Butternut squash is not ice cream. I doubt that anyone wakes up at 2am with an insatiable craving for squash. And nothing clears a room faster than announcing that the cupcakes people were about to devour are made with butternut squash.
I can always tell when my sister doesn't want to try something..."Oh, that's interesting", is wind-talker code for "I don't want it."
But given the right recipe, butternut squash can be
The pumpkin cupcakes I made last month received such a warm welcome that I wanted to make something similar using pumpkin's posh cousin, butternut squash. Once I convinced people to give them a chance, the squash cupcakes were given the love they so richly deserved (and I was saved from inhaling a dozen on my own...which I'm slightly embarrassed to admit, is well within the realm of possibility).
These cupcakes are so sublimely moist and tender, they could easily be enjoyed without any embellishment. But everyone knows that the best part of a cupcake is the frosting.
I'm a dark chocolate girl. When it comes to white chocolate, I'm usually one of those annoying people who will remind everyone willing to listen that white chocolate isn't even really chocolate. (Grrrr, I know.) But this frosting is nothing less than fabulous. Yes, it's super-sweet, but you need that sweetness to balance the less intense butternut cupcake.
You could say that these cupcakes break barriers. Vegetables can be a dessert, and even though white chocolate isn't chocolate (really, it isn't), it can still rock a cupcake.
Brown Butter, Butternut Squash Cupcakes (adapted from Fine Cooking)
yields 12 cupcakes
1 cup of uncooked butternut squash (that's about half of a medium-size squash), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp. vegetable oil
6 Tablespoons (3oz) unsalted butter
1 cup (4 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking Soda
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup tightly packed, dark brown sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons half & half cream (or whole milk)
Prepare the squash: Place the butternut squash pieces into a large, microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 5-6 minutes, occasionally stopping to stir, until the squash is cooked (a fork should be able to easily go through a piece). Place the now-soft pieces of squash into a food processor or blender. Add 1 tsp. of oil. Pulse/puree until smooth. [Note: If you have a small food processor or blender, just puree half at a time.]
Measure out 3/4 cup of purée. (You may have some left-over that can be covered and refrigerated for another use.) Set aside the measured out 3/4 cup, and allow it to cool to room temp.
Prepare the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Melt the butter in a medium-size heavy bottom saucepan, over low heat until just melted. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook, swirling occasionally, until the butter turns golden brown and develops a nutty fragrance. Keep a close eye on the butter, it can turn from brown to black in a matter of seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the butter to cool for about 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking Soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl, combine the butternut squash purée (3/4 cup), both sugars, egg, and cream. Whisk vigorously until well blended. Add all of the flour mixture and, using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Try not to over mix.
Add the brown butter and gently whisk until smooth and well combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cupcake liners.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top of a cupcake springs back when touched lightly.
Remove from the oven and allow the cupcakes to sit in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
Cool completely before frosting.
White Chocolate Frosting (adapted from Epicurious)
6 ounces of high quality white chocolate (white chocolate can be fussy when it's heated, but Ghirardelli's melts like a dream)
8 Tablespoons (that's 1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups of confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
Make a double-boiler: Place about 1/2-inch of water into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Place the white chocolate into a large, heat proof bowl and place the bowl on top of the saucepan (be sure that it's large enough to fit over the pan of simmering water without the bottom actually touching the water). Stirring occasionally, melt the chocolate until smooth. Remove the bowl off the saucepan and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile: In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (a hand-held will work too), beat the butter and salt until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes on medium speed).
Gradually sift in the confectioners' sugar, beating on low speed after each addition. [Note: I added the sugar in 1/2 cup increments.]
Once all the sugar has been added, beat in the milk and almond extract until well combined.
Add the cooled, melted white chocolate and beat on low until combined. If the frosting looks too thin, add about 1/4 cup of confectioners' sugar. If it's too thick, add a splash of milk.
If the white chocolate was still on the warm side when it was added to the bowl, simply refrigerate the frosting until it reaches a spreadable consistency...if you plan on piping it, this may take longer.
Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired. Garnish with walnuts, or cinnamon, or shaved chocolate.