Effie’s Pumpkin Roll

By: Angela Bates, a recent ASU Nutrition Student 

Some recipes are more than a family favorite. Some recipes remind us of those who have passed and give us memories of our childhood. For my family, that recipe is my grandma Effie’s pumpkin roll.

My biological grandma passed away when my mom was only four years old. Arrangements were made for her to live with a family friend and his wife. My grandma Effie was quite the character and the two did not always get along. My grandmother did not go to high school and instead married her first husband at the young age of 17. She worked as a barmaid at their bar while they lived in the upstairs apartment. The turbulent teenage years took their toll, but my mother stayed in touch with my grandma.

When her husband passed, we all got closer and spent holidays together. Grandma Effie loved baking for Christmas and we gladly accepted the sweets she made. She spent weeks toiling over pizzelles and cookies, but the real prize was her pumpkin roll. The women of her church begged for the recipe when she’d bring them to church. During bake sales, her pumpkin roll was the first to sell out. This was a magical dessert for everyone.

When my grandma was diagnosed with lung cancer nine years ago, we knew she would put up one tough fight. The doctors said she had a 50-50 chance of making it 6 months in January. In December, she was insistent that she had to make her pumpkin roll. She couldn’t stand up, so she oversaw the operation and we laughed until we cried as we baked five pumpkin rolls. She seemed quite pleased with the rolls and we all felt more at peace. A few weeks later, she passed away. We thought about how glad we were that she was able to make her pumpkin roll one last time with the family.

This is a recipe for families, whether it’s the family you have at home or the friends you surround yourself with. Nothing beats the traditional sometimes and this is no exception. Grandma Effie would love to know her pumpkin roll keeps bringing smiles after all these years.

Effie’s Pumpkin Roll

Serves 12

Preheat oven to 375℉


3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup pumpkin (packed)

1 tsp lemon juice

3/4 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt



1 cup confectioners’ sugar

6 ounces cream cheese

4 T unsalted butter

1/2 tsp vanilla



Beat eggs for 5 minutes; gradually beat in granulated sugar. Stir in pumpkin. Add lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Fold into pumpkin mixture and spread in a greased 15 x 11-inch jelly roll pan. (Be sure to grease sides as well.)

Bake at 375℉ for 15 minutes.

Turn onto a towel sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

Starting at the narrow end, roll the towel and cake together to form a log. Cool roll until just cool.


Combine confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Carefully unroll cake and spread filling over evenly.

Gently roll up the pumpkin roll and chill until ready to serve.



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