It seems to me that everyone I know is looking more and more towards comfort food , whether in the form of soups, casseroles, pot pies and even desserts. Maybe it’s because of the uncertainty we all live through in today’s world. So many of us live further and further away from family and friends for economic or academic reasons, or we just watch/read the news only to find something else that has rocked our world and our sense of security.
Over the years, what I’ve learned is that every person, irrespective of culture and ethnicity, has comfort foods tucked away in their back pocket, ready to be requested as soon as they’re on the next flight home to mom and dad. Maybe it’s because it reminds them of someone special or a special time in their life when life felt sweet and safe and good. It’s comforting.
For me, oddly enough, it’s the classic pumpkin roll. I say ‘oddly enough’ because it isn’t actually my most favorite dessert in the world ever; it’s just the one that my mom made over and over, every year, every Fall, every Thanksgiving and throughout the winter and she made it better than any others I tasted (and I’ve tasted a lot). She would make three or four at a time and bring them to family and friends because the first time she made one, it got rave reviews. Ever since then she has not veered from the recipe, because it works.
That’s one of the ways I’m different from my mom. I try things once and move on, in the name of adventure and curiosity. I don’t actually like to make the same recipes twice much like I don’t like to see the same movie twice or go to the same place on vacation twice. But, as I get older or as I miss home and family more and more, I long for the things that remind me of what does work in life- or at least what you know you can expect from family traditions- the serenity of knowing your surroundings and feeling safe in them, of places you know and can tell others exactly what they’re like, and the same goes for food and desserts- you know what to expect and you can expect it to be good, and with the first bite you’ll be transported back to that place where life is good and there’s a little bit more certainty in your day, just because you went with what you know works.
I spent the day with my mom and let her make it so I could bring you all these process photos and a few videos, too. I wanted to illustrate that it’s not intimidating (especially the rolling part) and if you are a visual learner, this should help make you feel more at ease about going at it yourself.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the roll (frosting ingredients and process later):
Flour, sugar, salt, eggs, baking soda, pumpkin puree (canned or fresh, which you can learn to make here), and cinnamon.
If you’re going to use the canned version of pumpkin puree, be sure to use organic. I got this one at The Fresh Market, but you may be able to find it at Whole Foods, too. If there’s one thing I’ve got my mom to change was to use this kind of puree as opposed to the one ‘very popular brand’ found commercially which is not known to be organic.
Gather all your utensils, too, because things always go fast when you need to mix them in the stand mixer.
You’ll also need clean cloth towels. Don’t skimp on the type of towels- it really does matter. It’s best to use non-ridge, all cotton towels without any pattern.
You can use French tea towels or these pictured below, which are from Ikea for about .79 each.
You’ll also need waxed paper, a baking sheet and a spray oil. And aluminum foil (not shown).
Here’s why: You’ll need to spray the baking sheet generously with oil (I use the Misto spray pump because then you can use your own oil).
Then cut the wax paper to size and put it on the oiled baking sheet.
Smooth it out
Set this aside. You’ll need to use this as soon as you’re done making the batter for the roll. Off we go to the mixing bowl- add the eggs, salt, baking soda, pumpkin, sugar.
And the cinnamon.
Add the flour and mix well.
Once it’s done, free of lumps, pour the entire batter onto the baking sheet.
So if you’re making more than one roll, each batter (hence each recipe) gets it’s own sheet.
Spread it out and smooth it out completely.
Then it’s ready for the oven.
Bake it for 15 minutes ONLY (that’s how the original typed directions yell at you to make sure you don’t go over the specified baking time).
This is why:
Let it cool for several minutes, but not until it’s cold.
Have the towel ready on a flat surface so you’re ready to use it (you’ll flip it over on top of the towel) when the flat roll is actually ready to be a real roll.
Then flip it over. Onto the very specific type of tea towels I told you about.
This is the moment you’ll be glad you greased the wax paper.
Hit the back gently or just shake it off onto the towel. You must do this on the towel, by the way, because this is where the frosting will be spread, too, then the whole thing rolled up.
Doesn’t it just look like it’ll all peel right off?
Well, it won’t be perfect, but in my mom’s words, don’t worry about ripping the wax paper. It’s not going to hurt anything.
We all want it to come off on one piece or in nice clean strips, but this is typical–and it’s true, don’t worry about it.
This is the side you’ll be filling with cream cheese, anyway.
Back to the mixer to make the cream cheese. Unless you have two, you’ll have to give yourself time to clean this out before moving on.
