This vegan pumpkin cake roll is the ultimate fall dessert. A tender, moist pumpkin spice cake is rolled up with silky, whipped brown sugar ermine frosting. Top with a bit more frosting and candied pecans for a pretty crown and easy presentation.
Thank you to Williams-Sonoma Canada for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own.
Cake rolls are a bit like an elevated version of a sheet cake in some ways. They serve a small-to-medium sized gathering of people, are simple to make but have a classic, show stopper look.
Also known as log cakes, cream rolls, and jelly rolls (when they contain jelly, of course!), dessert rolls are versatile. The sky is the limit for mixing and matching the cake and filling flavors. Despite their appearance, rolled cakes aren’t actually difficult to make. Once you get over the initial fear of rolling up a cake, making a cake roll is a really fun way to prepare a simple but showy dessert. This Vegan Pumpkin Cake Roll is perfect for Thanksgiving and other autumn special occasions.
To dress up my Pumpkin Roll, I featured it on a stunning scalloped marble cheeseboard from Williams-Sonoma Canada. It’s a practical piece, too, which is versatile enough to serve round layer cakes, cupcakes and other desserts on. And it goes without saying that it’s perfect for putting together a small vegan cheese or charcuterie board, as it’s intended. I’m a big fan of multi-purpose pieces, especially in our small space! I served the cake slices on classic white plates and kept soft charcoal linen napkins on hand.
How to Make a Vegan Pumpkin Roll
I’m going to be a cake rebel here – I know that most cake roll recipes out there say to roll your cake up while it’s hot so that it sets and won’t crack. But I firmly disagree with this process, at least for eggless cakes, for a few reasons. It’s stressful, the beautiful sponge we’ve created compresses on itself (hot cakes don’t like weight on them even if it’s just their own from being rolled up) and they inevitably crack anyway when you unroll them to spread on the filling.
I’ve tested this recipe by rolling it hot out of the oven. I found the cake to be gummy from being compressed hot, and it cracked as I unrolled it to spread the frosting on. The key difference here, perhaps, is that we are venturing into egg-free baking. As equally delicious as it is, eggless baked goods can have structural differences from egg based ones. That said, after my own testing, I’ve spent a lot of time reading cake roll reviews (both vegan and traditional egg based ones), and cracking seems part and parcel of making a cake roll whether you use eggs or not.
The good news? Cracks in cakes don’t make any difference to how they taste, and they can easily be hidden with a bit of frosting or a generous dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Even better news? With the method I use, the cracks that may happen, do so at the inner part of the roll’s spiral which aren’t visible once the cake roll is completely rolled up.
Back when I shared my vegan chocolate yule log, I found success in simply sealing the cake in the jelly roll pan straight out of the oven without any pre-roll. This locked in the cake’s moisture until it cooled so it remained flexible for rolling. Once the cake was at room temperature, I spread on the filling and rolled up the cake without a glitch…or any cracks!
Step 1: Make and Bake the Pumpkin Sponge Cake
Vegan pumpkin sponge cake is easy to whip up – two bowls, one for your dry ingredients, one for your wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, mix together, then pour into a parchment lined jelly roll pan and bake. A standard jelly roll pan is 15″ x 10″ x 1″, so it’s basically a cookie sheet with higher sides on it. In fact, I use a cookie sheet – its’ sides are about 1/2″ high but the cake ends up being about 1/2″ thick so it’s perfect. I’d avoid using a deeper pan though, like a large sheet cake tray with 2″ sides. It may be difficult to get the sponge cake out without tearing it.
While slightly overbaking most other cakes will yield a drier cake which may be forgiven with a generous smattering of frosting, overbaking can ruin a cake roll. As the cake overbakes and dries, it becomes more rigid and less flexible for rolling later. Start checking the cake at 11 minutes – it will be done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with only a couple of cooked crumbs. Remember that it will continue to cook once it comes out of the oven, as we’ll be sealing in the heat with foil.
Step 2: Wrap the Cake and Let It Cool
As mentioned, the second step for my pumpkin roll is a little less conventional. Most other recipes call for the classic towel method in which you roll the hot cake up with a towel (or parchment paper). Instead, I lightly dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar (to help prevent the cake from sticking to the foil), and then seal it up with foil which holds in the moisture, ensuring a flexible cake ready to be rolled with the lush filling.
