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Pumpkin Roll Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

Pumpkin Roll Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
One of the most eye-catching pumpkin desserts you can bake is a Pumpkin Roll Cake. It is loaded with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, but it is a bit lighter than a pumpkin pie, making it a great choice for a holiday dessert after a big meal. The swirled design of the cake is actually easy to make, so you don’t have to be an expert baker to pull off this delicious dessert.

The recipe starts with a sponge cake batter that includes pumpkin, pumpkin pie spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg – and plenty of eggs. All of the rise in this cake comes from beating air into those eggs, not from leavening. Beating the eggs can be done with a hand mixer or a stand mixer and you’ll be able to see them triple in volume – and holding on to a lot of air – as you beat them. The pumpkin is whisked into the eggs, but the dry ingredients are folded in to keep as much air as possible in the batter. That said,  you need to completely incorporate both the pumpkin and the dry ingredients, so don’t worry if it feels like you lost a little volume while mixing.

When you measure your cake flour, spoon it into a measuring cup and level it off, just as you might with all purpose flour. You can also weigh the flour using a digital scale, if you want to be especially accurate. In truth, a few grams off doesn’t make much difference in this particular roll cake (it is surprisingly forgiving), so long as the flour is sifted before going into the batter to remove any lumps! For best results, sift the flour and the spices together once, then sift them again directly over the batter when the recipe calls for it.

Although you can substitute a combination of all purpose flour and cornstarch for cake flour, I think that this recipe works a bit better with real cake flour. This is because, even with sifting, I’ve had cornstarch become slightly lumpy when added to the batter. There is not much flour in this recipe, so it is imperative that it be sifted and lump-free for best results.

The cake is moist and flavorful, with a great balance of pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. It’s surprisingly easy to roll and handle, thanks in part to the moisture imparted by the pumpkin puree. I do recommend rolling the cake up immediately and letting it cool in a rolled shape to ensure that it rolls without cracking. I either roll it in a clean dishtowel or a piece of parchment paper, dusting both options liberally with confectioners’ sugar before rolling to minimize sticking from the cake as it cools. Once cooled, I filled the roll with a vanilla buttercream. Cream cheese frosting is a bit more traditional, but I like the lighter flavor of the buttercream, which adds a nice sweetness without competing with the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Roll Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
1 cup cake flour (4 oz)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 batch Vanilla Buttercream (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 18×13-inch sheet pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until lightly colored and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Whisk in pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. Sift the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and fold in until no streaks of dry ingredients remain and batter is uniform. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and begins to pull slightly away from the sides of the pan.
Place a sheet of parchment paper or a clean dish towel on the counter and dust liberally with confectioners’ sugar. Turn still-hot cake out onto the sugared work surface, remove the parchment backing and roll up into a spiral (starting with the short side). Allow cake to cool completely, at least 3 hours.
When cake has cooled, gently unroll the cake and spread a thin layer of frosting over the whole thing, then re-roll the cake and place, seam-side-down on a cake plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Serves 8-10

Vanilla Buttercream
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
2 tbsp milk
2 1/2- 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, beat together butter, vanilla, milk and 2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Gradually blend in the remaining sugar, until frosting is thick and smooth.

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  • Natalie
    November 27, 2017

    I love cake roll, and this one look particularly delicious and perfect for the season 🙂

  • Dee
    November 29, 2017

    It seems to me that by rolling the entire pumpkin cake from an 18 inch pan would make a much larger roll than is shown in the picture. It believe that years ago when we made this dessert with the cream cheese filling, that we cut the cake in half across the width before rolling it giving you two rolls in the end. Your recipe sounds good and I will give a try, but will probably cut the cake in half.

  • Nicole
    November 29, 2017

    Hi Dee – This is what the roll looks like when it’s done! I’ve baked some rolls where the cake itself is a bit thicker, so this one has a very nice profile to it and gets a nice swirl. That being said, I love the idea of two smaller cakes, so you should definitely go for it!

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