A Swiss roll is one of those recipes I remember seeing in my mom’s dusty Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks from the late 70s, or maybe on an episode of The Great British Bake Off. It’s fussy, requires attention to detail I’m not sure I possess, and seems like the kind of thing a matriarch would make for a special event that involves lace gloves and looks of disdain. When I think of modern desserts, they’re always so rustic – seasonal galettes, dripping upside down cakes, slapdash pies with artisanal ice cream- or so unicorn-y – funfetti covered in more sprinkles than necessary, mermaid toast, that kind of thing. Swiss rolls don’t really fit into either category.

But then I kept seeing it pop up on Pinterest, specifically the Pumpkin Roll. I had never had one, but every post I saw referred to it as a family classic, a tradition. So this fall, I decided to give it a try. And because I’m basic AF – I’m making it a PSL roll, with a touch of pumpkin spice and espresso. The results were delicious and light, and the swirl is a bit whimsical and kitsch – perfect for a fall throwback. And honestly, as long as you have a few tricks up your sleeves, getting that swirl isn’t as hard as it seems.


3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 nutmeg

1/4 all spice

1 cup pumpkin puree

3 eggs

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar


1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

3 ounces unsalted butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon espresso powder

2 ounces chocolate, melted


Preheat oven to 375 F. Then lay a piece of parchment on a 15 x 10-inch baking sheet or jelly roll pan, with the edges going past the pan for easy removal

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and all spice. Stir in pumpkin puree, eggs, and apple cider vinegar, mixing until smooth and even. Pour mixture into prepared pan and using an offset spatula or rubber spatula, smooth the batter to evenly fill the pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until baked through and set. Test with a toothpick for doneness.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, run a knife around the short (10-inch) sides of the pan to loosen the cake.  Lay a damp linen towel or flour sack cloth on the cake (not a terry cloth towel – or the cake will stick to it and make a mess). Flip the cake over and remove the parchment paper. Carefully roll the towel up on the short side with the cake in it. Place the cake-in-towel on a cooling rack and let it cool for 20 minutes.

Make the frosting: In a medium bowl or with an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, blend cream cheese and butter until smooth and unified. Add in the vanilla and powdered sugar a little at a time on low speed.  In a separate bowl, mix together the chocolate and espresso powder.

When the cake has cooled 20 minutes, and is room temperature to the touch, unroll it and spread frosting onto it.  With a spoon, swirl on the espresso chocolate mixture, creating a subtle marble effect.

Then go ahead and roll the cake back up again, carefully peeling off the linen as you roll until it until it is released.  Then wrap the finished pumpkin roll tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour. Slice and serve!