Confession: I’m not actually that into Halloween. Part of the reason why is that I’ve never been very good at it. Or dressing up for it, at least. My last great Halloween was when I was in eighth grade. My friends and I were probably a little too old to be trick-or-treating (what’s the age limit for that, anyway?), but no matter — my two best friends and I rollerbladed around the neighborhood after spray painting our hair blue, pink, and green. We were the Powerpuff Girls, and on our rollerblades, we covered nearly three times as much ground as the other neighborhood kids.
Needless to say, it’s gone downhill since then. In high school, it wasn’t very cool to dress up anymore. And then there was college. At most other universities, girls were dressing up in tight, skimpy outfits and putting on cute little animal ears to pass off as sexy bunnies or kittens. Not at my school. Since it was one of those incredibly nerdy liberal arts colleges, everybody was constantly trying to stand out and prove their quirkiness. One of the more positive side effects of this fact is that my college years were filled with some of the best costumes I’d ever seen. To wit; one of my college acquaintances had her mom make her a 50s style dress from a Twister mat. Another used a hula hoop to fashion herself into a cupcake. You can see why my costumes — often times scrounged last minute from a thrift store or bought on sale at the kid’s section at Party City — failed to make an impression on anybody, including myself. But the feelings of inferiority never quite left me. Every year I dreaded having to think up of a costume, knowing that it was never going to be as good as everybody else’s.
Fortunately, as the years went by, Halloween became less and less meaningful in my life. Each year, as my friends and I got older, Halloween costume parties became rarer and rarer, to the point of non-existence. And since I was consistently living in apartments, I wasn’t even bothered by trick-or-treaters. In fact, the only reason I knew it was Halloween in the first place was because supermarkets would suddenly have aisles filled with nothing but orange and black packaging.
And so it happened one Saturday that, upon seeing the orange and black Halloween aisles filled with neon candy and plastic skeletons, I had the sudden realization: this year, I would actually have to participate in Halloween. I lived in a house now, in a desirable neighborhood filled with kids. I didn’t want to be the new curmudgeonly neighbor on the block handing out pennies and toothbrushes, or, at worst, shuttered inside with the lights out. No, no, no. This was my first Halloween in the house that I owned, and I was going to do it right.
With that new-found sense of purpose, I went a little crazy. I filled my shopping cart with skeletons, ominous looking rats, and jack-o-lanterns to hang around my porch. Miniature pumpkins? How adorable and holiday appropriate! I grabbed a dozen to place in my cart, despite the fact that they didn’t match my cheesy rats and skeleton theme. And candy? I didn’t want the “fun” sized chocolate bars that you could get anywhere, no no no — I wanted the kids to fight over my candy, meaning that they were getting primo goods like special edition Skittles and Trolli gummy worms and bears.
So consider this pumpkin and cream cheese roulade the result of my festive rampage. During my crazed shopping spree, I had also grabbed several cans of pumpkin with the inspired idea that I’d be making a pumpkin pie… before remembering that I didn’t even like pumpkin pie. But it turns out there are plenty of other awesome baked goods that you can make with pumpkin, like this pumpkin and cream cheese roulade:
Essentially, incredibly moist and soft pumpkin sheet cake rolled up with cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese frosting does a wonderful job of complimenting the cinnamon spices in the pumpkin sheet cake. Not only is it a dessert that takes advantage of the current fall bounty, it’s also perfect for getting inspired and motivated for Halloween. Just sit back and imagine eating this cake, satisfied with the knowledge that you have the best candy and decorations on the block. Ha! Just kidding on that second part.
A few baker’s notes:
- This recipe comes from one of the Hummingbird Bakery‘s cookbooks, Home Sweet Home. Because I own the British edition, the measurements only came in weight. Although I know that it’s better practice to baking by weight (baking by weight gives you a more accurate recreation of the recipe), I’m lazy and American and like to measure out my ingredients by volume. As a result, the flour quantity in this recipe seems like a strange measurement — but trust me, it works. But for those who prefer it, I’ve also included the weight measurements for major ingredients.
- I like the pumpkin flavor in my pumpkin baked goods to stand out; as a result, this cake is only flavored with pumpkin and cinnamon and not too much else. If you’re into more traditional fall flavors, feel free to substitute one teaspoon of cinnamon with one teaspoon of nutmeg/cloves/ginger your favorite fall spice.
Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Roulade
- a 9 by 13 inch jelly roll pan
- parchment paper
For the Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- 2/3 plus 1/4 cups (4 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (4 ounces) pumpkin puree
- confectioner's sugar, for dusting
For the Cream Cheese Filling
- 1 cup (6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- Preheat the oven to 325 (F) and prepare a jelly roll pan by lining with the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper generously with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 2/3 plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon baking soda together. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer with the whisk attachment (or, use a handheld whisk), combine 3 eggs and 1 cup granulated sugar. Whisk on medium-high speed until pale, fluffy, and double in volume, around 5 to 8 minutes.
- Once the eggs and sugar have doubled in volume, use a rubber spatula to gently fold 3/4 cup pumpkin puree into the mixture. Once the pumpkin puree is fully incorporated, the mixture should turn a very pale, subtle shade of yellow (or orange, depending on your pumpkin puree).
- Once the mixture is a pale shade of yellow/orange, sprinkle the dry ingredients (from the 2nd step) evenly on top of the batter. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the dry ingredients until just incorporated. DO NOT OVERMIX, or your cake will be dry and crack and I will cry for you. It's okay to have one or two small flour streaks left in the batter.
- Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched gently with the tip of your finger. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack, before turning out on a piece of parchment paper (dusted liberally with powdered sugar) big enough to hold the entire sheet of cake. DO NOT UNPEEL THE PARCHMENT PAPER FROM THE BOTTOM (NOW THE TOP) OF THE CAKE. This will come later.
- Starting from the short side of the cake (the 9-inch side), roll the sponge and the parchment paper beneath it into a log. Rest on a wire rack, allowing it to rest with the seam side down so that it stays rolled, to cool completely (about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours). When the cake has cooled completely, make the frosting.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 1/4 cup unsalted butter. Beat together on a low speed until it forms a sandy consistency.
- Once the confectioner’s sugar and butter has formed a sandy consistency, add half of the cream cheese (4 ounces) to loosen the mixture. Beat until smooth. Once the mixture is smooth, add the remaining (4 ounces) cream cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and continue mixing on a slow speed until incorporated. Once the mixture is smooth, turn up the mixer’s speed to medium-high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Be careful not to overmix, or the frosting will turn liquidy.
Putting It All Together
- Once the cake has cooled, gently unroll the log and carefully peel the paper from the top of the sponge.
- Spread the cream cheese frosting filling over the inside of the sponge roll. Re-roll the frosted cake, this time without the parchment. Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.