Tips For Making Perfect Pumpkin Rolls

by Jamie on November 17, 2011

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Since I posted the Pumpkin Roll on Monday, my email inbox has been overflowing with questions about this festive Thanksgiving dessert.

Like I said in my original post, I’ve been making Pumpkin Rolls since I was a kid – so I could probably make one in my sleep. However, I realize that’s not the case for many of you. Since I’ve received some really great questions about the process, I thought I’d dedicate a post to some Pumpkin Roll Q & A.

I hope you find this post informative and it helps you to create this delicious, festive, show stopping Thanksgiving dessert.

If I didn’t address something, feel free to leave a comment in this post or shoot me an email at jamie@mybakingaddiction.com.

Q: What’s a jelly roll pan and what brand do you recommend?

A: A jelly roll pan is a baking pan that is similar to a cookie sheet. It has raised sides, which will keep your pumpkin roll batter from spilling over the edges. Here is a link the Chicago Metallic pan that I use in my kitchen. I prefer a non-stick finish for this recipe.

Q: Do I need to use parchment paper? If so, where can I find it?

A: Yes, back in the day, my Nana used wax paper, but I only use parchment. You can find parchment paper near the foil and plastic wrap at your local market. Make sure you spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray as stated in the recipe.

Q: How do ensure an even layer of batter in the pan?

A: Once my pan is prepped according to the directions, I pour the batter in and spread it around using a small offset spatula. Once it looks pretty even, I’ll tap the pan on the counter a couple of times. By spreading the batter evenly, you’ll end up with a uniformly shaped rectangle, which will create a visually appealing and even roll.

Q: How do I turn my cake out onto the towel without it cracking?

A: Since you are working with a hot pan, be sure to wear oven mitts when turning your cake.
Place your tea towel directly onto a cooling rack. Hold the sides of the towel tightly against the cooling rack and invert the cooling rack onto your jellyroll pan. Flip the pan and the cooling rack at together and your cake will end up on the tea towel. Now you can peel away the parchment and roll the cake.

Q: What kind of towel do you use?

A: I don’t recommend using a regular kitchen towel because the fibers can distribute onto your cake. I use a variety of tea towels that I purchased from Cost Plus World Market. Tea towels are typically made from linen and are lint free, so they are ideal for this recipe. Make sure your towels are clean, but as a reader pointed out, you definitely don’t want to use highly fragranced laundry soap or fabric softener to wash your towels because the scent and flavor will permeate your cake. I’m thinking a lavender flavored Pumpkin Roll may be a bit of a Thanksgiving flop!

Q: My Pumpkin Rolls always crack, what am I doing wrong?

A: I always recommend that the cake get rolled into the towel as soon as it comes out of the oven. When the cake is rolled while warm, the heat and moisture will help lead to a crack free cake. The cake is much more likely to crack if it is rolled when cooled.

Q: How tightly should I roll the cake?

A: Once you turn the cake onto the tea towel and peel away the parchment, you’ll need to roll the cake in the towel. I usually roll them pretty tight – this will ensure that you end up with those gorgeous spirals of filling.

Q: Once rolled, how long should I allow my cake to cool?

A: You want the cake to cool completely before filling it. This will ensure that your cake holds its rolled shape.

Q: Your filling is so even? How do you fill your Pumpkin Rolls?

A: I simply unroll my cooled cake and pile the cream cheese filling into the center. Then I use a small offset spatula to evenly spread the filling across the cake. I like to leave about leave about ½ inch around the perimeter of the cake bare. This keeps the cake filling from oozing out the sides after it is rerolled.

Q: How do I store the Pumpkin Rolls once they are filled?

A: Once I fill and reroll my Pumpkin Rolls, I wrap them tightly in a piece of plastic wrap and then again in a layer of foil – making sure that the ends are sealed well. At this point you can store them in the refrigerator for a few days or you can freeze them for up to a month. Remove the roll to room temperature about an hour or so before serving. It’s also easier to cut when it is frozen. So I’ll typically slice it right out of the freezer then arrange on a platter for about an hour. I prefer my Pumpkin Roll to be chilled as opposed to room temperature – in fact, also adore it frozen!

