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This Pumpkin Roll recipe is the perfect fall dessert! It’s a moist pumpkin cake with homemade cream cheese filling, decorated with a design of colorful fall leaves on the outside. With its gorgeous autumn pattern, this beautiful cake will be the star of your dessert table!
🍂 My Favorite Decorative Pumpkin Roll Recipe
One of the beautiful things about rolled cakes is their simplicity. All you need to do is take a pumpkin sheet cake, add a bit of cream cheese frosting, a quick roll of the whole shebang, and you’ve got yourself a stellar dessert!
It’s a classic for a reason, and it’s hard to improve upon this fall dessert. And if you’re in the mood for more classic pumpkin recipes, don’t miss this Pumpkin Fudge and these easy 2-Ingredient Pumpkin Brownies.
However, let’s never forget the SugarHero motto: “Why not do more stuff to more things?” (Okay, I’ll admit…the motto could use some polishing up but it still applies!)
In the spirit of doing more stuff, learning new skills, and just plain old having FUN in the kitchen, and making even more pumpkin recipes, we’re going to fancy up the old-fashioned pumpkin roll!
In today’s recipe, I’ll teach you how to decorate one with some beautiful, completely edible autumn leaves to elevate it and make it worthy of plating even on the fanciest Thanksgiving table.
🖌Adding A Design To A Rolled Cake
To break down this cake, we’re going to tackle it in 3 parts:
- The piped design on the outside
- The cake itself
- The filling
You can make a very delicious pumpkin roll without the pattern! It’s completely optional. The design is gorgeous, but it also adds extra time, so feel free to skip and go straight to the cake recipe if you’d like.
If you’re looking for something faster and easier, scroll on down to the pumpkin roll instructions and forget the design part, or take a chance on a different pumpkin recipe, like these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies!
But, if you want to take this pumpkin roll to a whole new level and impress everyone at your next fall party, I highly suggest you stick around.
How To Make Fall Designs For Your Pumpkin Roll Cake: Step By Step Tutorial
For those who want to make pretty designs, this is where the fun begins!
Step 1: Choose Your Design
The cake needs to be made in a 15×10-inch jelly roll pan, so the design is divided into 2 pages, left and right. Print out both pages, and make sure you print them full size. Tape them together in the center, then trim the paper’s sides so it fits flush inside your 15×10″ pan.
Of course you’re also free to make your own designs! Something without too many fine lines or too much detail is best, at least for the first attempt.
Step 2: Prep Your Pan (Do NOT Skip This)
Making sure that your pumpkin roll releases cleanly from the pan is a huge concern, so pan prep is very important!
- Put the pattern template in your jelly roll pan
- Then, add a sheet of parchment on top.
- Spray the parchment and sides of the pan very well with nonstick cooking spray. I had the best results using baking spray (the kind with flour mixed in) and then wiping off the excess with a paper towel.
Step 3: Make Your Piping Batter
The pattern is made with a simple batter made from:
- Egg whites
It should have a medium consistency which means it should be thin enough to easily pipe, but thick enough to hold its shape and not run all over the place.
Step 4: Choose Your Colors For Your Piping Batter
Divide the batter into individual bowls, and mix each color separately. I used Americolor gel food coloring, and kept the colors fairly simple-just yellow, orange, red, and burgundy. I added a bit of Ivory to each color to deepen them and to give them more of a ‘fall’ tone.
Transfer each color into its own piping bag. You can either fit the bags with small round #2 tips, or cut off a tiny bit of the tip of the bag.
Step 5: Start Outlining Your Design
I tried a few variations of this pattern on a pumpkin roll cake, including just outlining the shapes, a mix of outlined shapes and filled shapes, and completely filled shapes.
The one that looked the best by far was when I outlined each shape and then filled it in completely with a contrasting color. You can experiment for yourself, but for my design, coloring in the leaves was the way to go!
To achieve this effect, pipe the outline of each shape, freeze the pan for 20 minutes to let the first layer set, then add the contrasting color on top. Don’t be afraid to mix colors, like the ombre effect you see in the maple leaves.
Step 5: Add the Cake Batter
When you have added the finishing touches to your design, it gets one more quick chill in the freezer, then the pumpkin cake batter is added directly on top of the pattern, and the whole thing is baked.
This is what the bottom of the cake looks like right out of the oven…
🎂 How To Make A Pumpkin Roll Cake
Whether you’ve created a pattern or not, the steps to rolling and filling the pumpkin roll are the same from here on out, so let’s get our rolling on!
When the pumpkin cake comes out of the oven, it is SO important to work quickly. If you wait until the pumpkin cools, you’re almost guaranteed to get cracks in your cake.
So, let’s get to it!
Roll Your Pumpkin Cake Like A Pro!
