Tired of basic pumpkin pie? A roll adds pizzazz

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

For the record, I love pumpkin pie, though I have a strong feeling that I may be in the minority. Pumpkin pie is de rigeur on the Thanksgiving table.

However, given a choice, most people would choose apple or pecan pie. They belong to the school that believes a vegetable is just not a good choice for a pie filling.

Pumpkin pie also suffers in the looks department. Unless gussied up with piped-on whipped cream, it sits on the table like a wallflower. If you’re looking for a dessert with a bit more pizzazz this holiday season, try a pumpkin roll.

Pumpkin rolls start out with a moist, pumpkin sheet cake redolent of the familiar autumn spices. The cake is then layered with a sweet cream cheese filling. Once cut, the contrasting colors make an inviting pinwheel on the plate.

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Make ahead: Pumpkin rolls are not difficult to make, but they do require a couple of steps. If you are planning to serve one for Thanksgiving, I recommend making it a day or two ahead of time. They also freeze well, so that is another option. Just let it defrost for an hour before serving.

The recipe below calls for ⅔ cup canned pumpkin. A 15-ounce can of pumpkin contains approximately two cups. To use up the rest of the can, I’ve also included a recipe for pumpkin custard. It tastes like the eponymous pie without the work of making a crust.

Not everyone is a fan of pumpkin pie, but a pumpkin roll can win over some naysayers with its lovely pinwheel appearance.

Pumpkin Roll

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice — or
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar for dusting the towel

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 15-by-10-inch jellyroll pan (this prevents the paper from slipping), and cover with a piece of parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, pumpkin, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Give the pan a shake to make sure the batter is level and reaches the corners. Bake for 17–18 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched.

Meanwhile, place a clean dish towel on the counter and generously dust all over with powdered sugar. As soon as the cake has finished cooking, place it on top of the towel, parchment side up; peel off and discard the parchment. Dust the top lightly with more powdered sugar. Starting at one of the shorter sides, loosely roll up the cake inside the towel. Place on a rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in a large bowl using a mixer, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Beat in the butter until combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy.

Gently and slowly unroll the cake. Flatten it out and spread frosting evenly on top, leaving about a ½-inch border around the cake. Gently and slowly roll the cake back up, without the towel this time, making sure to roll it tightly. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes before slicing and serving. Dust with more powdered sugar, if desired.

Pumpkin Custard

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 can evaporated milk

Combine all ingredients and mix well. You could use a blender. Pour into heat-proof custard cups. Set the cups into a shallow pan of hot water and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes, or until custard has set.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.