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This Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Walnut Filling is a unique alternative to pie on Thanksgiving and a gorgeous centerpiece for your holiday dessert table! Follow my step-by-step instructions for a foolproof result.
This post was originally published on October 18, 2011. It has been updated with new images.
Pumpkin roll is one of my all time favorite things to bake at this time of year. It’s a bit of a process but you just feel so good after you’ve created this thing of beauty!
If you’re not feeling the fall vibe just yet, this will do it for you. The flavors of pumpkin and cream cheese with the crunch of the finely chopped walnuts is out of this world good. It tastes like the holidays.
How to Make a Perfect Pumpkin Roll
There is definitely a method to making pumpkin roll but it’s fun and it will turn out great if you follow a few simple steps – I promise. Here we go!
Combine the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl – flour, sugar, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, eggs, and a little fresh lemon juice until smooth.
What is the Difference Between Pumpkin Puree and Pumpkin Pie Filling?
Canned pie filling has seasoning and sweeteners added that we don’t need since we’ll be creating our own delicious flavors with this recipe. Pumpkin puree is just the squash, man, and that’s all we need.
You want to look for pumpkin puree (Libby’s calls theirs 100% Pure Pumpkin) not pumpkin pie filling for this recipe. The cans look almost identical so it is easy to buy the pie filling by mistake. Be vigilant and be sure you’ve got the puree.
What Size Baking Sheet is Best for Pumpkin Roll?
You can use any rimmed baking sheet that measures from 10- x 15-inches up to 12- x 17-inches. I always use my standard 12- x 17-inch jelly roll pan. The baking time will vary slightly depending on the size of your pan.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your pan. Spray the edges of the paper and any exposed edges of the pan with cooking spray so the cake will lift out easily after baking.
Pour the cake batter on to the center of the parchment paper and use a rubber spatula or back of a spoon to spread it out into an even layer, right up to the edges of the pan.
Bake the cake batter for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your pan. Watch it closely and pull it out of the oven when the edges appear to be pulling away from the pan a bit and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Don’t overbake. You want the cake to be very moist.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.
What is the Best Way to Roll the Cake?
Pull out a clean dish towel and dust it generously with powdered sugar. This will help prevent the cake from sticking to the towel. Carefully turn the cake out on to the prepared dish towel, parchment paper side up. Peel the parchment paper off.
Fold the end of the dish towel over the narrow end of the cake. I know this seems crazy but trust me.
Roll the cake from the narrow end with the dish towel inside.
Let the rolled cake rest in the towel for about 30 minutes or more. This will help the pumpkin roll to keep its form and prevent it from cracking.
Still with me? We’re almost there!
Now it’s time to add the cream cheese filling. I always add a little fresh lemon juice when I make a cream cheese icing. It helps cut the sweetness and adds a nice balance to the flavor. Have it mixed and ready to go before unrolling your cake.
After the rolled cake has been sitting for at least 30 minutes, unroll it and spread the filling evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the filling with some finely chopped walnuts. Can we just eat it like this? Yum! Sorry, momentary lapse – lets roll ‘er up.
Roll the cake again from the narrow end once more. This time without the dish towel. Now we’re getting somewhere! If you see a few small cracks in the cake, worry not! The whole thing will be dusted in powdered sugar before serving which will hide any small imperfections.
Wrap it tightly in heavy duty foil, twisting the ends. Refrigerate at least one hour or more. This will ensure the roll will stay rolled. I recommend making the pumpkin roll the day before you plan to serve it and chilling the foil wrapped roll overnight.
When ready to serve, transfer the cake to a cutting board and sprinkle it generously with powdered sugar. Using a sharp knife, slice into 1″ slices. Sprinkle the slices with additional powdered sugar before serving for a pretty touch.
More festive Thanksgiving dessert ideas I think you’ll love:
Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Walnut Filling
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 3 to 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
Cream Cheese Walnut Filling
- 8 ounces Neufchatel or regular cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
For the Pumpkin Cake
- Preheat oven to 375 F degrees . Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a jelly roll pan or rimmed baking sheet that measures at least 10- by 15-inches or up to 12- x 17-inches. Spray the edges of the parchment paper and any exposed edges of the pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice. Whisk in pumpkin puree, eggs, and lemon juice. Pour mixture into prepared pan and smooth it out evenly over the parchment paper with a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of your pan. Watch closely and do not over bake. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.
- Spread a clean kitchen towel on the counter, sprinkle it generously with powdered sugar, and turn the cake onto the towel parchment paper side up. Peel the parchment paper off. Turn the edge of the towel over the narrow end of the cake. Carefully roll the towel up from the narrow end (lengthwise) with the cake in it. Let the cake rest in the towel for at least 30 minutes or more.
For the Cream Cheese Walnut Filling
- In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, butter, vanilla, sugar, and lemon juice with an electric mixer. Set aside.
Assemble the Pumpkin Roll
- Unroll the cake and spread the filling evenly over the surface. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over the filling. Roll the cake again, this time without the towel. Wrap the roll in heavy duty foil and refrigerate for at least an hour or more. When ready to serve, move the cake to a cutting board and slice into 1” slices. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar if desired.
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