Pumpkin Roll

November is the month where we gather our strength, sharpen our carving knives and hone our deal-seeking skills. In the coming weeks, we’ll be finalizing our holiday menus, and perhaps looking for a change or addition to the usual Thanksgiving fare: roast bird, stuffing or dressing, mashed potatoes or candied sweet potatoes and the ubiquitous green bean casserole.

All these dishes have their place, most notably out of tradition, but also because they are universally liked by young and old and are generally not too difficult to make. Pumpkin roll falls into this very category. And as an added benefit, it can be made weeks in advance and frozen until they day it is to be served. It’s the perfect dessert for Thanksgiving dinner, but works just as well as breakfast for that very same morning. Consider how easy it would be to have a breakfast that required absolutely nothing to prepare, save for remembering to put it on the counter the previous day. With all that Thanksgiving dinners require, not having to cook and clean up after breakfast is a no-brainer, especially if you’re already prepping and cooking dinner items before the rest of the family is even out of bed.

There are a couple of items that will make your pumpkin roll perfect every time. Keeping the pumpkin sponge cake the correct thickness is paramount. But this is easily achieved by using the proper size jellyroll pan: an 11×15-inch pan. But size is only half the battle. You need to be able to remove the cake cleanly from the pan once it’s baked, and you can accomplish this by first spraying the pan with cooking spray, then lining the pan with parchment paper, cut to size, and then lightly spraying the paper.

The second part is working with the cake while it’s still hot from the oven. The cake will release perfectly from the pan, and it can be rolled, hot, in a tea towel without the fear of cracking the cake while it’s rolled. Allowing the cake to cool while it’s rolled in the tea towel will ensure that it stays rolled once it’s been filled with the cream cheese filling. As for keeping the cake from sticking to the tea towel, we’ll just dust everything with powdered sugar first.

Letting the filling ingredients come completely to room temperature will make it much easier to both blend and spread the filling. Then it’s just a matter of re-rolling the cake, something it will want to do. You can serve it immediately, refrigerate it to serve later in the day, or freeze it for up to three months. Just make sure that it is double wrapped in both plastic wrap and paper if you plan to freeze it for any length of time.

Pumpkin roll. Good for dessert, great for breakfast.

Pumpkin Roll

 the sponge cake

  • 2/3 cup (6 ozs by weight) pumpkin
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt 

the filling

  • 8 ozs cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 – 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla 

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray an 11x15x3/4-inch jellyroll pan with cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit and place it in the pan, then lightly spray the paper with cooking spray.

Using a balloon whisk, beat together the sugar and eggs until they are light and creamy. Add the cinnamon, salt and baking powder and whisk to combine. Add the pumpkin, whisking to combine. Add the flour and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix or the sponge cake will become tough. Pour the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing it evenly and thinly over the entire pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and turn the hot cake out onto a tea towel that has been dusted with powdered sugar. Dust the cake with powdered sugar, and roll the cake tightly in the tea towel. Allow the cake to come to room temperature and place the entire cake and towel in the refrigerator to cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Using a hand mixer on medium speed, cream together the cheese and butter. Add the sugar and mix on medium to combine. Add the nuts and vanilla and mix to combine.

Carefully unroll the cake onto a sheet of parchment paper if you will be freezing or refrigerating the cake before serving, removing the tea towel. Spread the filling evenly on the inside and reroll the cake. Roll the parchment paper around the cake and fold down the sides to cover the cake. Refrigerate until you serve. Wrap the paper-rolled cake in plastic wrap if you plan to freeze it.

Serve cake at room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.