I love that scene in “Julie & Julia” when Julie Powell kneels before her coffee table, preparing to follow along with the episode of “The French Chef” in which Julia Child de-bones a duck. With that scary chef’s knife in her hand, Julie nods to the television and says, as if hoping to convince herself, “No fear, Julia.”
I thought about this scene while contemplating pumpkin roll over the past few weeks. The concept of the pumpkin roll has long intimidated me. Roll the piping hot cake in a tea towel? What if it cracks? What if it sticks to the towel? What if it’s a total disaster?
Well, if Julie Powell could de-bone a duck, then surely I could make a pumpkin roll.
I summoned as much bravery as possible, mixed my ingredients, and baked my cake. There was a precarious, breath-holding moment when I flipped the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack, peeled back the waxed paper, then immediately slid it onto the sugar-coated towel. With hope, I rolled the cake in the towel and set it on a cooling rack.
A few hours later, with the filling prepared, I stood before my towel-wrapped cake. Carefully peeling back the towel, I discovered that it was not only intact, but crack-free. After slathering on the filling I re-rolled the cake, secured it in plastic wrap, and with a profound sense of satisfaction, placed it in the fridge to chill.
No fear, bakers.
For the cake:
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup pumpkin
For the filling:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a 10 x 15 jelly roll pan, then line with waxed paper and grease and flour the paper.
Place a clean tea towel (linen or flour sack, nothing too textured) on the counter top and sprinkle it generously with powdered sugar.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Beat until thickened, about three to five minutes.
Add pumpkin and beat well.
Stir in flour mixture.
Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out the top.
Bake for 13 minutes; the top should be just golden-brown and spring back slightly when pressed.
Working quickly and carefully, invert the pan onto a cooling rack, peel off the waxed paper, and slide or flip the cake onto the tea towel.
Roll up the cake and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.
For the filling:
In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and butter; beat until smooth.
Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until very well combined.
Carefully un-roll the cake from the tea towel.
Spread filling in an even layer, leaving about a half-inch border at the long edges.
Re-roll the cake and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least one hour before serving.