A few years ago I used to sell cupcakes to a local purveyor of touristy cheesesteaks in old city Philadelphia. I tried not to sell the standard fair of cakes, since I wanted to sell quality over quantity. Some were hits and some… well didn’t go over so well. Apparently real shortcake made into cupcake form, is more like an unsweetened biscuit with some whipped cream and strawberries on it; not too popular, damned tourists don’t know nothin’. But the most requested cake I made was the butternut squash cake. The squash is naturally a bit sweet, but more importantly it keeps the cake super moist. Combine that fact with some autumn spices and a salted caramel, and you have one hell of a good cake, that may just be perfect after some turkey and stuffing. Wink, wink.
1 cup + 2 Tbsn AP flour
1/2 Tspn Baking Powder
1/4 Tspn Baking Soda
1/2 Tspn Cinnamon
1/4 Tspn Fresh Nutmeg
2 oz (4 Tbs) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 egg, room temp
1/2 Cup Butternut squash puree
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 Cup Sugar
3oz (6 Tbs) Butter
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tspn Sea Salt
I made this cake in an 8” cake pan and was overall happy with the size, but I originally wrote this recipe for cupcakes, so I know it makes 12 standard size cupcakes.
Preheat the oven to 350º.
First you need to roast the squash. I like roasting because it takes out some of the extra water that can make the cake batter too thin. Peel and dice up the squash. Roast covered in foil for about 40 minutes. When it’s soft, mash or process it until smooth. The puree freezes especially well, so you can pre-measure the puree and store in freezer bags.
This cake is totally standard as far as method goes. Prep the pan with butter and flour. Sift the first 5 ingredients together. Sifting helps distribute ingredients, incorporate air and break up lumps, so it’s important enough not to skip.
Next, beat together the butter and sugars until they are smooth. Room temp butter is really helpful here, otherwise I hope you like sugar all over your counter top as the stone-cold butter knocks everything around rather than blending. Once the sugar and butter are creamed, add the egg and beat it in. After the mixture look smooth, add everything else and beat until well incorporated.
Next dump the dry mix over the wet and begin folding it in. You want everything well mixed, but I don’t suggest beating it together as you don’t want to develop too much gluten. Use a rubber spatula and mix it in by hand, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl, until you can’t see any more flour. Pour the batter in your prepared pan and get it right in the oven. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes.
If you don’t have a window or light in your oven, don’t check on it until at least 30 minutes have gone by. If you open the oven too soon, the sudden temperature drop can cause your cake to fall. There’s no coming back once a cake has fallen to the dark side, it’s evil and should be treated as such. It’s done when you can tap the top of the cake and it doesn’t move, or you can just use the toothpick method.
While the cake is baking you can make the caramel. This is a dry caramel, which means that the sugar gets melted in a pot with nothing else first. If you feel apprehensive about that, you can add some water to dissolve the sugar first, it just takes a bit longer to caramelize. Over high heat and in a 3-quart pot, add the sugar and cook until you see the sugar beginning to brown. Stir the sugar a bit during the process so that it melts evenly. When it’s a smooth dark brown, remove it from the heat and add the butter. The caramel will sputter and rise a bit, but just keep stirring until it’s smooth again. Add the cream and repeat. Add the salt and stir. Most importantly, let it cool. It looks nice and innocent now, but trust me, it’s still scorching hot. Let it cool for awhile before you try to use it on your cake.
Decorate your cake with the caramel sauce and some whipped cream. Cut, eat, repeat.