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Gluten-Free Good Neighbors: Rookie Chef

Pumpkin roll

blog by Julia Jornsay-Silverberg  • 

The holidays can be stressful for everyone, especially for people with Celiac. When you’re surrounded by glutenous sweets and treats, sticking to the gluten-free diet can be challenging.

If you have a sweet tooth like I do, you can agree there are few things more heartbreaking than sitting in a room watching others enjoy a dessert to which you’re allergic. Not only is it heartbreaking, but it can result in serious levels of “hanger.”

As someone who loves the holidays and hates the feeling of missing out on treats of any kind, I thought what better way to kick off Christmas than with a gluten-free “rookie chef” post.

me with cake

Joined by my sister, who is notably better in the kitchen than me, we set out to make one of our favorite holiday recipes that our mother has made for Thanksgiving, Christmas and winter birthdays for years: Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream.

Worth noting is that this recipe is rated as difficult by Ina Garten, so it’s best to save this dessert for a time when you have an extra hand (or two, or even three) to help.

While my sister and I succeeded in our first attempt at the gluten-free pumpkin roll, we learned a few lessons along the way that are definitely worth paying attention to if you decide to tackle this recipe: 

—Read the entire recipe through before you go grocery shopping. (For example: you need parchment paper, a large board, a drying rack, and a clean, thin cotton dish towel)
—Don’t be stingy with the powered sugar on the dishtowel; the more the better.
—For the cake: while the recipe suggests a baking time of 10 to 12 minutes, we suggest baking the cake for 13 to 14 minutes.
—For the buttercream: add the confectioners’ sugar to the mascarpone cheese slowly.
—Refer to this instructional video for more details on how to complete the recipe. (Note: this video was crucial in showing us how to roll, unroll and re-roll the cake)

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream:
Total time: 1 hour 57 minutes (1 hour and 45 minutes prep, 12 minutes cook / bake time)


For the cake:
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting
For the filling:
12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup minced cried crystallized ginger (not in syrup)
pinch of kosher salt

To begin, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While the oven is preheating, grease a 13-by-18-by 1-inch sheet pan. (Note: we used a 17.25-by-11.5-by 1-inch sheet pan and it was fine.)

Line the pan with parchment paper and then grease and flour the paper.

pan prep

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt, then stir to combine.

dry ingredients

Place the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light yellow and thickened.

(Note: we used a hand mixer and found that it worked fine. However, I would recommend using an electric mixer if possible.)


With the mixer on low, add the pumpkin, then slowly add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.

Finish mixing the batter by hand with a rubber spatula.

batter done

Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

uncooked cake

Bake the cake for 10 to 12 minutes (we recommend 13 to 14), or until the top springs back when gently touched.

While the cake is baking, lay out a clean, thin cotton dish towel on a flat surface and sift the entire 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar evenly over it. (This will prevent the cake from sticking to the towel.)

dish towel with sugar

As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, loosen it around the edges and invert it squarely onto the prepared towel. *Refer to this video for guidance on the next few steps of the recipe.

cake on towel

Peel away the parchment paper.

peel off parchment

With a light touch, roll the warm cake and the towel together (don’t press!) starting at the short end of the cake.

*Watch how Garten does it before you start the process!

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

cake drying

While the cake is drying, make the filling: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar, and cream together for about a minute until light and fluffy.

Stir in the crystallized ginger and salt.


To assemble, carefully unroll the cake onto a board with the towel underneath. (Note: do this step slowly)

Spread the cake evenly with the filling.

frosting the cake

Reroll the cake in a spiral using the towel as a guide. (Refer to the video for additional assistance)

cake rolled

Remove the towel and trim the ends to make a neat edge.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve sliced.

cake slicing

This dessert is a great choice for a festive, flavorful and relatively healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth this holiday season.

While slightly difficult to make, this would be a great dish to bring to a family holiday dinner or a dinner party at a friends house.

cake picstich

The wonderful flavor combinations and the complexity of the dish are sure to wow people. Even better is that due to the small amount of flour needed for the recipe, your guests won’t even know it’s gluten-free! 


“Gluten-Free Good Neighbors” is a blog series written by The Buffalo News’ digital project coordinator Julia Jornsay-Silverberg, who has Celiac and feels passionately about educating the community about how to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle in Buffalo. Read the earlier posts in the series and don’t forget to check back on the second Thursday of every month for more tips, trends and stories about how to go gluten-free in Buffalo.

TAGGED: barefoot contessa, gluten-free, gluten-free good neighbors, ina garten, pumpkin roll

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