Hello January, we meet again. I used to try to make resolutions, the usual ones about going on a diet, exercising more, etc. but after years of pretty much not ever following through I’m officially giving up resolutions. I know it’s the New Year and that seems like a great time to “start over” but January just never works for me. The cold weather makes it hard for to get motivated to go walking (the only form of exercise I enjoy) and I crave lots of warm and hearty foods that are rarely low-calorie. And even if I do make some progress in January, February comes along and there’s Valentine’s Day and my birthday and I lose all my motivation.
So I’m not going to bother going on a diet this year or maybe ever again. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been working on since I started this blog: eat more real food like fruits and vegetables and a little less carbs, sugar and processed crap. That’s why I was really happy to get this new cookbook for Christmas, Green Market Baking Book which is a beautiful cookbook filled with recipes that use natural sweeteners like maple syrup and honey instead of processed sugar.
This butternut squash cake was the first thing that popped out at me because I had two butternut squash waiting for me to do something with them. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this cake to be that good, but I figured it was worth a try just to use up some squash. Besides being made only with maple syrup, this recipe uses oil instead of butter and I figured without butter or sugar that it would wind up being dense and flat. But it’s always nice to be surprised, so I was glad to find out that all my preconceptions about this cake were totally wrong.
This is called a cake, but it actually reminds me more of a quick bread like my mom’s Applesauce Bread, it’s filled with spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, which are really what give it flavor, while the pureed butternut squash adds moisture. Butternut squash is pretty much interchangeable with pumpkin so you can easily substitute pumpkin puree instead if you still have tons of canned pumpkin in your pantry. I’ve made this recipe twice, first as cupcakes and now in mini loaf pans; both times they have come out fluffier and more moist than just about any cake or muffin I’ve ever made.
Using maple syrup as a sweetener gives the cakes a subtle sweetness that’s nice but not cloying. I added a maple-cream cheese glaze on top since it seemed kind of plain on it’s own. The glaze does contain powdered sugar, but I couldn’t really find an alternative. I originally tried a cream cheese frosting that was sweetened with only maple syrup, but it just didn’t taste good. The cream cheese was too overpowering and it wasn’t sweet like a frosting should be. This glaze has maple syrup and sugar, so it wound up being much more successful. And that nice sharp cream cheese flavor contrasts well with the spices in the cake. You don’t even need very much glaze, just a little bit drizzled on top is perfect.
Butternut Squash Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Glaze
adapted from Sabrina Model-Carlberg via Green Market Baking Book: 100 Delicious Recipes for Naturally Sweet & Savory Treats
Butternut squash is very similar to pumpkin, so you can substitute 1 cup pumpkin puree for the squash in this recipe.
Dessert, Breakfast | Yield: 3 (5×3-inch) mini-cakes or 12 cupcakes or a 9-inch cake
Prep time: 45 min | Cook time: 40 min | Total time: 1 hour 30 min
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
- 2/3 cup grapeseed oil (or any mild oil)
- 3/4 cup maple syrup*
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. cardamom
Note: If you plan to use the glaze sparingly (like I did in my photos) you can half the amounts below.
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 3 to 4 tbsp. milk
- 1 to 2 tbsp. maple syrup*
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
*I recommend using use Grade B dark maple syrup since it has a sweeter, richer flavor but Grade A works if that’s all you have.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the chunks of butternut squash. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender. Drain and cool completely. Transfer the squash to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Measure out 1 cup of puree and set aside. Refrigerate or freeze the remaining puree for another use (or to make more cakes later!)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Butter or spray three 5×3-inch mini loaf pans or a 12-cup cupcake pan or a 9×2-inch round cake pan.
- Pour the oil and maple syrup in a mixer bowl and beat on medium for a couple minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at time, beating well after each. Add the yogurt and beat the mixture until smooth.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices into a medium bowl.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and mix on low until just combined.
- Mix in butternut squash puree. Then add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until combined.
- Pour into your prepared pan(s), if making mini-cakes or cupcakes fill tins about 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes for the cake or mini-cakes or 25-30 minutes for cupcakes. Cool on a wire rack.
- While the cakes are cooling, beat together the cream cheese, milk, maple syrup and powdered sugar. The glaze should be thick but pourable, add more milk or maple syrup to adjust the thickness or sweetness if necessary.
- When the cakes are still warm but not hot to the touch, remove from the pan(s) and drizzle or pour the glaze on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Store in the fridge for 3-5 days. (Note: I have to say that so you don’t die of food poisoning, but I’ve left these out in an air-tight container for a couple of days and the cream cheese was still fine.)