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« Baked Apples | Main | Pumpkin Rolls »

Butternut Squash Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Butternut Squash Cake

Transformations take place within us every day. Most are so small they are unnoticeable, making tiny changes that move us forward in subtle ways. The large transformations are the moments we don't expect, moments that burst through our minds and our hearts, stealing the air in our lungs with sudden awareness and understanding of ourselves.

Transformations like the moment I realized I was capable of falling in love, as I stood on the Rialto Bridge in Venice, holding hands with a boy and overlooking the dark, moonlit water. The moment I realized a fierce independence lay inside me, as I cut through rough waves, grasping tightly onto a windsurfing board. The moment I realized I could write my own future, as I sat in an uncomfortable office chair, blinking at a bright computer screen full of numbers and symbols.

Transformations move mountains within our souls.

Butternut Squash Cake

Books are one of the few ways to live a thousand different lifetimes. Each story I hear, whether read or told, opens a window into a new domain of different perspectives on myself and others. Books have the power to change me in both the small and big ways.

When I first encountered John Green's book, The Fault in Our Stars, I found myself sitting on my bed, clutching the book between my hands with a unique desperation. I stayed up late into the night as my eyes traveled over the words; I couldn't read fast enough to reach the next sentence and I couldn't read slow enough to allow myself to fully savor the moment. I laughed and cried simultaneously, my tears spilling onto the page, my heart full of emotion. When I closed the pages, I spent a rare moment in reflection.

The book changed me in that moment. Though I may never pinpoint the ways or means of the change, I could feel the transformation within me—real, raw, and pure.

Butternut Squash Cake

Little moments are a minor key to the major chords in our lives. The beautiful kindness of a stranger who helps me pick up a pile of dropped books as I apologize for my clumsy nature. The rush of positive emotion brought on by a childhood smell I had forgotten existed. A message from a friend that arrives at precisely the right moment it needed to be heard.

The power of a revolutionary moment, whether large or small, should never be underestimated. An unassuming piece of cake on a dreary autumn afternoon can provide immeasurable comfort to a weary soul.

Butternut Squash Cake

Butternut Squash Cake with Cream Cheese Icing is an autumn-inspired celebration. The cake is made with a heavy share of butternut squash puree spiced with cinnamon and a little orange zest. The cake is surprisingly moist and pleasantly dense. Butternut squash in a cake may sound like an unusual choice, but the squash is lovely in its sweetened form. The tang of the cream cheese icing really pulls all of the flavors together in an unexpected, but enticing manner.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Fudge Cake with Ghost Meringues and Apple Cinnamon Cake
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Alfredo and Baked Apple Chips

Butternut Squash Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Yields 9-inch double layer cake

Butternut Squash Cake
4 large eggs
1 2/3 cup (374 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (237 ml) vegetable oil
2 cups (about 490 grams) butternut squash puree**
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease two 9-inch baking pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, butternut squash puree, orange zest, and vanilla until well mixed. Mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt until smooth.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

**To make butternut squash puree, roast a butternut squash in a 400 degree F (205 degrees C) oven for 25 minutes, or until fork tender. Peel the squash and place into a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth. Drain out any excess moisture.

Cream Cheese Icing
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 57 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups (500 grams) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon (or more) cream, if necessary

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. If frosting is too soft, add more powdered sugar until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Likewise, if the frosting is too stiff, add cream until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Reader Comments (28)

Yum! Butternut squash is the best. I love the way you frosted the cake too; Those ripples of icing look so beautiful :)
10.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIzy
I love when books have that effect on me, I'm totally going to check it out...and make this cake. Amazing.
I love the idea of using butternut squash! Every fall I find plenty of pumpkin and sweet potato recipes, but I love finding something new that uses these classic fall ingredients.
Whoa. a) butternut squash is the new black (I've been working on a pie filling w/ them!) b) these photos... take the cake! Ugh, forgive me, I couldn't help myself...I have pun tourettes. But seriously, inspiring stuff.
10.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth {local milk}
you just made my day with this recipe!!
Thank you...for the lovely words. I will get around to making the cake sometime soon, but your thoughts just made my day a little more brighter. Thank you.
10.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSneha
I get your posts via email and I usually check and use them from there but this one made me come here and say, 'Oh wow!!' :)
10.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpecs
Butternut squash in a cake sounds as crazy a choice as sweet potato.... translation: not crazy at all! However, it is brilliant. I've never thought of it myself, and the addition of orange zest? Swoon.
I never would have thought of using butternut squash in a cake but I'm picturing like a carrot cake and I love carrot cake! Will definitely have to try this recipe! :)
10.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
What a beautiful post you have shared today. You always make me contemplate life a little more each day with your posts, so thank you :)

