I thought that the most appropriate first recipe for me to post was the pumpkin roll; the true star of Lancaster County baking- especially in the day and age when #pumpkiniseverything.
It was the first baked good that I really worked hard at mastering. I was 15 when my grandma and I first tried to make one, and it. was. terrible. Honestly, the first 80 of these that I made were not pretty at all. My poor grandma still can’t get them to look nice, but that’s because she really does just care about what’s on the inside, unlike shallow me who constantly strives for aesthetic perfection.
BUT don’t get discouraged if yours doesn’t look appealing the first few times. I’ve come to find out that they never last long enough for anyone to appreciate their beauty anyway. I know, it’s depressing.
As with any recipe, you gotta do some prep work. I use a rectangular cookie sheet lined with wax paper. It sounds like it doesn’t make sense because why would you use a cookie sheet for a cake?! But the cookie sheet is shallow (like me), so it’s perfect for how thin it needs to be. And the wax paper is for ease of removal– DO NOT SKIP THIS. I’ve made them without it, and it’s possible, but the suspense of whether or not it’s going to stick to the pan is more than I can handle.
Also very important, is another form of stick-prevention on top of the wax paper. Most recipes call for butter, but I use coconut oil for all my baking. Because it’s more firm, I find that it’s easier to spread than other common oils. Butter is great, but I love that stuff too much so I try to conserve it- use it if you must.
The mixing of the ingredients is less important; just follow the directions! When it’s all mixed together, you want to pour it in the pan and spread evenly. I never go all the way to the edge because I found it comes out easier this way.
Now, I like to consider the pumpkin roll the toddler of baked goods because it’s messy and you really have to babysit it. It’s super thin, so it can burn VERY easily and there’s really no coming back from that. It only has to cook for about 10 minutes, so I use this time to work on cleaning up and prepping for the filling.
You can always tell that it’s done by pressing in the middle. I once read it being described as “bouncing back” when pressed on. More realistically, it just doesn’t move at all, though some might argue I’m not pushing hard enough. Potato Potato.
You can see my little finger marks from checking. I swear I washed my hands. It’s not technically a step- but highly recommended. I also like to use the miserable fall weather to my advantage to expedite the cooling process. BUT here’s where things get confusing; it still has to be fairly hot when you make the initial roll. Again with the babysitting. Usually when I can safely touch the pan, I start the process.
This step you can do one of two ways, so if you hear someone suggest you put the towel down FIRST, they aren’t wrong. How I do it depends on my mood, today I chose this way. No matter how you do it, it’s crucial to dust the top with powdered sugar to again help keep it from sticking (are you seeing a trend here?).
See where the dish towel comes in? This is what you roll the cake into while it finishes cooling, and this part is one of the most stressful. You have to kind of tightly hold the towel to the cake while quickly turning it over WITHOUT letting it fall apart. I get anxiety just thinking about it–many a’ roll has been lost to this step. RIP.
Once you’ve got the cake flipped over comes even more stress. You have to separate the cake from the paper and hope that it comes off clean. You’re going to need a drink after this is all said and done, so be prepared.
I always start with the corners and work my way in. I promise you, you DO NOT want to use the pull and pray method with a pumpkin roll- remember, be gentle!
THEN, you’re going to fold the towel over the cake and roll them together and let that completely cool. It should be cool so that the icing doesn’t melt and get sloppy. I’d say give it about 15-30 minutes depending on the surrounding temperature.
This is when you want to start the icing– the easiest, most delicious cream cheese icing for hearty pumpkin treats.
It’s going to be a lot thicker than other icings, but that helps hold the roll in place.
Once cooled, you’re going to unroll the cake, just enough to remove the towel. I always try to keep it rolled up as much as possible when icing it to help keep the form and preventing cracking.
It also helps if you kind of, roll as you go. Like, frost a section and then roll it a little. The longer it’s out of it’s shape, the less it wants to go back and that causes breakage. That’s not based on anything scientific, it’s just what I’ve found to happen.
When it’s all said and done, if you’re successful, it should look something like this. I’ll be honest, this is one of the ugliest rolls I’ve made in a long time. I wanted to make sure no one felt bad comparing their haggard rolls to my beauts (hopefully someone buys that!). Really though, to get no cracks at all is hard to accomplish and you should be proud if the thing at least looks like a roll. They are so delicious that no one usually cares what they look like! Or maybe I’m just saying that to make myself feel better?
After some time, the sugar will all soak into the cake and the result will be a little more appealing; I really did want to give an accurate depiction of what it will immediately look like, so you’re not like “WTH did I do wrong?!”
I do always cut the end pieces off before serving, just to clean up the look a little bit. That might be the only opportunity you have to get a piece, so make it count!
The official acclaim from my two year old was, “is pitty good, mommy.” And then he shared it with the dog.
One CLEAN dish towel
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (homemade works if you’re really cool)
1 oz pkg cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 stick of butter (room temp)
1 tbsp vanilla (or half a vanilla bean if you know what’s good)
3/4-1 cup powdered sugar (depends on how sweet you like it)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line pan with wax paper and heavily coat with coconut oil.
Combine dry ingredients in small bowl and set aside.
Beat eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined. Add vanilla and pumpkin. Gently mix in dry ingredients and spread evenly into pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
(see above for rolling instructions)
For the filling:
Mix butter, cream cheese, and vanilla on high until creamy; scraping down the sides as needed. Slowly add in the powdered sugar until it’s all combined. Whip again on high for about 2 minutes.
(see above for frosting instructions)