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For some reason, I volunteered to bring three separate desserts to Thanksgiving tomorrow at our friends’ house. I’m not sure what got into me, but the compulsion to make copious amounts traditional holiday treats proved stronger than reason.

I decided to make a pecan pie, a spice cake, and a pumpkin roll. I’ve made pecan pie before and I make spice cake all the time, but a pumpkin roll is a mysterious and unknown object to me. I had never heard of such a thing before I met Bart, but it’s a standard treat and family favorite that his mother makes every year. She gave me the recipe a couple of years ago, but I’d never considered making it before. It looked complicated and intimidating. I also don’t usually love pumpkin flavored treats. However, my friend Kenda gifted me with a charming little pie pumpkin and a recipe for pumpkin purée this fall. I roasted and puréed it a week ago, and with this star ingredient now sitting in my freezer, I decided this was finally the moment to tackle this new holiday treat.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. The first task for the pumpkin roll is to prepare your pan for the cake part. Grease a 15″x10″ jellyroll pan or lipped cookie sheet and press a sheet of waxed paper on the bottom and sides. Grease the waxed paper, too. Make sure to get the sides of the pan; I missed these, and removing the paper was more difficult there.

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Now, make the batter for the cake. In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and about a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (I made my own from cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, and it ended up being a little over a teaspoon).

With a mixer, beat three eggs, then add one cup of sugar, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 2/3 cups pumpkin purée. Here’s my homemade batch thawed and ready to go, but you can use canned if you are a normal and sane person who hasn’t roasted his own gourd.

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Now, slowly incorporate the dry mixture and mix until just combined. Pour this into your lined pan and bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes, or until the cake springs back to the touch.

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While the cake is baking, lay out a cotton tea towel (basically, any towel that is woven like a sheet and not terry like a bath towel) and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. I used a small wire strainer to disperse.

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When the cake comes out of the oven, it’s time for the most terrifying part. Carefully flip the pan over and turn the cake out onto the tea towel, then free it from the waxed paper. Now, starting from one end, very gently roll up the cake and towel. Fervently pray that the cake doesn’t split. Be thankful when it doesn’t.

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Let this cool on a wire rack for a little while; about an hour worked for me. In the meantime, wash dishes, bake two cakes (since the oven is already preheated and you’ve overcommitted yourself on desserts), wash dishes again, then prepare the cream cheese filling.

With a mixer, beat one 8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened, six tablespoons of butter, softened, and one teaspoon vanilla extract. Slowly combine one cup of sifted powdered sugar. Normally, I am too lazy and jaded to sift my powdered sugar, but I did it this time out of pure fear of somehow messing this recipe up. I used the same strainer employed for dusting the tea towel.

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Carefully blend until smooth. Despite sifting, mine was still lumpy. I feel vindicated to never sift again.

Now, unroll your cooled cake and carefully spread the filling over it. I tapered the thickness down at one end where the roll ends so it wouldn’t squirt out the seam.

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Finally, roll the cake and filling (not the towel!) into final form.

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Wrap snugly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. I think this will help fill in any gaps between layers, or that’s what I hope, since mine is not all that beautiful looking at this point. Dust with powdered sugar if desired, then slice and serve. I haven’t gotten this far yet, so I have no beautiful final photos. But regardless of how it looks, Bart sampled a nibble of the cake and scraped the bowl of filling, so he assures me it’s going to be delicious. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters!

So, thanks Connie T. for the recipe, the inspiration to try something new for the holidays, and the confidence to bring copious amounts of food to share with loved ones! (I have to be nice to my mother-in-law; she’s a regular reader. 😉 Fortunately, she’s great and makes it easy!)

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