Impress everyone on Thanksgiving with this gluten free pumpkin roll. It’s not only beautiful, but soft and delicious and will be a hit!
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This cake is not only gorgeous, but so tasty that you might even pass up a piece of pie for it! The cake is a moist pumpkin cake made with real pumpkin puree and a touch of homemade pumpkin pie spice. It gets most of its ethereally light texture from whipped egg whites. But the cream cheese filling is just as light as the cake. Combine the two for one incredible bite of fall flavors!
A Not so Traditional Gluten Free Pumpkin Roll
To be honest, I’ve never been particularly fond of traditional (Libby’s style) pumpkin rolls. In my opinion, they’re too heavy and dense. I prefer a light and airy pumpkin cake, something more like those swiss roll or jelly roll recipes. When I set out to try to make a gluten free pumpkin roll, I really wanted it to be light and ethereal. Finding any recipe for something like that was darn near impossible. I’m pretty sure I tried at least FIVE recipes last year and none of them were what I wanted. So I decided to put the pumpkin roll thought aside and wait until next year.
So here it is now, next year. Quicker than lightning, it seems, but I couldn’t put it off any longer. I broke out all the usual things, like my jelly roll pan (affiliate link) and my stand mixer (affiliate link). I researched again and again and found a few promising recipes. But either the cake was good and the filling wasn’t what I wanted, or the cake was all wrong but the filling was perfect. So I kind of fused two recipes together and changed some of the methods within the recipes (separating eggs where they weren’t separated before) for maximal lightness.
I used the method I tried last year for NOT rolling the cake up in a tea towel after it comes out of the oven. It’s something I saw on Serious Eats from pastry chef extraordinaire, Stella Parks. This method goes against every other recipe out there for roll cakes. It involves covering the cake tightly with foil while it’s still hot. According to Stella, this traps in moisture, essentially allowing steam to accumulate. As you can imagine, it helps the cake from forming cracks without the need for rolling it right away.
the ingredients you’ll need to make the pumpkin roll
- Kim’s all purpose gluten-free flour blend — a store bought blend may be substituted, but hasn’t been tested so I don’t know how it will fare.
- Brown sugar — using brown sugar versus granulated sugar gives the cake a caramel-like flavor.
- Pumpkin puree — make sure not to get a can of pumpkin pie filling. It needs to be pumpkin puree only.
- Separated eggs — all of the other recipes I found did not separate the eggs, but in my opinion whipping the egg whites separately produces the lightest sponge cake imaginable, and the mixer does all the work so you don’t have to.
- Pumpkin pie spice — you can actually buy this in most grocery stores, but I make my own with a few pantry staple ingredients.
Let’s Make the Cake First
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a jelly roll pan (10 by 15-inch sheet pan) with parchment paper and grease the paper with nonstick spray or butter. Set aside.
- Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until foamy. Slowly add half the brown sugar and whip on high until stiff peaks form. If you don’t have more than one bowl for your stand mixer like I do, transfer the egg whites to a separate bowl and set aside. No need to wash the mixing bowl before the next step. You can also use a hand mixer and a large mixing bowl to perform this step, but it will take longer than a stand mixer would.
- Whip the egg yolks with the rest of the brown sugar until ribbons form and slowly melt back into the batter when the tines of the whisk are lifted.
- Sift the dry ingredients (flour blend, spices, and baking powder) over the egg yolks and carefully fold them in. The mixture will be very thick (almost like macaron batter).
- Combine the wet ingredients (pumpkin, melted butter, and vanilla extract) in a small bowl. Take a little bit (about 1/4 cup) of the egg yolk mixture and vigorously stir it into the pumpkin mixture to lighten it. Then fold that into the egg yolk mixture.
- Again, take just a little of the egg whites (1/2 cup or so) and fold those in to lighten the egg yolk mixture.
- Carefully fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter.
- Pour into your parchment-lined baking sheet and spread into an even layer using an offset spatula. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
- Immediately cover it tightly with aluminum foil and place the cake pan on a wire rack. Let the cake cool to room temperature (about 70 degrees).
prepare the filling
- Whisk the softened cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.
- Add the cold heavy cream and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.
fill and roll the cake
I mentioned earlier about Stella Parks’ tin foil method and how wonderfully it works, so rolling the cake isn’t as intimidating as it used to be. Remove the foil from the top of the baking sheet and, using an offset spatula, spread the filling all over the cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border at one of the shorter sides. Beginning on the opposite end, roll the cake up, using the parchment to nudge it along. When you get to the end, carefully maneuver the cake roll to a sheet of plastic wrap. Refrigerate the cake roll, fully wrapped, for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight.
