The first time I ever had this pumpkin roll was back in 1980 at a Christmas office party held by my then employer. A salesman for the company brought this to the office potluck and we all went crazy for it. I had never seen it or heard of it prior to that.
The office staff spent three days begging for the recipe, but the salesman’s mother, who contributed it to the party, was intent on guarding the recipe with her life and refused to part with it.
She most likely got tired of her son coming home and begging her to give it up so the three office workers would just leave him alone about it! One day upon arriving at my desk, I found a Xeroxed copy (photo-copied for those of you young pups who have no idea what “Xeroxed” was…) containing a handwritten recipe for the elusive pumpkin roll.
On my way home that evening, I stopped by the local supermarket and picked up the needed ingredients; I was going to turn my family on to this luscious morsel of pumpkin and cream cheese goodness.
As the woman who gave us the recipe ordered, I never shared “her special recipe” with anyone. It became a yearly holiday tradition to appear on my family’s Thanksgiving table and my Mom and I were especially fond of it.
A couple years down the road, the recipe could not be found in my recipe file and I was devastated. It was looking like it would be a year without a pumpkin roll when I happened to mention this streak of misfortune to a friend.
My friend got a thoughtful look on her face, said, “That sounds like ‘the Libby recipe’ and pulled out a magazine clipping from the back of one of her cookbooks: lo and behold, it was.
It was a little disconcerting realizing that the recipe was not one my co-worker’s mother developed, it was not “secret”, and it was floating around long before I learned of it, but it was still very special — only I no longer had to “keep it from everyone”. (This was long before the age of the internet and finding all things easily through Google.)
For decades I made this pumpkin roll exactly the way I received it (and Libby’s developed it) and thoroughly enjoyed it. But one time a friend bought one at a local bakery that was outstanding and we put our heads together analyzing it to see if we could determine why we liked this even more that the recipe I used. Turns out the bakery version did not just use cinnamon and cloves like Libby’s recipe, but added ginger and allspice. From that moment on, my recipe contained those four spices, too, and I still use that version today.
Now, this widely shared dessert recipe is in many recipe boxes, and it is not just popular in the Coal Region, but I enjoy it so much and look forward to having some every year I felt it deserved a mention on the blog.
The cake portion is moist and makes a great first “roll”-style dessert for beginning bakers or a baking project in which to get young bakers involved. I always make an extra 1/2 batch of filling because, well, there is nothing better than more cream cheese filling!
Recipe adapted from Libby’s/Nestle.
Classic Pumpkin RollCourse: DessertsCuisine: DessertDifficulty: Intermediate
A classic pumpkin dessert that has become a favorite throughout generations.
- For the cake roll
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup fresh or canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon lemon juice
OPTIONAL: 1 cup chopped walnuts
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 Tablespoons salted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Line a 15 x 11 inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and salt until blended. Set aside.
- Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin and lemon juice.
- Stir in flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly into prepared 15 x 11 inch pan.
- Sprinkle with nuts, if using.
- Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or just until the cake springs back to the touch.
- While the cake is still warm, sprinkle the top of a clean cotton kitchen towel liberally with confectioner’s sugar then flip the cake onto the towel. Peel the parchment off the cake, then roll the cake up starting at a short edge (the towel is rolled up inside, do not try to roll just the actual cake.). Allow to completely cool rolled up.
- While cake is cooling, beat together the cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla extract using an electric mixer.
- Gently unroll the cooled cake, then spread the filling evenly across the surface leaving a 1 inch border at one short edge.
- Roll the cake up starting at the edge opposite the end where you left the border. Place on plastic wrap, seam side down, wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours.
- To serve, trim off any ragged edges of the roll, sprinkle with additional confectioners sugar, if desired, and slice into desired thickness of servings.
- Store in refrigerator.
- I like to make an extra 1/2 batch cream cheese filling so the layer of filling is more substantial..
- Recipe adapted from Libby’s/Nestle.