Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll, GF + DF

This will be my third year of being appointed co-chef (accompanied by my lovely grandmother) for the entirety of our family Thanksgiving feast (the first of which, I'd like to point out, I was a vegan. Bless my family's soul). I relish this responsibility. The entire week before Thanksgiving, my grandmother and I text back and forth like giddy schoolgirls, planning out our dishes, scheming with ways that we can make the pies gluten and dairy free without anyone knowing, making sure the Vitacost order is solidified and full of gluten-free flour, ghee, coconut butter, cornmeal, and more, and making sure we have enough wine bottles to last us the week (perhaps the most important feat). Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite.

Growing up, my very favorite holiday dessert was my aunt's pumpkin cream cheese roll. I loved it so much that she made one specifically for me at every single gathering (I had no problem single-handedly devouring it). While I haven't had a pumpkin roll in about 4 or 5 years, I still think about it every time I get out my handy dandy recipe planning notebook and begin to jot down the very long list of ingredients I'll need for the holiday. "Maybe next year,"  I always muse. I mean, think about it. The task is pretty daunting. Recreating a dessert that is both gluten and dairy free, that traditionally calls for cream cheese as one of the main components, that would satisfy my childhood self's very high expectations? Please. It was a recipe for failure, literally. Or so I thought.

Until, I got a craving for bagels with cream cheese recently. I made a Whole Foods run specifically for bagels and snagged a carton of Daiya (vegan) cream cheese on my way out the door. I've always been wary of vegan 'cream cheese' spreads. They're usually packed with unrecognizable ingredients, and I mean let's just face it, will anything ever compare to the luscious, rich perfection that is real cream cheese? But when dairy makes your brain feel like someone stuffed it full of cotton balls and cactus needles, beggars can't be choosers when it comes to the fake stuff. I got home, sliced and toasted up a bagel, and got out the peanut butter while I waited,  just in case the cream cheese didn't live up to my impossibly high standards.

Turns out, I didn't need the peanut butter. Thick, spreadable, and tangy with just a hint of sweetness, I got doooown with the cream cheese. And the next thing I knew I was pulling down the canned pumpkin and flour from my pantry in a wild frenzy, with only one thing on my mind: PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE ROLLS.

I adapted this recipe from Gimme Some Oven. I used all-purpose gluten-free flour, more spices than probably necessary, and cut the sugar in half, cleaning it up a bit by using raw coconut sugar and honey. If you like your desserts super sweet, feel free to triple the amount of honey or sugar used in the cream cheese frosting and then roll the finished product in powdered sugar as you see fit. Do what ya gotta do. I'm not judging.

Feedback I've received on this recipe: light, perfectly moist, just sweet enough, and it doesn't even taste "healthyish!" That folks, is what I'd call a winner. Try it out for yourself!



  • 3/4 c AP Gluten-free flour
  • 2/3 c pure canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (you're making plenty from scratch, just buy the spice mix from the grocery store. Stop being so stubborn)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 c unrefined cane or coconut sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract, separated into 1 and 1
  • 1 8 oz. container Daiya Vegan Plain Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 c honey
  • splash of almond milk, as needed

method to the madness: preheat the oven to 375F. in one large bowl, combine all dry ingredients except for sugar. in a separate bowl, combine eggs and sugar, before adding all other wet ingredients (include only 1 tsp vanilla). add the dry ingredients to the wet a bit at a time, folding the batter together until everything is fully combined. line a 9x 13 or 10 x 15 baking dish with parchment paper, wetting the bottom and sides of the dish with a few splashes of water to hold the parchment paper down. spread the batter into the baking dish and gently shake side to side and back and forth so that the batter distributes evenly. bake for 13-15 minutes. the cake should feel firm and springy at this point. once done, remove from oven and immediately (but gently!) lift the cake out of the dish and onto a flat surface by pulling up the sides of the parchment paper (the cake should remain on the parchment paper the entire time). without missing a beat, gently roll the cake + parchment paper up and transfer to a wire rack to let cool. completely. no, not, "it's been 30 minutes and now the cake is just warm," cool, I mean, let that thing cool for a couple hours. there should be no residual heat. good things take time. you will regret rushing this process.

to make the cream cheese frosting: in a chilled mixing bowl, beat the room-temp brick of 'cream cheese' with the honey, remaining tsp ofvanilla, and a splash of almond milk. if needed, add a few more dashes of almond milk until cream cheese mixture reaches a frosting-like consistency and is well combined.

ONCE THE CAKE IS COOLED: unroll the cake and transfer it to a flat piece of clingwrap. spread cream cheese frosting across the center of the cake, leaving a 1/2 inch margin around the edges. slowly and gently, roll the cake back up and enclose tightly in clingwrap. refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and slice just before serving!