Give Thanks for Everything - Including Pumpkin Rolls

Happy Thanksgiving from Cambodia!

Last night, sixteen "expats" from four different countries (US, England, Canada & Australia) gathered to celebrate American Thanksgiving together. Really, for us, it's an excuse to make {and eat} lots of traditional American food and share reflections on the past year with each other. One of the missionary families hosts dinner at their house and serves a Butterball turkey {purchased in Bangkok, of course}. This year, there was a slight miscommunication about the actual time "dinner" starts. Depending on what part of the country you're from, it can mean 3pm, 5pm, or 7pm. We thought we were expected around 6pm, but at 5 o'clock, I received a text message asking if we were coming or not, as we were "really late." Whoops! Good thing the food was ready!

thanksgiving in cambodia
Much more enjoyable than last year's Thanksgiving {read all about it here!}

During the holidays, I often feel unmoored from all the traditions that make me anticipate the coming days - the store decorations, the radio and television shows focused on "giving thanks", the glut of holiday recipe books on display in stores and the library, and the general chatter amongst friends about holiday plans and activities. I've never been a huge holiday person to begin with, and honestly, I find it difficult to think about days like Thanksgiving when we're living overseas. It takes a lot more effort to decorate for fall and make family recipes when the weather still hovers around ninety degrees and you have to buy turkey in a different country.

But one advantage about holidays overseas is that you have to focus on why the holiday is so important - in essence, what the purpose is behind the turkey decorations and family gatherings and pumpkins. Thanksgiving is about cultivating gratitude - in my heart, in my home and relationships, and hopefully in the culture at large. It's about stopping the daily grind, the assumption that I'll always have what I have now, the taking-for-granted that we all have for things in our life that come purely from the grace of God. I don't know of any other culture that has a holiday dedicated solely to giving thanks {ok, Canada has their own Thanksgiving day, too!}. In many cultures, saying "thank you" isn't even a routine occurrence {see this article from Rachel Pieh about gratitude in the horn of Africa}.

For followers of Jesus, we know to whom our gratitude should be directed. It isn't a random, speaking-to-the-air giving of thanks, or simply thanking the people in our lives who enrich it {although that should happen, too}. We recognize that every good gift comes from God to people completely undeserving. Life itself is a grace that can be taken in an instant - or lived with an ever increasing awareness of our dependency on the Lord for its continuance.

So I'm glad that, even though holidays can be forgotten or missed, the main reason behind them remains - remembering Who grants us life, love, and happiness.

And one thing that always brings me my Grandma Sherrard's classic pumpkin rolls.

My grandparents

The stars aligned this year for me to make, for the first time, a traditional family recipe that I have eaten ever since I had teeth. Every year, from November through January, my grandmother and mother make dozens of pumpkin rolls and put them in the freezer, to serve and savor throughout the holidays. It may have taken buying a can of pumpkin for $5 from Bangkok and cream cheese tucked away in my freezer since July's shopping trip in Phnom Penh, but I actually had all the ingredients to make these pumpkin rolls. And it was worth every penny!

So if you have some pumpkin leftover, indulge in these rolls and make the holidays last just a bit longer...

classic pumpkin rolls with cream cheese filling recipe

Classic Pumpkin Rolls
Makes 10-12 slices
Best if made the day before & frozen overnight!


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
For the cream cheese filling:
  • 6 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat eggs for 5 minutes on high speed. Add sugar. Fold in pumpkin and lemon juice. Combine dry ingredients {flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger & salt} and add to egg mixture gently. Line a 11x15x1/2" sheet pan with wax paper. Pour batter onto pan and spread evenly. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then turn out cake onto dish towel covered with powdered sugar and gently remove wax paper. Roll up until cool.

To make cream cheese filling: Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add powdered sugar a little at a time and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and mix well.

Unroll sheet cake and spread filling evenly onto cake with a spatula. Re-roll and wrap with plastic wrap. Freeze or keep in refrigerator overnight.

When serving, let thaw for about an hour. Remove from plastic wrap and slice evenly. Enjoy!

classic pumpkin rolls with cream cheese filling recipe

Help me out and share some of your favorite holiday foods! What does your family make every Thanksgiving and Christmas?

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