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Perfectly spiced, soft pumpkin sponge and a tangy cream cheese filling combine for this festive family favorite. This pumpkin roll is easier than you think and will make you a holiday dessert superstar.

Pumpkin roll dusted with powdered sugar and sliced on a marble board.

My Nana was an amazing baker and was always up for involving me in her kitchen. She’d perch me atop a bar stool and, side by side, I’d take in her talent and mimic her techniques the best that I could.

Despite my young age, she undoubtedly had a tremendous amount of confidence in me. She never questioned my ability to use a knife or remove baked goods from a piping hot oven.

I was her sous chef and during our bake-a-thons, I was treated like an adult – not a 7-year-old kid with a permed mullet and retainer.

There is no question that I inherited my whirlwind styling of baking from her. We would tear up her kitchen and dig our way out hours later.

But she also instilled a fearlessness with food that I will forever be grateful for. How many second graders do you know that can whip out a perfect pumpkin roll with little to no guidance?

Two white plates, each holding two slices of pumpkin roll.

My Nana’s Pumpkin Roll Recipe

As far back as I can remember, Thanksgiving was pretty much synonymous with pumpkin rolls. We would set aside a weekend and systematically crank out about 30 pumpkin rolls that Nana would give away as holiday gifts to friends, family and fellow church members.

To this day, those pumpkin-roll-filled days are some of my fondest childhood memories. Nana often baked and cooked from memory, so I don’t have her exact pumpkin roll recipe.

But I do remember her “doctoring up” the Libby’s recipe with secret ingredients, which I am pretty certain was pumpkin pie spice, so that’s pretty much what I’ve done for years with delicious results.

Cross section of a sliced pumpkin roll.

What is a Pumpkin Roll?

Pumpkin rolls are a type of swiss roll – also known as a jelly roll, cream roll, or roll cake. These types of cakes are made from a thin sponge cake that is rolled around fillings such as whipped cream, jam, or frosting.

In the case of a pumpkin roll, the cake is flavored with pumpkin puree and warm spices and the filling is traditionally a tangy cream cheese frosting.

Unlike a layer cake (such as chocolate strawberry cake) that looks impressive from the outside, the “wow” factor of a pumpkin roll hits once you slice into it. The slices show a beautiful spiral of cake wrapped around the cream cheese filling. 

They really are fun to make and beautiful to serve! 

Fork cutting a bite from a slice of pumpkin roll on a plate.

How to Make the Perfect Pumpkin Roll

The beautiful swirl in a Pumpkin Roll might make it look hard, but this pumpkin roll recipe is actually quite easy! I’ll walk you through each step, as well as a number of frequently asked questions I get.

Ingredients you’ll need

You need just a handful of standard cake and cream cheese frosting ingredients to make this recipe.

For the pumpkin sponge, you will need:

  • ¼ cup powdered sugar to sprinkle on towel
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup pure pumpkin puree
Pumpkin roll ingredients arranged on a countertop.

The most important thing is to get the right kind of pumpkin.

Make sure you get a can of pure pumpkin puree. The ingredient list should simply say “pumpkin.” My favorite brand is Libby’s.

Do not get pumpkin pie filling – it has added salt, spices and other ingredients that we don’t want in our pumpkin sponge.

You might notice that there’s no fat – such as butter or oil – in the sponge cake aside from the egg yolks. Don’t worry, that’s not a mistake! That’s just the type of sponge cake this is.

For the cream cheese filling, you will need:

  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Helpful resources

Making the pumpkin sponge cake

The first step to making a pumpkin roll is making the sponge cake. 

This cake is baked in a jelly roll pan, which measures about 15x10x1 inches. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Set this aside.

Next, lay a clean tea towel out on the counter and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Leave that there until you need it later.

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla, and sugar until thick. Add the pumpkin and mix until combined, then stir in the flour mixture.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared jelly roll pan and bake for just 13-15 minutes. The cake is done when the top springs back when lightly touched.

Now it’s time to move fast on rolling up this baby!

Rolling a pumpkin roll

Unlike sweet roll recipes that are rolled and filled before being baked, pumpkin rolls are rolled up after they come out of the oven.

The trick is to do this the instant the cake comes out of the oven.

Remember the tea towel we dusted with powdered sugar? Very carefully, but quickly, turn the cake out onto that towel and remove the pan and the piece of parchment paper. 