Serving gluten free pumpkin cake roll
When ready to serve, carefully unwrap the rolled cake and placed it on a platter. No need to allow it to come to room temperature. The filling is not the usual cream cheese frosting, so it still remains light and fluffy straight from the fridge.
This gluten free pumpkin cake roll is so good, it doesn’t need anything else to take it over the top. But, I always like to dust it with powdered sugar right before serving. Cut slices that are about 1/2-3/4 inch thick.
pumpkin roll frequently asked questions
It could be a number of things, but most likely you either didn’t allow it to cool long enough, or you let it cool too long. It needs to be at a cool room temperature for ideal rolling without any cracking, which is roughly 70-72 degrees F. If you follow the aluminum foil method I’ve outlined, your chances of cracking will be greatly reduced.
Unfortunately, if your cake has already cracked, there really is no way of fixing it. Your best bet is to either roll the crack towards the bottom of the cake so no one will see it, or cover the crack with powdered sugar.
For best results, I would use a 10 by 15-inch baking sheet with one-inch sides (aka jelly roll pan). While they are relatively inexpensive, if you don’t want to buy one, you can use a regular half sheet pan, but your cake will not be as high and fluffy. The baking time will also need to be reduced (I’d start checking at 8 minutes and go from there).
Absolutely! In fact, it’s better made in advance so it has time to firm up in the fridge. It will keep under refrigeration for 4-5 days.
more gluten free pumpkin recipes
- Pumpkin earthquake cake
- Pumpkin pound cake
- Pumpkin spice creme brulee
- Incredible pumpkin pie
- Pumpkin cupcakes with maple swiss meringue buttercream
- Pie crust chips and pumpkin dip
- Pumpkin spice angel food cake
Try this less traditional gluten free pumpkin roll. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how light it is with the same delicious flavors!
Gluten Free Pumpkin Roll
- 4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
- ½ cup (100g) light brown sugar, divided in half
- ⅔ cup (93g g) Kim's all purpose gluten free flour blend (a store bought blend may be substituted, but hasn't been tested)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp cloves
- ⅔ cup (180 g) pumpkin puree, at room temperature or slightly warm
- 2 tbsp (28g) butter, melted
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (240g) heavy cream, cold
- 4 ounces (113g) cream cheese, softened
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup (133g) granulated sugar
Make the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a jelly-roll pan (10 by 15-inch) with parchment and grease the parchment. Set aside.
- Melt the butter and add the pumpkin and vanilla to the butter. Stir and set aside.
- Sift together the flour with the spices and baking powder and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. You can also use a handheld mixer for this step, but it will take longer. Using the whisk attachment, begin beating the egg whites on medium low. Once foamy, increase the speed to high and begin adding ¼ cup of the brown sugar slowly until it’s all added. Whip to stiff peaks. Transfer whites to another large bowl and set aside.
- In the same mixing bowl (no need to wash it), add the rest of the brown sugar (¼ cup) to the egg yolks and beat on high until ribbon stage is reached (when the tines of the whisk attachment are lifted, the mixture leaves a thick ribbon that slowly melts back into the batter). The mixture will be very light pale in color.
- Sift the dry ingredients over the egg yolk mixture and carefully fold in.
- Add a small amount (about ¼ cup) of the batter to the pumpkin butter mixture to lighten it (it's okay to stir vigorously at this point). Then fold this mixture into the batter carefully.
- Add about ¼ of the whipped egg whites to the batter and fold them in to lighten it. Then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched (or a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean). Immediately cover the entire pan tightly with foil and let cool to room temperature (70-72° F).
Make the Filling
- In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese with the vanilla until smooth. With the mixer running, add the cold heavy cream and sugar and whip to stiff peaks.
Fill and Roll the Cake
- When the cake is properly cooled, remove the foil and carefully slide the cake from the pan (with the parchment). Spread the filling evenly over the top, leaving a ½-inch bare on one of the shorter ends.
- Using the parchment as a guide, carefully roll up the cake and filling. Carefully, but tightly, roll the cake in a sheet of plastic wrap, folding in the sides of the plastic to cover completely. Refrigerate until firm, 4-5 hours (or overnight).
- Remove the cake from the fridge (no need to let it come to room temperature). Unroll the cake from the plastic wrap and set on a serving platter. Dust the top with powdered sugar, if desired. Cut the cake into ½-inch slices and serve.