This pumpkin swiss roll is the fluffy, creamy roll cake of your dreams with a moist and airy pumpkin sponge cake, rolled with a whipped cream cheese filling, and topped with cinnamon spiced macarons. It's the perfect Fall dessert that's not too sweet or heavy!
Swiss rolls are one of my favourite cakes from my childhood. Because of their mesmerizing swirly appearance, I always thought they were harder to make than they actually are. The good news is: they're not that hard and I didn't need any special tools other than my regular baking tray and my trusty hand mixer.
This pumpkin roll is so soft and moist, with the perfect cake-to-cream ratio. It's so light and airy, you'll come back for seconds. This pumpkin spice version is the perfect Fall dessert. It's not too sweet and the pumpkin flavour is not too strong if you're not a fan of pumpkin. The cream cheese filling is divine and goes perfectly with anything pumpkin.
This pumpkin swiss roll is beautiful served as is. The swirl design is the main attraction! You can also top it with extra cream cheese frosting and any garnishes you want to make it look even more bakery-worthy.
Why you'll love this recipe
- You don't need any special pans. You can use a dedicated jelly roll pan but any regular baking tray with at least a 1" high rim around it will work unless you want to make an extra thick cake.
- It's SO moist, fluffy, and creamy. Everything I look for in a roll cake.
- Hellooo Fall! The pumpkin twist on this swiss roll makes it the perfect cake for the season. It has easily turned into one of my Fall staples.
- It's not too sweet and doesn't feel too heavy. The sugar in the recipe is balanced out by the pumpkin flavour and cream cheese. Because of the airy nature of sponge cake and whipped cream, the cake is light and fluffy and a joy to eat.
What is a swiss roll?
A swiss roll is a cake that is baked as a flat rectangular or square sponge cake and then rolled up with a layer of whipped cream into a log shape. They are served by cutting the log up into thick slices. The light and airy sponge and cream filling are the perfect base for various fruit fillings and toppings.
Despite the name, swiss rolls don't actually have anything to do with Switzerland or the Swiss! It's not clear how this name came about but this kind of cake roll is believed to have originated somewhere in Central Europe. Swiss roll is the name that is most commonly used for this kind of roll cake in Asian countries, likely due to the transfer of the name through colonization.
Swiss rolls are also known as jelly rolls, roll cakes, log cakes, yule logs, or cream rolls. The fillings and flavours differ but they're basically the same idea.
- Eggs - Use large-sized eggs. Divide the egg yolks from the egg whites before you get started.
- Granulated sugar - You'll need this to whip the egg whites into a meringue.
- Pumpkin puree - Canned pumpkin puree works perfectly here but you can use homemade pumpkin puree as well if you have that.
- Milk - Any dairy or non-dairy milk works in this recipe.
- Vanilla extract - You'll use this for both the cake and the filling.
- All-purpose flour
- Ground cinnamon - Most of the flavour in pumpkin desserts actually comes from the spice blend rather than the actual pumpkin!
- Ground ginger
- Ground nutmeg
- Cream cheese - You can't have a pumpkin dessert without cream cheese! Use the cream cheese that comes in blocks, not in tubs. Let it soften to room temperature before use.
- Powdered sugar
- Whipping cream - This makes the cream cheese filling light and airy!
How to make a pumpkin swiss roll
Make the pumpkin sponge cake: In one bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla, milk, sifted flour, and pumpkin spices. In a separate bowl, whip up egg whites and sugar until it reaches stiff peaks to create a meringue. Fold the meringue into the pumpkin batter in the first bowl until it's airy and fluffy.
Spread batter into baking sheet and bake: This recipe makes enough batter to fill a regular half-sheet baking tray. It is quite big and the final roll will yield about 10 slices. If you're using a smaller jelly roll pan, you can potentially halve the recipe. As long as your layer of batter is about ½ inch thick, you're good to go. Bake it off and don't overbake.
Roll it up and let it cool: When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately remove it from the baking tray and roll the cake up with the parchment paper separating the layers. Let the cake cool completely before unrolling it.
Make the whipped cream cheese filling: Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and whipping cream together until it reaches stiff peaks.
Assemble your swiss roll: Unroll your cooled cake and spread a generous layer of whipped cream cheese on top. Roll it up again, without the parchment paper this time, and wrap with parchment paper and/or plastic wrap. Chill the swiss roll in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight before cutting into it.
Cover or wrap this pumpkin swiss roll with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Leftovers can be frozen by wrapping the slices well with plastic wrap and/or aluminium foil and freezing for up to 1 month. Thaw in the fridge overnight before eating.