Step 3: Make the Ermine Buttercream
You may have heard Ermine called boiled milk frosting, cooked frosting, or flour frosting . It is an old school type of icing which has the texture of a satiny whipped cream. Much less sweet than traditional American buttercream, ermine really is the ultimate frosting. It is perfect for thickly frosted desserts like this vegan pumpkin roll without being achingly sweet.
Vegan ermine frosting is easy to make, but a bit of planning is necessary. While the cake bakes, make the flour paste which is simply boiled plant-based milk, flour and sugar. This creates something like a really thick caramel texture or a thin pudding. Bring the flour paste down to room temperature by placing it in a bowl with piece of plastic wrap directly on top. This prevents a skin from forming. Once the paste has completely cooled, whip the room temperature vegan butter and slowly whip in the cooked flour mixture. This is where the name “Magic Frosting” makes sense – it’s the most lush cloud of silky frosting. It pipes well, too! Check out my Vegan Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Ermine for a delicious, pantry friendly dessert.
Step 4: Assemble the Vegan Pumpkin Cake Roll
Once your vegan pumpkin sponge cake has come down to room temperature and your frosting is made, spread about 3/4 of the frosting onto the cake. Roll the cake up starting on a short end, removing the parchment as you go. Wrap the cake roll in plastic wrap. Chill the cake in the fridge for at least a few hours or overnight before serving it. Once it firms up in the fridge, it will be easier to cut nice tidy slices.
This vegan pumpkin cake roll can be made a few days in advance and kept wrapped in the fridge. Within a couple of hours of serving it, unwrap it, pipe dollops of frosting on top and sprinkle with the candied pecans. Place it back in the fridge until serving time. Unless your home is really hot, the cake is fine left out for an hour or so.
More Vegan Festive Cakes:
If you make this Vegan Pumpkin Roll, please give it a rating in the recipe card and leave a comment below! Follow along on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes! You can also follow me on Pinterest for vegan recipe inspiration and on Facebook. Thank you for reading!
Vegan Pumpkin Roll
For the Pumpkin Sponge Cake:
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp pumpkin spice
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup plant-based milk
- ⅔ cup canned pumpkin puree
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup neutral oil e.g. canola, avocado, etc
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- confectioners' sugar, for dusting
For the Brown Sugar Ermine Frosting:
- 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cup plant-based milk
- 1 ⅓ cups brown sugar
- 1 ¼ cup vegan butter sticks not tub style, room temperature
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
For the Candied Pecans (optional):
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pumpkin spice
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 cup pecan halves
For the Pumpkin Sponge Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 15" x 10" jelly roll pan with parchment paper leaving an inch or two on the short ends for lifting the cake out later. Lightly oil the sides.
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, pumpkin spice and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the plant-based milk, pumpkin purée, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan, smoothing out the batter to the edges. Bake in the preheated oven for 11-13 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few cooked crumbs on it.
- As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, dust lightly with confectioners' sugar and cover the entire tray in aluminum foil, sealing the sides. Let come down to room temperature before frosting.
For the Brown Sugar Ermine Frosting:
- Sift the flour into a medium bowl. Pour in the cold milk, whisking constantly. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a small pot and place over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Add the brown sugar. Once the mixture thickens and is bubbling, cook another 2 minutes stirring constantly. Do not under-cook or the frosting will taste like flour and will not thicken enough.
- Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool completely to room temperature. You can place it in the fridge, but it needs to be room temperature when it's time to make the frosting.
- In a stand-mixer with whisk attachment, beat the room temperature vegan butter on high for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to medium, and add the cooled flour mixture a spoonful at a time. Once it’s all added, beat on high for about 5 minutes or until light, fluffy and silky. It will have the consistency of a thick, satiny whipped cream.
For the Candied Pecans (optional):
- Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Set aside.
- In a small skillet, whisk together all of the ingredients except for the pecans over medium heat. Once bubbling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute. Add in the pecans, stirring well to coat, cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Spread the pecans out on the prepared baking sheet and let cool completely. Break apart once cool. Roughly chop half of them for sprinkling on the cake.
To Assemble the Pumpkin Roll:
- Carefully spread 3/4 of the frosting evenly over the cake within 1 inch of the sides. Starting at the short end of the cake, roll the cake over the frosting firmly but gently. Keep rolling, slowly releasing the parchment paper as you go and using it to help roll the log over and down. When you get to the end, roll the log onto its seam and release the parchment paper. Roll in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight so that the cake and frosting firm up. If desired, place the rest of the frosting into a piping bag with a star tip to pipe a design on the top of the cake just before serving. Garnish with the candied pecans.
The Nutrition Information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the Nutrition Information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.