The most important part of a successful pumpkin roll is to roll up the cake while it’s hot, to encourage the cake to cool in that spiral shape.
- After flipping the cake out of the pan, peel the parchment off of the bottom and whistle in admiration at your mad piping skills (remember, you gotta be quick!).
- Flip it back around so that the bottom of the cake is resting on top of a cotton tea towel covered with powdered sugar.
Now, here’s the really crazy part: the cake is rolled up along with the towel!
The towel is a barrier between the cake layers to prevent it from sticking to itself. So really, don’t be shy with the powdered sugar on the towel. The more we can do to prevent the cake from sticking, the better.
Add The Finishing Touches
The cake needs to cool down enough so it’ll hold its rolled shape. Once it’s completely cool:
- Slowly and gently unroll the cake flat once more
- Add a layer of cream cheese frosting all over the top of the cake, leaving just a small bare margin around the edge
- Once it’s frosted, roll it up a second time. This time, use the tea towel to guide the cake and encourage it to roll over on itself. The humble tea towel is really proving its kitchen worth in this recipe.
And finally–FINALLY!–the whole thing needs to chill once more to firm up so you can cut beautiful clean slices and wow your guests.
A cake roll without a chilling period is really more of a cake squish–and nobody wants a cake squish. Trust me.
Cut The Pumpkin Cake And Enjoy!
Once the pumpkin roll has been chilled a second time, it’s time to cut this baby up and serve it! To make perfectly sized portions:
- Take a cake knife and cut 1-1.5 inch slices as evenly as possible. You don’t want to cut too big of a piece but also not as thin. If it’s cut too thin, you really don’t get to enjoy as much of the cake all in one bite.
- Plate the slice of pumpkin roll cake and enjoy!
🥄 Simple Cream Cheese Frosting
So far, the pumpkin cake has gotten all of the attention, but the cream cheese filling is what really pulls this whole cake together! It’s a bit thicker and more sturdy than the typical cream cheese frosting, so that it can stand up to being sliced in a cake.
- It starts with a simple buttercream recipe made with butter and powdered sugar
- After the frosting is made, beat a bit of cream cheese until it’s free from lumps
- Finally, add the frosting to the cream cheese
I like doing it in this order (rather than adding cream cheese to the frosting) because it keeps its texture better, and is less likely to separate. The end result is a deliciously smooth, thick buttercream frosting with a light cream cheese taste.
Not too gloopy, not too tangy, not too cheesy…in short, it’s perfect!
💡 Tips and FAQs
Before you scroll down to grab the full list of ingredients and instructions from the recipe card below, here are a few frequently asked questions.
Why did my pumpkin roll crack?
One of the most frustrating things about making a cake roll is the possibility that the cake might crack.
This can be due to SO many different factors.
- Handling the cake too roughly
- Not working quickly enough so that the cake has started to cool
- Mercury in retrograde
- Bad kitchen karma…the list goes on.
Honestly, sometimes you can do everything right and you’ll still get a few cracks. It’s just a fact of baking life.
At the very minimum, I encourage you to watch your cake closely while it bakes to make sure that it’s baked in the center but not overdone. And while it’s baking, read the instructions very carefully and have everything prepped and ready to go as soon as the cake is out of the oven.
This will go a long way towards preventing cracks.
Can cracks be fixed?
With normal pumpkin cakes, my answer is almost always “just cover it with some whipped cream!” Unfortunately, that’s not as easy to do when you’ve created an intricate autumn leaf pattern on your cake!
So no, it’s not entirely possible to cover a patterned pumpkin cake that has cracked. If the cracks are towards the end, maybe slice off a few pieces and serve them on the side as if you meant to do it. If they’re in the center of the cake, serve your cake with a smile, remember that you’re amazing, and do as Julia Child said and never apologize for your cooking!
Can I make this patterned pumpkin roll cake in advance?
Yes, you can!
There are two ways to prepare this pumpkin roll cake recipe in advance:
- Simply follow the first couple of steps in making the cake until you have rolled it for the first time. Leave it rolled and wrapped in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. You can also prep the cream cheese frosting and store it in an airtight container until you are ready to put the whole cake together.
- The second option is to follow the entire step by step process and make the pumpkin cake (just don’t slice it yet!). You can follow the steps below on how to store and save this pumpkin roll cake until you are ready to serve.
Make-ahead and Storage Information
To properly store your pumpkin roll cake, wrap it tightly in several layers of plastic wrap. Then, store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or the freezer for 2-3 weeks.