Tip & tricks
- Mix the meringue with the batter until there are no streaks. While you don't want to overmix and deflate all the air out of the meringue, you still want to mix it thoroughly enough. If the batter isn't properly mixed, the cake may rise unevenly.
- Pre-roll the cake while it's still warm. Allowing the cake to cool in the rolled form prevents the cake from breaking when you roll it later on. Let it cool completely before adding the whipped cream filling though!
- Chill the cake to set before slicing. The whipped cream filling needs several hours or overnight to set completely in the fridge. This is an essential step for the roll cake to keep its shape and to get clean slices.
- Any browned "skin" on the surface of the cake can be gently rubbed off. This is purely optional. Most of this layer will come off when peeling away the parchment but any remaining pieces can be rubbed away.
Frequently asked questions
Always keeping a fresh sheet of parchment paper around the cake makes the rolling process easier and cleaner. Pre-roll the cake with the parchment paper. After adding the filling, roll the cake by lifting the end of the parchment paper and creating a tight roll at the end of the cake. As you roll the cake, use the parchment paper to guide it along and to help keep your hands from sticking to the cake.
Pre-rolling the cake straight out of the oven while it's still warm helps prevent swiss rolls from cracking. The swiss roll will be more likely to crack if the cake is too dense or too dry.
You can use aluminium foil instead of parchment paper but my personal preference is parchment paper. Parchment paper is non-stick and allows the cake to breathe instead of trapping too much moisture inside, especially when the cake is still warm. Aluminium foil is less forgiving and might dent the outside of the cake if there are any creases or dents in the foil.
More pumpkin recipes to try
- Pumpkin Crepe Cake
- Pumpkin Crème Brûlée Tart
- Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
- Pumpkin Spice White Russian
- Pumpkin Panna Cotta
- Pumpkin Madeleines
Pumpkin Swiss Roll
Pumpkin Sponge Cake:
- 6 large egg yolks
- 50 g granulated sugar + 100g additional sugar, divided
- 200 g pumpkin puree
- 100 g milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 180 g all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 6 large egg whites
Whipped Cream Cheese Filling:
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 60 g powdered sugar
- 300 g whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Pumpkin Sponge Cake:
- Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking tray (with at least a 1 inch high rim) with parchment paper. Cut the parchment to fit the tray on the long sides, leaving a bit of overhang on the short sides so you can lift the cake out of the tray later.
- In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 50g of sugar until creamy. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, milk, and vanilla extract until it's smooth, with no lumps.
- Gently whisk in the flour, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg until just combined. The mixture will be quite thick but don't worry! Set this aside.
- In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer or stand mixer on low speed until it becomes frothy. Turn mixer up to medium-high speed and slowly add in the remaining 100g of sugar, a third at a time, until the meringue reaches stiff peaks and is white and glossy.
- Scoop out a couple dollops of the meringue and plop them into the pumpkin mixture. With a silicone spatula, fold the meringue into the batter until it becomes light and fluffy. Add in the rest of the meringue and keep folding, making sure to scoop the pumpkin batter from the bottom of the bowl. The batter should become airy and lighter in colour, with no streaks of white meringue or dark orange pumpkin left.
- Pour the batter onto the baking tray and push it out into all sides and corners of the tray with an offset spatula. Smooth the top and ensure the batter is evenly distributed.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
- Immediately slide a knife between the cake and the baking tray to loosen. Grab both sides of the parchment and lift the cake out of the pan and set down on the counter. Starting from one short end, roll the cake (with the parchment paper) up loosely and let it cool completely (about 2 hours).
Whipped Cream Cheese Filling:
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar with a hand mixer or stand mixer until fluffy and creamy.
- Add in the vanilla and whipping cream, a third at a time, while beating on medium-high speed. Beat until the cream reaches stiff peaks.
Assembling the swiss roll:
- Unroll the cooled pumpkin sponge cake and gently peel away the parchment paper. Transfer cake to a new sheet of parchment paper.
- Spread a thick layer whipped cream cheese evenly on top of the sheet cake, leaving about 2 inches of empty space on one end to account for the cream squishing out as you roll.
- Start from the end without the empty space and roll up the cake again (without the parchment paper this time). Lay the cake with the free edge underneath so it doesn't unravel. Don't worry about any cream that squished out either end because you'll be cutting off the ends before serving. Wrap the roll with the parchment and then with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours before cutting.
- When you're ready to serve, cut off a slice from both ends of the roll to reveal the swirly pattern. Decorate the top with more whipped cream cheese and some macarons, if you prefer.