Now tightly roll the cake and the towel together, making sure to start from the short end and not the long end. 

Place the cake – still rolled in the towel – on a cooling rack and let it cool completely. Don’t take it out of the towel until it’s completely cool!

Cream cheese filling for pumpkin roll in a metal bowl.

While it cools, make the cream cheese filling. 

Once the cake has completely cooled, unwrap it from the towel. It will retain some of the curved shape.

Add the filling and re-roll the cake. Since you already rolled it up before, this should be pretty easy.

Wrap the pumpkin roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour before serving.

Rolled pumpkin roll wrapped in plastic wrap.

Storage and Freezing Tips

My Nana and I would make 30 pumpkin rolls at a time, so I’m sure you’re wondering how we stored them.

Pumpkin rolls make a great hostess gift or make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert because they freeze so well.

Prepared pumpkin rolls can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To freeze, wrap the pumpkin roll tightly first in a layer of plastic wrap and then in a layer of foil. Store it in the freezer for up to 1 month.

When you’re ready to serve, remove the frozen pumpkin roll to room temperature 1 hour before serving.

I personally prefer my pumpkin roll chilled instead of served at room temperature. I even love it while still frozen!

Sliced pumpkin roll dusted with powdered sugar.

Pumpkin Roll Tips & FAQs

Over the years, I have had many readers send me their questions on making the perfect pumpkin roll. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received to help you as you make this recipe:

What’s a jelly roll pan? Can I use a 9×13-inch pan instead?

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. 

You do need to use a jelly roll pan for this recipe; it won’t work in a 9×13-inch pan. But the pan is useful for making other recipes, such as banana bars, as well.

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

Yes, lining the bottom of the jelly roll pan with parchment paper will help the cake come out of the pan much easier after flipping it onto the sugar-covered tea towel. 

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.

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

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.

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

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 over the top of the baked cake. 

Flip the pan and the cooling rack together and your cake will end up on the tea towel. Now you can peel away the parchment and roll the cake.

What kind of towel do you use?

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!

My pumpkin rolls always crack; what am I doing wrong??

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.

You also want to pull the cake from the oven as soon as it is done baking. An over-baked cake is much more likely to crack, even if rolled while it is hot from the oven.

How tightly should I roll the cake?

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.

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

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

The cake will likely take at least an hour to cool, but it may need longer if your kitchen is really warm.

Your filling is so even! How do you fill your pumpkin rolls?

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 ½ inch around the perimeter of the cake bare. This keeps the cake filling from oozing out the sides after it is rerolled.

Two slices of pumpkin roll next to a fork on a white plate.

More Uses for Canned Pumpkin

You might have noticed that my pumpkin roll recipe uses only ⅔ cup of canned pumpkin puree, but a typical can of pure pumpkin contains almost 2 cups.

I like to make multiple pumpkin rolls to use up the full can, but here are some other favorite recipes that only use a partial can of pumpkin:

Three pumpkin oatmeal cookies on a cream-colored plate. One cookie has a bite taken out of it

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

4.32 from 25 ratings
Add some fall flair to your oatmeal cookies! These Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies are filled with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips for a twist on your favorite oatmeal cookie.
View Recipe
Unwrapped mini pumpkin cheesecake set on a plate next to two other mini pumpkin cheesecakes.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

5 from 2 ratings
These mini pumpkin cheesecakes are the perfect make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert. With a creamy pumpkin filling and a chocolate crust, these mini cheesecakes can even be made gluten free. 
View Recipe
Close up of no bake pumpkin cheesecake set on a white coaster.

No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

4.79 from 14 ratings
No bake pumpkin cheesecake is an easy, creamy dessert for the holidays! Full of pumpkin and spice flavors, these mini cheesecakes are perfect for entertaining.
View Recipe
Halved mini pumpkin pie on a white plate with 2 other mini pies.

Mini Pumpkin Pies

4.72 from 7 ratings
These simple and delicious mini pumpkin pies are just about the only thing better than a traditional pumpkin pie. These bite-size beauties will amaze your holiday guests!
View Recipe

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

4.73 from 36 ratings
These chewy pumpkin snickerdoodles are a delightful fall take on the classic snickerdoodle cookie. Flavored with pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice, these cookies are so good that you’ll want to make them year round.
View Recipe
Pumpkin Hand Pies

Pumpkin Hand Pies

These pumpkin hand pies are adorable and delicious, made easy and fast with premade pie dough, and a sweet pumpkin filling.
View Recipe
Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Skip the coffee shop and be your own barista: Make your own Pumpkin Spice Syrup for all your fall coffee drinks and cocktails!
View Recipe
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Pumpkin Roll

By: Jamie
4.43 from 133 ratings
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 10
Pumpkin Roll is synonymous with Thanksgiving in my family, and I hope soon – in yours. This Pumpkin Roll recipe is easier than you think, and will make you a holiday dessert superstar.

