Pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert; even people who don't normally like pie feel compelled to serve it on Thanksgiving. And while no one really needs dessert after the Thanksgiving meal, it would be nice to have a little something for the pie-haters.
Enter pumpkin cake roll. It's a pumpkin-and-spice cake wrapped around a sweetened cream cheese filling, and has the distinction of being one of those dishes that looks difficult but is actually pretty easy, always a nice trick when you're entertaining.
Lots of versions of this dish abound; I found this pumpkin cake roll recipe on Saveur's website, but it's very similar to a version published by Libby's, manufacturers of canned pumpkin. It's so, so good, and can be made a day or so ahead; handy when you're scrambling to get everything else ready.
Pumpkin Cake Roll (adapted from Saveur.com):
4 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. butter, softened
3⁄4 cup plus 1 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg (if you love nutmeg, you can go a little more on this)
Pinch of fine salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2⁄3 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 1⁄4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
How to make it:
1. Heat oven to 375°.
2. Grease a 10" × 15" jelly roll pan with 1 tsp. butter and dust with 1 tbsp. flour; tap pan to remove excess flour; set aside (Libby's suggests using waxed paper to line the pan; a silicone baking mat would also work really well here, since it's key to get the cake out in one piece).
3. Sift remaining flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
4. Beat eggs in a bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy and tripled in size, 4–5 minutes. Add granulated sugar in 3 parts, beating after each addition; beat until thick and creamy, about 2–3 minutes more.
5. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice; gently fold in flour mixture. Pour batter onto prepared pan; spread out to edges; sprinkle pecans over top.
6. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes (start checking at 11 minutes). Sprinkle a (non-terrycloth) kitchen towel with 1⁄4 cup confectioners' sugar (this is very important, or the cake will stick to the towel). Working quickly, loosen edges of still-warm cake and turn out onto towel; roll up snugly like a jelly roll. Set aside, seam side down, to let cool, about 1 hour.
7. Meanwhile, beat together remaining butter and confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla in a bowl, with an electric mixer, to make a smooth filling. Carefully unroll cake and spread with filling; gently re-roll. Transfer cake to a platter, seam side down, cover, and let chill until set. Slice and serve.
Pure pumpkin perfection!
Image via Libby's