Find the Pumpkin Roll recipe within this post.


{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Victoria (District Chocoholic) November 17, 2011 at 8:50 am

I love all these tips – simple to use but they sound like they’ll make a beautiful pumpkin roll. Thanks!

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ButterYum November 17, 2011 at 9:02 am

This is a great list of tips. I also find trimming the edges of the cake before rolling helps, especially if they’re a little over baked or dry.

:)
ButterYum
PS – I’ve never found the need to spray parchment, but better safe than sorry I suppose.

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Melissa @ Kids in the Sink November 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

It’s great to see a tips on this since it can be such an overwhelming thing to do. I still haven’t attempted to make a roll of any sort by myself but my best friend makes awesome pumpkin rolls and even red velvet ones!

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Veronica November 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Thank you for all the tips, I love your blog, and recipes, I actually made your chocolate stout cake a few weeks ago and it was a BIG hit. Thank you

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Pretty. Good. Food. November 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I made this yesterday (before the tips and tricks post) and it came out awesome. Would have loved the trick about flipping the tea towel and pan in one smooth motion. That, I found a little difficult, but not impossible. Tastes delicious even though I spread the filling too close to the edges and we had some…shall we say: oozing issues. As it turns out, no one complains about TOO much cream cheese filling ;)! Thanks for the tips and tricks as well as a delicious tasting recipe! Can’t wait to make it again for Thanksgiving!! :)

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Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen November 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Thanks for this post! It makes me significantly less nervous about trying one out this Thanksgiving!

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Rachel @ Baked by Rachel November 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Great tips and extra explanations! I’m still amazed by the roll. I’ve never had one or made one. I’ll have to put it on my to do list :)

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Ann P November 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Wonderful tips! Those are some things i never thought of before! I’m really glad I read this before attempting a pumpkin roll :)

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Sharon C November 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Thank you, these tips make me much more confident in attempting to make my first jelly roll!

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Jen @ Savory Simple November 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm

These are wonderful tips! This is exactly how they taught us to do it at culinary school.

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Ann November 18, 2011 at 12:14 am

GREAT tips and so nice of you to share! Thanks!

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Nicole H. November 18, 2011 at 7:34 am

Jamie –
Thank you so much for posting these tips. I have been pumpkin roll “shy” for many years now but I just decided to go for it after your post this week. I am going to do a test run this weekend (before Thanksgiving!) so I am SO glad you posted the answers to these questions today. This is awesome! I can’t wait to try it.

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Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar November 18, 2011 at 8:27 am

Thanks for the tips! I bookmarked the recipe, but know when I actually go to bake the cake I’ll have some of these questions :)

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shelly (cookies and cups) November 18, 2011 at 8:30 am

I have always been so scared of making a pumpkin roll! Everyone who makes them says they are so easy, but the way you have broken it down here is perfect!

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Tracy @ Sugarcrafter November 18, 2011 at 10:56 am

Thank you for these tips Jamie! I’ve never made one before myself, and I’m definitely going to have this page open when I do! :-)

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Paula November 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Great Q & A. Now if I only had the nerve to try this roll. I just love the look of it.

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Tickled Red November 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Great tips luv! Just in time for a fun filled weekend of baking :D

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Christina November 19, 2011 at 9:38 am

So I love all the tips, but my rolls tend to crack once I go to unroll and fill them. Am I letting it cool too long? Not long enough? Help! All the places I’ve looked have great tips like yours but then when it comes to the “unroll and fill” step, they don’t seem to run into problems….but I do! :-(

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Shannon November 22, 2012 at 9:33 am

Been making pumpkin rolls every thanksgiving for years. My family loves them! This is my biggest problem I run into as well. I do find rolling it in the towel immediatly after coming out of oven. making sure it is completely cool before un rolling to frost. Helps the most to avoid cracking. Still with these tips, it happens. (Im making 6 this morning so wish me luck ;) I love decorating them, and making sure they look perfect! So I refuse to use the cracked ones. I hope my tips work. HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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Tracey December 3, 2013 at 10:59 am

Christina,

I had the same problem you did!

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Lissa (Bellenza) November 19, 2011 at 11:56 am

Hhhmmm, that last tip about frozen pumpkin roll sounds yummy!