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • ¼ cup powdered sugar to sprinkle on towel
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • cup pure pumpkin puree

For the Filling

  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
  • 6 tablespoons butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle a clean tea towel with powdered sugar. Set pan and towel aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
  • In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs, vanilla and sugar until thick.
  • Add in pumpkin and mix to combine.
  • Stir in flour mixture.
  • Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
  • Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched.
  • Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.
  • In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Carefully unroll cake; remove towel.
  • Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Video

Notes

  • Store prepared Pumpkin Roll in refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also wrap tightly in a layer of plastic wrap and then foil and store in freezer for up to one month. Remove frozen Pumpkin Roll to room temperature one hour before serving.
Slightly adapted from Libby’s

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice, Calories: 338kcal, Carbohydrates: 45g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 90mg, Sodium: 280mg, Potassium: 100mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 36g, Vitamin A: 3129IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 53mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

4.43 from 133 votes (133 ratings without comment)

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190 Comments

  1. Bridget Wilkins says:

    Love these recipes!

    1. Jamie says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Bridget! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking!
      -Jamie

  2. Lilian Marthaler says:

    Looks scrumptious … will fill mine with a thin layer of apricot jam and use stiffened whipped cream for the filling. Hope it turns out as nice as yours!

    1. Jamie says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Lilian! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking!
      -Jamie

  3. Jamie says:

    Im making pumpkin rolls today and going to freeze them. I hope they turn out well.

    1. Jamie says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Jamie! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking!
      -Jamie

  4. Janessa Vianey Arredondo says:

    Hi! What would you say is the best way to defrost the pumpkin roll, without it becoming soggy, after having it frozen in the freezer?

    1. Jamie says:

      I just place mine in the fridge to defrost. :)

  5. Hermina Goodwin says:

    Hello, I don’t know if we sell pumpkin spice here in Australia, could you tell me what the ingredients are please? Thanking you in advance, Hermina.

  6. Melissa says:

    I made this in between making pirogies and this roll was quick, easy and DELICIOUS!!!  I made two one for my Son ( to take back to college) and one for our church. Big hit!

    1. Jamie says:

      So happy to hear you enjoyed the pumpkin roll, Melissa! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your feedback!
      -Jamie

  7. Teresa White says:

    I can’t wait to try this never done anything like this so I’m going to try it 

    1. Jamie says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Teresa! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Good luck and Happy Baking!
      -Jamie

  8. Erin says:

    Could you use this recipe for cupcakes? 

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi Erin – This cake recipe is a little different than standard cake recipes, so I wouldn’t try to use it for cupcakes. If you want pumpkin cupcakes, I’d give this recipe a try: https://www.mybakingaddiction.com/pumpkin-cupcakes-recipe/
      Hope this helps! Happy baking.
      Jamie

  9. Jamie R. says:

    Hi Jamie! Do you think the results would be drastic if I used a half sheet pan instead of jelly roll? I don’t have a jelly roll. I plan on using your recipe to make a Charlotte Royale for Thanksgiving :D

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi Jamie – I would just check the dimensions of your pan against those of a standard jelly roll pan to see how much smaller or larger it is. It should still work ok, you just might need to adjust the baking time slightly up or down depending on how much bigger or smaller your pan is. I’d keep a careful eye on it in the oven. Hope this helps!
      Jamie

  10. Heidi Bliss says:

    What is the best way to box or wrap for gift giving? I just made my first one last night and it was so much easier than I expected. I would love to gift them but dont want them to stick or get smashed.

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi Heidi – I would probably plate it (you could probably find a nice but inexpensive plate or platter at a store like TJ Maxx or Home Goods, or even check at the dollar store) and cover with plastic wrap. Perhaps dust with powdered sugar just before covering with the plastic wrap. Otherwise, you could try placing it in a large tupperware container, but that probably won’t look as pretty for presentation. Hope this helps. Happy Baking!
      Jamie