How to Make a Perfect Cake Roll

Updated: Feb. 15, 2024

We love pretty spiraled cake rolls, but they can seem pretty daunting to make. Find out how to make a cake roll without breaking it so you can serve up a picture-perfect dessert.

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We love a good cake roll. It’s an impressive dessert without all the fuss of a layer cake. (You can find all of our best cake roll recipes here.) But getting that signature spiral to look just perfect can be tricky, as it can easily crack or break apart. The good news here is that getting that beautiful swirl in your cake roll isn’t hard to do. You just have to act quick and train your cake. Let’s walk you through the process step by step.

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Getting started

A great cake roll starts with, of course, a great cake roll recipe. We absolutely love this walnut pumpkin cake roll. It’s a great holiday treat with all those warming spices and rich cream cheese frosting.

To make the foundation of this dessert—the cake—start by beating your eggs on high for about five minutes, until frothy. Then gradually beat in your sugar until the mix is thick and lemon-colored. We used additional wet ingredients like pumpkin and lemon to flavor this recipe. Next, fold in your dry ingredients like flour, spices, baking powder and salt. It’s important to fold these last ingredients so you can keep all that great volume you got with the eggs. This will help give your cake a light, airy texture.

If you need a refresh on folding, check out our tutorial.

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Get your bake on

Once you’ve made your batter, you’ll need to get your pan ready. Grease a 15x10x1-inch baking pan and line it with greased and floured parchment paper. This is pretty standard procedure for any cake roll (though be sure to check your individual recipe in case).

Then spread your batter into the pan. Sprinkle the batter with any toppings you prefer. We chose finely chopped walnuts that help give the recipe a little extra crunch. Then pop this into the oven to bake.

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Roll it up

Now, this is the most crucial part of the whole cake roll process: As soon as you pull the cake out of the oven, turn it out onto a tea towel lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Peel off the parchment paper.

Then, starting at one of the short ends, roll the cake up into the towel—yes, you want the towel to be rolled up inside. Allow the cake to cool completely. This will help train the cake to roll up nicely later once its filled.

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Make your filling

While your cake is cooling, you can catch up on Netflix’s best baking show or you can mix up the filling (we’d do both!). This pumpkin recipe calls for a rich cream cheese filling. You can mix up pretty quickly. Just beat a package of softened cream cheese, a quarter cup of butter (also softened) along with a cup of powdered sugar and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract together until fluffy. You can also try one of our other favorite homemade frosting recipes.

Once the cake has cooled completely, gently unroll it. Then spread the filling across the cake, leaving about a half an inch around the edge unfrosted (the filling will spread a bit as you roll). The easiest way to frost: an offset spatula—we use this type from Wilton.

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Time to roll it up (again)

Are you ready for this next part? It might seem like this dessert’s make-or-break moment, but don’t worry—you already trained the cake to roll the way you want. Roll your cake at the same short end you started with before. Then keep rolling the cake up into a spiral. You can use the dishtowel to help the process. In fact, using the dish towel will help keep the outside of your cake roll unblemished. Keep rolling until you reach the very end. Phew! You’ve got the hard part done.

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Let it chill out, then give it the finishing touches

To maintain that perfect spiral you worked so hard for—and to prevent any filling from oozing out when cutting—you’ll want to pop your dessert into the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. If you’re making this cake the day of your party, just be sure to budget in at least 30 minutes for cooling.

Once you’re ready to wow your guests, place your roll on a serving plate and dust with powdered sugar. Want to take it to the next level? Serve it with some ice cream or homemade whipped cream.