A Cake for Thursday

November 19, 2012

You may have noticed that I have been awfully quiet about Thanksgiving this year.  I’m feeling a little misty about it to tell you the truth.  For the last five years or so, Randy and I hosted Thanksgiving in our black house with a red door in Seattle.  We had large gatherings and small intimate dinners.  Most of the meal was the same from year to year with a few curveball side dishes to make things interesting.  Before those five years, my parents hosted every year in my memory with the exception of one trip to New York City and one trip to visit me in college.

This year, we no longer live in the same city as my family does.  When it came down to whether or not we would visit Seattle for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I didn’t hesitate to say Thanksgiving.  Because my mom is recovering from hip surgery, she will not be hosting.  It falls to family friends, with whom we have shared every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner (with the exceptions noted above) since I was two years old, to host this year.  So I am not hosting, my mom is not hosting, and I will not really be cooking much.  My mom was given a couple of assignments which I will either be helping her with or cooking myself, depending on how she is feeling.  But it’s not the same.  I’m not making the bread that I have made every year for twelve years.  The excitement I usually feel at this time of year is missing.  I think it is partly that the sun and mild temperatures make it hard for me to believe it is November, let alone turkey day.

Wah wah, poor me.  I am grateful that my boys have the whole week off from school so we can spend a little extra time in my hometown.  I am grateful to a dear friend who is going to put us up and another who is going to host a get-together for me.  I am grateful to our family friends who are stepping in to host in this year of odd circumstances.  I am grateful that I get to celebrate the birthdays of my mom, Graham, my niece, and my sister-in-law in one fell swoop.  Wait – grateful?  No, I am thankful.  For this and so much more.

This cake will not have a place on our Thanksgiving table.  But if you are hosting and you haven’t already decided on dessert, you might want to consider this amazing treat.  I first made this cake years ago and I think the recipe came from Sunset.  My mom dictated it to me over the phone – she didn’t direct me to a web site or send it to me via email, so that will give you an idea of how long ago.  The note paper I scribbled it onto slipped behind other recipes in my notebook and I completely forgot about it until I was trying to decide on a dessert to make for special friends.  This just popped into my head.  It is the perfect fall cake and I think it would be terrific after Thanksgiving dinner.

This is a simple jelly roll cake.  The cake itself is pumpkin and it is filled with vanilla ice cream.  I made it back when I was a pretty novice baker and it turned out perfectly, so don’t let the shape of it scare you.  In my more novice days, I bought a quality vanilla ice cream to fill the cake and a quality caramel sauce to drizzle over top.  Now that I am more experienced, I made the ice cream to fill it and a salted caramel sauce to drizzle over top.  Either way, what you have is a beautiful fragrant slice of fall that can be made in advance and brought out to a chorus of praise.  And thanks.  I wish you all the very best – whether you are making a big dinner, attending one, or Thursday is just another day.

One Year Ago:  Squash Hummus and Homemade Flatbread, Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger
Two Years Ago:  Three Cheese Mini Macs, Orecchiete with Creamy Leeks, Vegetarian Gravy, Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake
Three Years Ago:  Maple Roasted Delicata Squash, Naan, Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato and Collard Greens
Four Years Ago:  Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Giant Chocolate Toffee Cookies, Brussels Sprouts Hash with Caramelized Shallots

Pumpkin Roll Cake
Adapted from Sunset (I think)
Makes 1 large roll, serving about 8-10

As I mentioned, you can certainly make this with store-bought ice cream and caramel sauce.  Use the best you can find.  My roll was more flat this time, my guests actually thought their slices were large biscotti, but I have gotten it to look more rounded in the past.  Patience helps as does ice cream that is soft but not too soft.

¾ cup flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. table salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
Powdered sugar

1 quart vanilla ice cream (recipe follows)
Salted caramel sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Grease a jelly roll pan, then line the pan with parchment paper.  Grease the paper.

Mix flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.  Beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes, or until very thick.  Gradually beat in the sugar.  Using low speed, mix in the pumpkin, followed by the flour mixture.

Spread batter into prepared pan and smooth it well.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until the center of the cake springs back when touched.