Your cake looks absolutely gorgeous. The cream cheese frosting looks so delightful and creamy and just yum :)
I would love to see a post from you showing how you get that delicate yet very textured effect in your frosting. It is very elegant and rustic at the same time.
10.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChad
I let out an audible squeal when I saw this Pin - I had such a bumper crop of butternut squash this year, that my freezer is full of beautifully golden bags of roasted bn squash and puree. NOW, I have something much more fun to "spend" it on. BNsquash is so delish in any form, I could eat it everyday! Thanks
10.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterValerie
I just HAVE to say how much I loved that book. After finishing it, I had to just sit and let all the feelings figure themselves out. Not to mention I was out in public and had to do my best not to look like a nutcase that just experienced trauma at the hands of a book. You better believe I was doing some discrete breathing exercises to keep from completely losing it. Also, beautiful cake, but that really goes without saying:D
10.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAsher
ahh i love the fall-ness of this recipe! fantastic!
Chad-- In all honestly, I filled a pastry bag full of the frosting and just piped it randomly all over the crumb-coated cake. It was dead simple, took about 30 seconds, and the result turned out quite fabulous. There was really no method to the madness and, as long as you have a pastry bag and large round tip, there is no reason you couldn't duplicate the same effect.
10.30.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Hi, I love the recipe. it is very nice.
10.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKareena Shaikh
Hmmmm would I be able to replace the squash with pumpkin as I have 3/4 of s pumpkin on hand and not squash?
10.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFatemar
Beautiful photography, beautiful butternut recipe, and I am SO looking forward to reading that book! I just put it on hold at the library. Thank you for the recommendation!
10.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKylie
Fatemar-- You most certainly may! Substitute in the exact amount and it should turn out wonderful (I've made it this way too). :)
10.30.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
This looks divine!
10.31.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Cooks
I love reading your posts almost as much as I love your pictures :)
11.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGosia
Exactly as described, surprisingly moist (even though I made only one layer and with less cheese because I felt guilty). Perfect cake for autumn! Love the cinnamon.
11.2.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina
Just kind of curious about the photos. It looks like you made a three-levels cake and perhaps not 9 inches. Can you provide any changes in baking times and quantity of ingredients if you used a different size pan? Thanks!
11.3.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGray
Gray-- For the cake pictured above, I halved the recipe and used a 5-inch baking pan which made four mini-cakes. I honestly don't remember how long I baked them because I don't usually set timers (somewhere between 20-30 minutes), but I hope that covers your question!
11.3.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
This looks so fluffy and delicious. I will have to try it with a recipe for homemade almond milk. What a tasty duo!
11.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
I made this for my girlfriends the other night, everyone loved it! I used a 1/2 oil and 1/2 applesauce, and the cake was still moist and tasted wonderful! I also had a can of butternut squash puree and used that which also worked great and helped on time! Thanks for a great recipe.
12.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
HI....I made this and was amazing, only thing was I had a problem with the icing, I used a low fat cream cheese and no matter how much icing sugar I used it was incredibly runny, so I am assuming it was the low fat cheese that was to blame, it just ran off the cake even with double quantity of the icing sugar? Still delicious to eat and I now have a load of icing left over so will have to bake again very soon x
02.25.2013 | Unregistered Commentercharlotte1973h
Charlotte-- It sounds like the ingredients you used were too warm. Were they actually room temperature or did you soften them in the microwave? To fix runny icing, stick it in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes, or until it stiffens up again. When that happens, you can continue mixing and it should spread much better. I've used low-fat cream cheese before without a problem so I am guessing that the temperature of the icing was to blame.
02.25.2013 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau

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