When it comes to pumpkin dessert, this Pumpkin Roll recipe one is my favorites. Maybe it’s because I have so many great memories associated with this recipe. Or maybe it’s because it’s just so darned good. I’m going with a little of both.
Just recently I was reminded about Libby’s Pumpkin Roll recipe by a young man at the local TV station. His mom had visited for Thanksgiving and left him with a couple of Pumpkin Rolls for his freezer. He went on to say that so many people in Central Illinois had never heard of this cake. He asked if I was familiar with Pumpkin Roll? Oh, yes, I definitely was.
The first time I ever tasted this Pumpkin Roll, I knew I had fallen in love with pumpkin. That was long before our modern day “pumpkin-everything” season (now known as Fall). I LOVE pumpkin season whatever they want to call it.
Connecting with the Neighbors
Years ago we bought our first home in Richardson, Texas. And we had such great neighbors. They were a diverse bunch. Some were young marrieds like us, just starting out or with young families. Others were retirees or near so. We lived across the street from Joyce and Neal Specht, who like us, were Midwestern transplants. Neal was retired; Joyce worked with me.
We spent lots of time visiting with them, enjoying their backyard pool along with great food and conversation. They were the definition of perfect hosts. Neal was known for the best vodka martinis on the block. He always offered you one vodka “tini”, and then ONLY one refill because, “You can’t fly on one wing.” But never EVER any more. No explanation needed.
They really were surrogate parents to us, always willing to lend a hand. I remember the countless evenings with them walking the floor with our colicky first born or removing the snake our cat dragged in when I was the only one home.
Both Joyce and Neal have passed away, but I will always remember them for their kindness and friendship. Life is made up of memories, and I have lots of special ones because of them.
And Joyce loved to cook as much as I did. She was an especially fabulous baker, and she shared so many delicious recipes with me over the years were were neighbors. I still treasure them in my recipe collection. And right up front and center is her recipe for Pumpkin Swirl. It’s been a Thanksgiving favorite since the day I tried hers.
Pumpkin Swirl vs Pumpkin Roll
Joyce called her cake Pumpkin Swirl. She made it with a buttermilk baking mix (Pioneer brand was her baking mix of choice). Since I could no longer find that mix in my part of the country, I ended up adapting her recipe to the original Libby’s Pumpkin Roll recipe.
The pumpkin cake is a thin layer of moist pumpkin and spice deliciousness. And, oh my that cream cheese filling? Makes that cake just perfect–adding just the right amount of tang and sweetness to satisfy my pumpkin dessert craving. The fact that it can be wrapped in plastic wrap and popped into the freezer makes it so convenient to have handy for a holiday party.
How to make a Pumpkin Roll
- Start with greasing and then flouring a half-sheet pan (jelly roll pan).
- In a mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients.
- In a separate medium size mixing bowl, beat the eggs and then add the pumpkin.
- At this point, it’s time to add the dry ingredients you previously mixed together.
- When everything is mixed together, pour the mixture onto the prepared baking pan in an even layer.
- Pop it into the oven and bake until done. Start checking at 13 minutes. The cake should feel springy to touch and not have any crumbs on your tester toothpick after you stick it into the middle.
- While the cake is baking, combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl.
- Mix until everything is combined and the mixture is smooth.
- Set the filling bowl aside until the cake is cool.
The Tricky Part
- So far the cake baking has been easy. Now for the tricky part.
- When the cake comes out of the oven, you need to roll it up using a powdered-sugar covered towel. I sprinkle powdered sugar on a thin white flour sack towel for this part. Any clean thin towel will work, though.
- So AS SOON AS the cake comes out of the oven, flip it onto the powdered-sugar covered towel.
- Peel off the waxed paper, and roll it up in the towel, small end first. Don’t let the cake cool or it won’t roll correctly. Meaning it will crack!
- Let the cake cool, rolled up in the towel.
The whole towel-rolling when the cake is warm helps the cake keep the rolled shape when rerolling after applying the cream cheese filling to the cake. How We Roll shows you how it’s done.
Here’s the recipe for my new version of Joyce’s Pumpkin Swirl with just a touch of Libby’s thrown in.
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar to sprinkle on towel
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1 cup chopped nuts
- 1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 6 Tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar (optional)
For the Cake
- PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
- GREASE a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan and LINE with wax paper. GREASE and FLOUR paper.
- In a small bowl, COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and salt. SET aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, BEAT eggs and granulated sugar until fluffy.
- BEAT in the pumpkin. STIR in the flour mixture. SPREAD mixture evenly into the prepared pan. SPRINKLE nuts evenly on top.
- BAKE for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (I start checking after 11 minutes).
- While cake is baking, SPRINKLE a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.
- When cake is done, immediately LOOSEN the cake and carefully FLIP cake onto the powdered sugar-prepared towel. Be sure to put enough powdered sugar on the towel when rolling up the cake so it will not stick.
- Gently PEEL off the paper. ROLL UP cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. COOL on wire rack. (Leave towel in place).
For the Filling
- In a small mixing bowl, BEAT cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Carefully UNROLL cake. SPREAD the cream cheese mixture over cake. REROLL cake (without the towel). WRAP in plastic wrap and REFRIGERATE at least one hour. SPRINKLE with powdered sugar, if desired.
- SPRINKLE TOP with powdered sugar, if desired.