Sub-title: A lesson about xanthan gum in gluten-free baking.
I ‘ve had many requests for a gluten-free pumpkin roll recipe over the years. People typically ask me to help them convert a treasured family recipe for it right around mid-October. I didn’t catch on at first because the requests trickled in a little at a time, but after about six years, I finally noticed a distinct pattern – almost every recipe was the same. The quantity and combination of spices in the cake changed slightly, as did the amount of butter and vanilla in the cream cheese filling , but it was pretty clear that I was helping to convert a basic recipe that had been tweaked by friends and family.
After testing three of the most commonly submitted spice combinations, I choose a pretty classic blend of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg; it was universally liked by my tasters. The second place combination was 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon allspice (a cinnamon and clove rendition was nice, but not as popular as the more classic blend).
The hardest part was the xanthan gum; but the lesson clearly illustrates the magic it plays in gluten-free baking and how little is needed to make a difference. I started with 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum, which gave me a tender, delicate crumb, but a surface appearance that was a little unruly (a bit “open-crumbed”). As is my obsessive way, I increased the amount of xanthan gum to 1/2 teaspoon and tried it again. The cake had a smoother surface appearance, but the texture was tighter, more “sponge-like” and bit chewy. The xanthan gum had done its job – a bit too much. And just 1/4 teaspoon had made a huge (to me) difference. (Imagine the large amounts of xanthan gum people innocently and unnecessarily add to their baked goods when they use flour mixes that contain it?) I decided to go with taste and texture and stayed with 1/4 teaspoon. Luckily, I found that after a good long chill in the refrigerator, the cake looked prettier and was easy to slice.
I went middle-of-the-road for the Cream Cheese Filling. Submitted versions varied from 2 tablespoons to 6 tablespoons of butter and no vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons. My recipe has 4 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla. It tastes delicious. Some versions contained chopped nuts, others had pieces of toffee or candied ginger. My recipe specifies chopped nuts as an option, but you can add whatever you think will make those around your table happiest.
So maybe you were thinking about making a pumpkin roll for the holidays? And even if you weren’t, now you can. It’s really easy to make, it looks impressive and it’s tastes really good.
Serves 6 to 8
3/4 cup Brown Rice Flour Mix*
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Filling (recipe follows)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Position rack in center of oven. Line a 15 1/2-inch x 10 1/2 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray parchment paper and sides of pan with cooking spray. Spread a clean, thin cotton dishtowel on a flat surface and sprinkle with about 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar (the sugar will help to keep cake from sticking to the towel; you will use the towel to roll up the cake after it is finished baking).
- Place flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt in a small bowl; whisk until thoroughly combined.
- Beat eggs and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer at high speed for 5 minutes until pale yellow and thick. Add pumpkin puree and vanilla and mix until well combined. Turn mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture; mix until just combined.
- Spread batter in prepared pan and bake in center of oven about 18 minutes until puffed and cooked through (toothpick inserted into center should come out clean and cake will spring back when pressed lightly; color will turn a darker golden brown).
- Remove cake from oven and immediately invert onto the prepared dishtowel. Peel off parchment paper. With a light touch, roll cake and towel together into a roll (starting at the narrow end) and place on a rack to cool completely.
- Gently unroll cake and spread Cream Cheese Filling over the entire surface. If using, sprinkle nuts over Filling and gently pat them into place. Reroll the cake and transfer it to a large cake plate or serving platter. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate at least six hours (this will make it easier to slice). Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Cut cake into slices with a long thin knife.
Serve chilled or at room temperature (I like it better not too “chilled” because the filling is softer that way). Can be made a day ahead. Store in refrigerator for up to four days.
CREAM CHEESE FILLING
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat at low speed until well blended.
* Find my Brown Rice Flour Mix in the Guide to Flour Mix section of this blog.