Here are the ingredients: butter, cream cheese, sugar, alcohol-free vanilla extract.
Because I know many of you might ask, I use the cream cheese from Trader Joe’s and try to get the butter from an Amish farm or Kerrygold, which is a deep and golden yellow and probably my favorite butter out there.
Although you only need powdered sugar if you’re not making it from scratch like I’m about to show you. Yes, it’s possible to make powdered sugar from scratch and after seeing how I do it, you’ll never really have to buy it again unless you’re in a baking emergency and without the necessary coffee grinding device that makes it so possible and utterly simple. This is the powerful dyanamic duo (below):
You can use any type of coffee or spice grinder for this.
First, make the powdered sugar unless you have some already.
Next, add all of these ingredients to the stand mixer.
and mix away until you reach a smooth consistency.
Now it’s time to plop it down onto the baked batter.
then spread it out nicely and evenly, up until about 1/4 inch of the edge.
Now begin the slow roll process shown here- don’t you just love my mom’s blue nail polish?
Continue to roll gently and slowly, about 2 inches at a time.
This is where things can crack so just take your time and see it to the end. If you do see any cracks, don’t worry, there’s always a way to cover them or cut the roll in a way that makes them less apparent. Just see it through to the end and close it properly by pressing down firmly.
Alternatively, you can use the towel as your guide and roll it up with the actual roll.
It looks like a cute bundle this way and I would do this also if you’re not going to save the roll, but serve it all immediately. You could stick it in the fridge this way and cut just before serving.
But most people will want to share it or divide it up, even freeze it, so you need to use aluminum foil or freezer paper if you feel more comfortable with that. Plop the whole roll onto the aluminum and roll it in the same way as the towel.
Wrap it up completely and tightly.
Crimp the edges to prevent them from drying out.
If I make two, I put them both back on a baking sheet and refrigerate. Once they’re firm, I place them in the freezer if I’m not going to be serving them for a while, which makes these great make-ahead desserts for holidays and celebrations.
When it’s time to take them out, remove gently from the foil.
See how gorgeous the bottom is- firmly sealed by pressing down when closing it up + then refrigeration.
But of course they need to be flipped over for cutting- again, very gently.
When it’s time to slice, cut any burnt or unsightly edges off first- don’t worry- it happens.
And so does this- sometimes you might have not gone far enough to the edge of the roll when spreading out the cream cheese so you think your entire roll is going to look like this and not the stuff you find in magazines and Pinterest.
But just keep cutting, you’ll get there. insha’allah.
I may be stating the obvious, but be sure to use a straight-edge knife here so you can get a clean cut- I should have cleaned off the knife to get an even cleaner cut, but I was a bit impatient- I wanted to hurry up and try it, it’s been years since I’ve had my mom’s pumpkin roll, can you blame me?
And then my mom said I cut the pieces too thick, but I clearly remember that her portions were always generous, as opposed to others I’d seen who always cut them so thin and small. Give people something good and in generous portions, I think that’s the best way to be about it. She remembered and agreed…
And of course serve them on something pretty. This tray has been in our family for probably over 25 years. It’s the fancy dessert tray, I suppose. Not real silver but pretty, indeed.
To me, the rolls are pretty, too, but they reflect more than just a great dessert on a pretty tray. It’s who they’re enjoyed with- and since they can be cut into so many pieces (I would say up to 12), imagine how many people can enjoy them and be part of the company you enjoy, too.
Did you like this recipe and seeing the process of how to make it? Please share your thoughts and tell me if you’d like to see more of things like this on the site.
By December 10, 2013Published:
- Yield: one roll (12-15 Servings)
- Prep: 15 mins
- Cook: 15 mins
- Ready In: 40 mins
Pumpkin rolls are not just for holidays or for the month of November- they're great as soon as the pumpkins are ready to be harvested and you're in the mood for something sweet and comfortable to cozy up to during the cold winter months.
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (not an entire can)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon ground
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour unbleacched
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts such as walnuts (optional)
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- FOR ROLL: Beat eggs and 1 cup of sugar; blend in pumpkin, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and flour.
- Grease jelly roll pan (baking sheet) and line with waxed paper. Grease waxed paper, also.
- Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.
- Bake at 375° for 15 minutes ONLY.
- Lay a linen dish towel on counter and sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional) and turn cake on to it.
- Remove waxed paper; roll cake and towel together into a log/roll. Let cool.
- FOR FROSTING Blend filling ingredients and whip briskly and thoroughly.
- Spread filling gently on cake, reroll and chill. Sprinkle with more powdered sugar, if desired.