The Perfect Pumpkin Roll

By Charissa Lauren November 1, 2023

Thanksgiving is a special time for families. Some may start their morning with the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, while others busy themselves with the early food prep. Our best outfits are picked and if we can get the kids in presentable clothing, points for us all! 

For me, Thanksgiving has always been a holiday of beautiful chaos. Children running around in circles enjoying time with their cousins, people in and out of the kitchen, and typically too many squeezed into humble, but loving, homes. Whichever way you celebrate, memories are ignited by the aromas of a home-cooked meal and a staple dessert that we always splurge for. It is Thanksgiving, after all. 

Cinnamon, clove, and ginger fill the air. Cool whip serves as a main dessert dish for some while others rock-paper-scissor for the last piece of pumpkin pie. For us in our home, the annual pumpkin roll (only served during Thanksgiving) is the main attraction. A tradition passed down from grandma, this is one dessert that’s tricky to make but easily favored as the last course. 

There’s a reason many do not volunteer to make the pumpkin roll and that’s because it’s not for the impatient, to say the least. After my own grandmother passed, I remember assigning myself the task of the Thanksgiving pumpkin roll as my way to honor her. Then, I remember cursing myself for assigning myself this impossible talent. That first year of making the pumpkin rolls consisted of YouTube tutorials from one food-fluencer after another. Finally, after year one of making 6 rolls for each family, I had the system down.

As not to scare you away, I’m teaching you my tricks and how to easily conquer The Perfect Pumpkin Roll. You will get messy. You might curse. Then, you will learn that it’s simply not Thanksgiving without pumpkin roll. You will earn your lifelong crown of “Best Dessert at Thanksgiving” for basically ever and we all live happily ever after. 

I have a few secrets that have made things easy for me over the years:

Secret #1: The trickiest part of The Perfect Pumpkin Roll is that they stick so easily! The trick is to get them to NOT stick using lots of powdered sugar. My grandmother’s tip is the powdered sugar towels which we will get to. 

Secret #2: Use wax paper on the pans AND pam or spray butter! Both! 

Secret #3: Immediately when the cakes are done baking, you want to transport the wax paper + cake onto the powdered sugar towel and begin to roll to form it. You want to roll it immediately so the cake begins to ‘set.’ Do so with lots of powdered sugar and do not remove the wax paper until the cake are refrigerated for quite some time. Leave the cakes in the fridge for at least 4 hours. 

Secret #4: Watch as many Youtube videos as needed. This seriously helped me! As many recipes that I have read, watching this task really helps us visualize the steps. 





For Cake:

  1. PREHEAT oven to 375° F. Use your Pam to grease a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.
  2. COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts, if preferred! I usually make them without nuts to cater to nut allergies.
  3. BAKE for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back or is bouncy when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately roll cake onto prepared towel. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with the narrow end. Some cool on a wire rack, I choose to place all my cakes immediately in the fridge to cool and set. 

For Filling:

While the cakes are forming, I rinse my mixer and begin working on the filling – everyone’s favorite part! I always make extra filling because people can’t seem to get enough of it. Calories don’t count on holidays! 

  1. BEAT cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in a small mixer bowl until smooth. Set aside the filling. Once the cakes are cooled several hours later, carefully unroll the cake. You do not want to spread the filling if the cakes are still warm or hot because it will get melty!  Spread cream cheese mixture over cakes once completely cooled. Reroll cake once more, this time with a filling inside. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least one hour. If you are making ahead, The Perfect Pumpkin roll does freeze well. Simply wrap in wax paper then again in foil. Defrost at least 2 days prior to Thanksgiving. If you freeze the rolls bring fresh powdered sugar to sprinkle before serving.