If frozen, keep it well-wrapped and let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
🧡 More Pumpkin Cake Recipes You’ll Love:
- Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Cake
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake
- Layered Pumpkin Cake
- Pumpkin Bundt Cakes
- Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Pound Cake
Pin This Pumpkin Roll Tutorial for Later:
Patterned Pumpkin Roll
For the Pattern Batter:
- 1.5 oz butter (3 TBSP) at room temperature
- 3 egg whites at room temperature
- 2 oz powdered sugar (1/2 cup)
- 3 oz all-purpose flour (2/3 cup)
- Gel food coloring I used Americolor Ivory, Egg Yellow, Pumpkin, Super Red, and Chocolate Brown
For the Pumpkin Cake:
For the Cream Cheese Filling:
- 4 oz butter at room temperature
- 6 oz powdered sugar (1 ½ cup)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ cup half and half can substitute milk or cream
- 4 oz full-fat cream cheese at room temperature
To Make the Pattern Batter:
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Blend with a hand mixer or stand mixer until the batter is smooth. Do not keep mixing after it’s blended, or it might start to separate.
- Divide the batter into 4 portions. Add gel food coloring and stir until you have 4 vibrant autumn colors. I used Americolor gels in the following combinations: Ivory + Egg Yellow to make yellow, Ivory + Pumpkin to make orange, Ivory + Super Red to make red, and Chocolate Brown + Super Red to make burgundy. Place the colors in piping bags fitted with a small round tip – I used a #2 piping tip.
- Place your design template on a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan, and place a piece of parchment over it. (Alternately, draw a design on the back side of a piece of parchment paper.) Spray baking spray or nonstick spray on the piece of parchment, and wipe it lightly with paper towel to remove excess.
- Trace the pattern with your batter. If you want to draw outlines with one color and fill in with another, draw the outlines first and freeze for 15-20 minutes, then add the filler color on top. Once your pattern is complete, freeze the pan for at least 20 minutes to set the batter. (Longer is okay). While the pan is in the freezer, make the pumpkin cake batter.
To Make the Pumpkin Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spice, and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.
- Place both sugars and the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and beat them together for 3 minutes until thick and light yellow. Add the pumpkin and vanilla extract, and mix until combined.
- Add the flour to the mixer, and mix on low speed just until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to finish mixing the batter.
- Scrape the pumpkin cake batter directly on top of the pattern you piped in the baking sheet. Smooth it into a thin, even layer. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until the cake starts to darken along the edges and it springs back when lightly pressed in the middle.
- As soon as the cake is done, it’s very important that you work quickly, while it is still hot, to get it out of the pan and roll it up. If you wait too long, it will mostly like crack.
- Once the cake is out of the oven, immediately run a knife around the edges to loosen it from the pan. Spray a piece of parchment or waxed paper with nonstick cooking spray, and place it on top of the cake. Put a baking sheet or cutting board on top of the parchment, and carefully flip the cake upside-down, so the top of the cake is resting on the cutting board. Remove the jelly roll pan and set it aside.
- Peel the parchment off of the bottom of the cake, revealing the design. Sprinkle the top of the cake liberally with powdered sugar. Take a cotton tea towel and sprinkle both sides with a generous amount of powdered sugar too, rubbing it into the towel. Place the sugared towel on top of the design. Put a cutting board or baking sheet on top of the towel, and once again flip the cake over—now the tea towel should be on the bottom, and the cake should be right side up.
- Remove the parchment from the top of the cake. Starting on the skinny edge, carefully roll the cake and the tea towel up together. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour. It should be completely cool before you try to unroll it. If you try too soon, it will likely crack.
- While you’re waiting for the cake to cool, make the pumpkin spice filling.
To Make the Cream Cheese Filling:
- Combine the butter, powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix them together on low speed, then gradually raise the speed to medium and beat it for 4 minutes, until the mixture is white and fluffy.
- Add the half and half to the bowl. Beat on low speed until it is incorporated. It is normal for the mixture to look separated (and, frankly, weird and chunky) at this stage. Once the liquid is mixed in, gradually raise the speed to medium and beat for another 1-2 minutes, until the frosting has come together, is smooth and glossy, and has a stiffer texture.
- Remove the buttercream from the bowl and add the softened cream cheese. Beat it with a paddle attachment until you’re sure it’s smooth and free of lumps. Turn the mixer to low and add the frosting to the cream cheese in 3-4 batches. Once all of the frosting is added, stop mixing and finish stirring by hand. Chill until you’re ready to assemble the cake.
- When the cake is completely cool, carefully unroll it. Be gentle, since it will want to stick to the towel. Some cracking on the top of the cake (the undecorated side) is normal. Spread the frosting in an even layer on the cake.
- Roll the cake up again, this time rolling it over itself and not the towel. Brush the top of the cake with a light layer of simple syrup or creamer to remove the extra powdered sugar and reveal the design. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to firm it up and make it easier to cut.
- Cut the cake in 1-inch pieces and enjoy! The cake can be stored, well-wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to a week.