Gluten-Free Pumpkin Roll For The Holidays

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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.

Pumpkin Roll

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
Confectioners’ sugar
Cream Cheese Filling (recipe follows)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

  1. 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).
  2. Place flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt in a small bowl; whisk until thoroughly combined.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


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

  1. Beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. 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.

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16 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Pumpkin Roll For The Holidays”

  1. Wow. Do I dare? The rolling maneuver sounds really tricky, but the recipe sounds absolutely delicious!

    1. Yes! You of all people should try this one Shawn!
      Be sure to fold any extra towel sticking out at the narrow ends (the 10 1/2 inch sides) up over the cake — before you roll it up and then it’s a cinch. And it is really good. I must have eaten half a dozen of them while testing.

  2. Oooo yum Annalise! I am so glad you posted this! It is definitely a favorite of mine. I have made a GF one in the past and it turned out really good. I am excited to try your recipe. BTW I made your lemon layer cake a couple of times this spring. Wow! You make me look like a superstar! 🙂 I gave both of them away as gifts, although one family shared it with my family. It was SO good. Thanks again!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the lemon cake. It’s a favorite of mine. I hope you like the pumpkin roll, too. It’s really kind of fun to make (and eat)!

    1. You’re welcome Charles!

      And I’ve started to think that much of the fuss about xanthan gum comes from a more vocal-than-the-normal population of gluten-free bakers. Perhaps they were using too much and developed a sensitivity? We’ll never know. But truth be told, xanthan gum works a simple, dependable magic in gluten-free baking. It is the sure thing. I’m sticking with it because now that I so fully understand it’s nuances, it helps me to be a better gf baker.

  3. Hi!
    Have you ever made this with Splenda/sugar substitute?
    I’ve made this recipe many time, but now need it to be sugar free for diabetic AND celiac relative. I’m worried about the GF flour not working well with the Splenda. Any suggestions?
    Thank you, thank you!

    1. hi!
      Someone just asked this same questions about my pumpkin bar recipe so I will reprint my answer here because it is still applicable.

      I don’t really test with sugar substitutes myself but more than a few people have written to me to say they are able to use them in some of my recipes. Stevia does not work well in my recipes, but Splenda has been used successfully as a partial replacement.

      Not sure which sub you are planning to use, but if it were me, I’d only add small amounts at time. For example, if you use Splenda, try taking out only 1/3 of the sugar first; you can always add more the next time. If possible, I’d also recommend making the recipe with sugar first, so you can see and taste it– but invite over a lot of friends to share it so you don’t eat it all.

      Please let me know how you make out and if you have more questions about this – or something else.

      I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!

      Very best regards,

      1. Annalise,
        I tried the Splenda in your recipe, replacing as the box of Splenda instructed 1:1; and it worked!
        I knew I had an extra day to re-bake if necessary, but I’m pleased with the results!
        thanks for your input!

        1. hi!
          Thank you so much for letting me know that the Spenda worked so well! So you didn’t use any sugar at all?

  4. Hi,
    Have you ever tried this recipe with Splenda or a sugar substitute? I love this recipe, and made several times, but this year my celiac relative has discovered she is diabetic now 🙁
    I’m worried how the GF flour with bake up with the sugar substitute. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi!
      I do not have a recipe for a GF Gingerbread Roll, although there is a delicious GF gingerbread recipe in my book Gluten-Free bAking Classics. If you have a really good wheat based recipe you’ve been using for years, I can help you convert it if you send it to me through the email here on this blog.

      Hope your holidays are happy and delicious!

      Very best,

    1. hi!
      I wouldn’t if it were me, but yes, you can use white rice flour. The cake may be a little wetter because the white rice flour is really just a starch, and it absorbs liquid differently than the brown rice. If you find, after you make it the first time, that the roll is a bit too damp (even though it is a moist cake), then add 1 tablespoon more of the flour mix the next time you make it. Let me know how you make out!

      Very best,


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