There is one smell that is better than any other smell on earth, and that is the fragrance of a homemade pumpkin roll.
My mama and her sisters have always been industrious. They are three of the most crafty, artistically-talented people you will ever meet. Each of their homes is uniquely beautiful, and our family events are characterized by incredible food and the most Pinterest-worthy of decorations.
Not one of them was ever what you would call a "career woman," but they helped to provide for their young families by using their innate talents.
When I was a very eager-to-help, little girl, my mother and her sisters would make literally hundreds of pumpkin rolls. Like, we are talking six hundred pumpkin rolls.
There were so many wonderful parts about living in a pumpkin roll factory - the smells, the dabs of cream cheese frosting here and there, but, the very best part was undoubtably the ends.
The ends of even the best-baked pumpkin roll always look a little on the shriveled side, but their deliciousness is by no means compromised. For quality control purposes, the three sisters would always lop off these ends, leaving them for me and my father to tirelessly taste-test. It was rough.
They would carry their coolers full of these autumn pinwheels to the local high schools during the early hours of a November Saturday, and would be hanging their "sold out" sign before the craft show had come to a close.
These days, their children are older and they no longer make hundreds of pumpkin rolls, but the occasional, orange, roll will still appear at a family dinner or birthday now and then.
While I tried to keep my hands out of the food preparations for my recent wedding, I coaxed my mother into making pumpkin rolls with me for the big day.
One of the best parts about pumpkin rolls is that they freeze incredibly well. After our day of baking, there were stacks of these rolls in my mother's freezer and it was like having a glimpse into the past.
Though they are, without a doubt, one of my favorite desserts, I had never made a pumpkin roll before.
I asked my mother to pull out that one familiar cookbook and teach me the ins and outs of pumpkin roll-baking.
Here is what I learned.
1. My mother breaks a lot of baking rules.
2. Her rolls seem to turn out anyways. How, I do not know, but she manages to turn out a very solid pumpkin roll, time after time.
3. Greasing is nonnegotiable. You must lubricate your pan before the batter is poured.
4. Rolling the pumpkin roll while it is still hot and malleable will keep it from cracking when the time comes for frosting.
5. Cream cheese frosting is the best.
Just kidding, I had already learned that long ago.
As I helped my mother bake, carefully noting and documenting her techniques, Lady (my parent's newest addition to the family) watched patiently by, waiting for scraps. I understood her agony all too well.
Though it be a classic, and rather foreseeable move, in my mind, a pumpkin roll is not a pumpkin roll without a heavy sprinkling of confectioner's sugar.
The kitchen was filled with the fragrance of something delicious that afternoon, but something far sweeter wafted from its walls - the remembrance of happy times gone by.
Mama’s Pumpkin Roll
makes 1 large pumpkin roll / recipe adapted from my Mama’s very old copy of Pioneer Potpourri
for the pumpkin roll
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sift to combine flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt.
In a very clean bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes. While continuing to mix, slowly incorporate sugar and pumpkin.
Gently fold the sifted flour into the pumpkin mixture. Mix well, being watchful to fully incorporate all of the flour mixture.
Line a 10x15-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease liberally with nonstick spray.
Pour the batter onto the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. The edges should be golden brown. While the roll is baking, line your countertop with paper towels.
Flip the hot pumpkin roll out onto the paper towels and roll up into a spiral, working lengthwise. This will conform the cake to the proper shape and prevent it from cracking later on.
Allow the roll to cool completely while you prepare the frosting.
for the cream cheese frosting
- 4 teaspoons unsalted butter
- 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus extra for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In the work bowl of your stand mixer, combine butter and cream cheese. Whip on medium high speed for 1 minute; until fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly sift in the confectioner’s sugar.
When all the sugar has been incorporated, add the vanilla.
Unroll the cooled pumpkin roll and spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the face of the roll.
Re-roll the cake, in the same direction as before.
At this point, you may cut the roll into slices or cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Personally, I think they are best when served cold. Just before serving, dust with confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!
Alternatively, you may wrap the roll in plastic wrap, then cover with a layer of wax paper, and freeze for up to three months.