Apr 30, 2014

My cousin makes a pumpkin roll that is to die for. I still don't know how she does it! The cake part is always moist, and the filling is never too sweet. She won't give up the recipe. Can't say I blame her. I guess everybody has to have one secret recipe.

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