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Megan November 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Awesome tips- thanks for the post.

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Jona November 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I too was wondering the same thing as Christina. How to keep the cake from cracking when unrolling and filling? All the other tips sound great. How do we avoid it cracking when unrolling and filling.

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Heather Davis November 21, 2011 at 9:11 am

Hi love all the tips! My problem is the same as some of the people above – my roll always cracks when I am unrolling it. Would be great to know why!

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Trillian November 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I just made this for the first time because I’ve been so worried about it not working. WOW was it easy!! I can’t believe I have been so hesitant to do this before. I do a lot of baking and cake decorating, but just never brought myself around to making a roll til now. I was worried about it cracking while unrolling, but I didn’t have any problems. Based on other cakes I’ve made, I believe the key is to not overcook the cake. Follow the directions on the recipe and if it bounces back when you touch it, it’s done! If you did that and still had trouble, try checking it a couple minutes sooner next time. I used a slightly larger pan that was a little shallower than what the recipe recommended and found that the designated time was perfect for me. (it’s the only jelly pan I have) If I had used the recommended size pan, I may have needed to go a minute or two longer. Also, the humidity in the air will have an effect on how dry it gets. Hope that helps someone! Thanks so much for the amazing recipes!

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Urban Wife November 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Wow these are great tips! I have to say that although I’ve never attempted making rolls like these before, I’m glad to have this post as a reference for any future attempts! Thanks for sharing.

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sisinpacific July 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I followed your recipe to a T. Cake looked good, rolled hot out of the oven. Let it cool completely. Unrolled it to put the cream cheese in and it cracked into a million pieces. Do you unroll it warm? Do you not open it flat when you unroll it? My towel did not stick. Help???

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Deana October 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Why could you not roll them in the parchment paper??
From the oven then to cool in it as well.
And if they are sticking to the towel, just use more powder sugar on the towel ??

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Carol October 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

Even though your directions are great, I’m the type that will find a way to make it more difficult if I don’t see it done. Do you know of a video for making a jelly roll on a website you may be familiar with? This pumpkin roll sounds great!

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barb November 1, 2013 at 8:54 am

Hello. I have a question concerning my pumpkin rolls. I have been making them for years and always have the same issue; after I take them out of the freezer they stick slightly to my wax paper. I was told to sprinkle powdered sugar on them before freezing, and they still stick, not terribly but enough that the wax paper is very sticky. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance :-)

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Jamie January 10, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Barb, do you let them cool completely before trying to sprinkle the powdered sugar? It sounds like the powdered sugar is melting a little bit, causing the wax paper to stick.
– Jamie

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Bobbi November 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Ok I followed all your tips and the pumpkin roll still stuck to the towel and broke into pieces. It was rolled up immediately after coming out of the oven and came out perfectly, but when I unrolled it that was it! It stuck to the towel after cooling for 20 minutes as suggested by the recipe. I have thrown away a few towels and several rolls. I’m really frustrated with making these.

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Jamie November 24, 2013 at 11:46 am

Bobbi-

I’m sorry you are having issues. The recipe states to cool the roll while wrapped in the towel on a wire rack. It will definitely take it longer than 20 minutes to cool completely. Once the roll is completely cool, you’ll prep the filling. I hope this helps.

-Jamie

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Sharon November 3, 2014 at 11:10 pm

I have been making the pumkin roll for years and every one seems to love them but I have one problem with them I take them out of the oven and roll right away. in a clean linen towel.my problem is my cake is sticky.why??thank you for your help.

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Jamie November 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Sharon-
Do you add powdered sugar to your towel before rolling?
-Jamie

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Julie November 22, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Re: the cracking of the cake. I made two rolls this afternoon, one was to warm when I put the frosting in it and it cracked a lot. The other I let cool longer wrapped in the tea towel covered in powered sugar, it looks much better and only cracked in one place. I saw some where on the net that if you put your rolled up cake in the tea towel in the fridge for at least an hour before you frost it, it won’t crack. This gal’s didn’t have one crack in it, I was impressed, I am trying that next. Fingers crossed.

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Jamie November 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Julie-
Sounds like a great idea, I hope it works out.

-Jamie

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