Today I have a different take on this season’s ubiquitous pumpkin roll. Now, I am all on board with a traditional pumpkin quick bread rolled around a cream cheese filling, but I think there are enough recipes for that out there to keep the market saturated. I decided to do something more outside the box and made an inside out version, with the light and bright layer on the outside and the rich pumpkin flavors in the middle. This pumpkin roll that feels light and airy, with just the right hit of rich pumpkin flavor and a decadent cinnamon whipped cream on top that is so good you could eat the whole bowl with a spoon. Plus, the cake has a presentation so elegant you can serve it at a special occasion.
To achieve a rollable (let’s all agree that’s a word) and light white cake, I made a genoise. That’s right, I made the cake that they mention all the time on The Great British Baking Show and that I’d never heard of a few years ago. What makes this cake special is that the only leavening ingredient in it is air. Many cakes use baking powder to help the batter rise, and bread uses yeast. A genoise cake uses the air whipped into eggs. This means a little extra time with a stand or hand mixer while you prepare the batter, but the resulting cake is light as air and tastes only of butter and vanilla. I’ll definitely be using it again in more recipes.
A genoise cake is all about precision. After you mix the flour and cornstarch, it’s time to whip up the egg yolks, half of the egg whites, and most of the powdered sugar until they’ve tripled in volume. You can transfer this to a large bowl and clean out the stand mixer, since we’ll need it for the remaining egg whites later.
Gently mix the flour into the egg mixture, then whip up the egg whites, cream of tartar, and remaining sugar until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Fold this into the batter, pour it into your prepared baking pan, and you are good to put it in the oven.
The trick to a rolled cake that doesn’t have cracks along the outside is to roll it as soon as it comes out of the oven, without the filling. If you do this and let it cool in this shape, you can unroll it later, add the filling, then reroll it without any trouble. And yes, I realized with this recipe that I need to update my kitchen towel collection.
While the cake is baking and cooling, you can make the pumpkin butter cream and cinnamon whipped cream. The buttercream involves lots of butter, egg whites, canned or freshly baked pumpkin, and all the usual pumpkin pie spices. It’s delicious and I will probably use it in other recipes before fall leaves us. And who can have something that tastes like pumpkin pie without some whipped cream? I added vanilla, a dash of sugar, and cinnamon to complement the other flavors in the cake.
To assemble the cake, you unroll it, spread on the pumpkin buttercream, re-roll it, and pipe on the cinnamon whipped cream. I used a star tip and made simple rosettes, but you could go as crazy as you like. Or just dollop it on once you’ve sliced and served the cake for a still-delicious option.
This cake feels like a show stopper. I know it has three different elements, but they are all delicious on their own, and together they sing. And once you’ve made it, you can brag to all your friends that you’ve successfully tackled a genoise.
- ⅓ cup cake flour
- 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, divided
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 large egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces
- ⅔ cup pumpkin puree
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon cloves
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and line an 11 x 17 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour and cornstarch.
- Place the egg yolks and ¼ cup of the egg whites and ½ cup of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed until thick, fluffy and tripled in volume, 5-6 minutes. Lower the speed and add the vanilla. Scrape this into a large bowl and clean the stand mixer.
- Sift half of the flour over the egg mixture. If you don’t have a sifter, place the flour in a large sieve and gently knock the sides until the flour mixture is through. Use a spatula to gently fold the flour in until it has almost all disappeared. Add the rest of the flour and repeat.
- In the clean stand mixer, beat the remaining egg whites and cream of tarter on medium-low speed until foamy, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold the meringue into the batter, then scrape the batter onto the baking sheet and smooth as evenly as possible with the spatula.
- Bake for 7-9 minutes. The cake should be a very light golden brown and the center should spring back when lightly poked.
- Pick up the ends of the parchment paper and remove the cake from the pan and place it on the countertop. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Flip the baking pan over and put plastic wrap on top of the entire surface. Set up a cooling rack and put a kitchen towel over it. Flip the cake over onto the plastic wrap, then flip the cooling wrap over and place it, kitchen towel side down, on top of the cake. Re-flip the cake over so that it is on top of the towel. Roll up the cake, starting on one of the short sides and making sure that you spread your hands along it to make sure that you are rolling it evenly. Let the cake cool wrapped up in the towel.
- Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in a large metal bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan with an inch of simmering water. Whisk the egg whites gently and constantly until the mixture is thickened and foamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Using a hand mixer, whisk on medium speed until the mixture is like shaving cream. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the butter one piece at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
- Add the pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves and mix until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and and fluffy, another 30 seconds.
- Place the heavy cream in a medium bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on medium-high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks, about 4 minutes. Add the cinnamon and sugar and whisk to combine.
- Carefully unroll the cake and remove the towel. With an offset spatula, spread the pumpkin buttercream over the cake, leaving ½ inch margins along all the sides.
- Slowly roll up the cake, starting with one of the short ends. Place the cake seam-side down on your serving platter. Place the whipped cream into a pastry bag and pipe it onto your cake in whatever pattern you like. I used a large star tip and made rosettes. Slice and serve!