Sprinkle a clean kitchen towel generously with powdered sugar.  Remove the cake from the oven and carefully invert the cake out onto the towel.  Remove the parchment paper.  Roll the cake up with the towel into a cylinder.  Cool completely.

Soften your ice cream for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator.  (If using homemade, you can use it directly out of the ice cream maker.)  Unroll the cake.  Spread the ice cream over the entire surface of the cake.  Roll the cake back up without the towel.  Working quickly, wrap the cake in parchment paper and then foil and immediately place in the freezer.  You can make this cake three days ahead, allow it to soften by pulling it out of the freezer about 10 minutes before you serve it.  Serve with caramel sauce.

Vanilla Ice Cream
The Perfect Scoop
Makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk
A pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.

To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Salted Caramel Sauce
Bon Appetit
Makes about 1 cup

¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
4 tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Place cream in a small pitcher.  Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add bean.  Set aside.
Stir sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat to medium-high; boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until deep amber color forms, 506 minutes.  Remove from heat; gradually add vanilla cream (mixture will bubble vigorously).  Whisk over medium heat until smooth and thick, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat; whisk in butter and salt.  Strain into a heatproof measuring cup.  Let cool slightly.  (Sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead.  Reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.)


  1. I have made this for the past 6 years or so. I’ve had people ask me to make an extra so they can take one home because they love it so much. It is usually the first desert to go.

    I think the recipe is originally from the canned pumpkin brand “Libby’s” but of course it must have come from somewhere before that. I’ve never had one come out very pretty though. http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/32372/LIBBYS-Pumpkin-Roll/detail.aspx

    I usually add some cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into the cream cheese filling.

    Comment by Mar — November 19, 2012 @ 11:35 am

  2. Our Thanksgivings tend to be different every year. Sometimes we travel to see family, sometimes family travels to see us, and sometimes it’s just us. I love it when I get to plan the entire menu, and this year I do. This cake and the caramel sauce sound so good. Pumpkin and caramel in the same place is perfect!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — November 19, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

  3. Different Thanksgiving here too! Hope your mom is doing ok, enjoy your time back home! XXOO

    Comment by Kitty — November 19, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

  4. We are kind of having Thanksgiving dinner this year, but without my dad it’s definitely very half-hearted. I still haven’t even come close to deciding what I’m making yet but this is a definite contender! I can’t imagine not being able to cook at all though…I think it would drive me a little stir-crazy as I’m sure it is you!

    Comment by Joanne — November 20, 2012 @ 1:36 am

  5. I’ve never attempted a jelly roll cake before but I’ll take your word for it that it’s not as difficult as it looks. I don’t quite understand all the hoopla about American Thanksgiving, our Canadian Thanksgivings seem much quieter, but I love either a large gathering with friends or just a small meal with my husband. As long as there is cranberry sauce on the table and I’m with someone I love, then I’m happy.

    Comment by kickpleat — November 20, 2012 @ 2:10 am

  6. This cake looks so great on the photo. And it has ice cream! Great plus.

    Comment by Christian Rene Friborg — November 20, 2012 @ 5:57 am

  7. For several years we haven’t hosted Thanksgiving, and at first I was pretty sad, but then decided it is best to go with the flow.

    this year, like you, we are in a new town – no one from my hubby’s family will visit us, and we are doing a joint Thanskiving with another colleague from the Department. Us, and all the students from both groups who are not leaving town

    we’ll cook a couple of dishes, but the party won’t be at our home – feels different. But, as you, the most important thing is to focus on being grateful for the great things we have: Happiness, and health!

    Comment by SallyBR — November 20, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

  8. Happy belated Thanksgiving! I am sure there will be many wonderfully warm Thanksgivings in the new Wooton home, and have the first, everyone will want to do it every year….. because of the glorious weather!

    I fondly remember my mother making a jelly roll such as this one – I am going to have to ask her if it was a Sunset recipe. I loved it!

    Comment by Denise — November 24, 2012 @ 1:20 am

  9. This pumpkin cake looks so yummy! I didn’t get a chance to make any pumpkin flavored goodies for Thanksgiving but I’m looking forward to testing this recipe out! Thanks!!

    Comment by The Travelers @ LoveLunchLiftoff — December 3, 2012 @ 12:43 am

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