Butternut Squash Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting

November 11, 2011

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 dessert cupcake-worthy.

The pumpkin cupcakes I made last month received a surprisingly cosy welcome so 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 sublimely moist + achingly 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 sweet ambience to balance the less intense butternut cupcake.

You could say that these cupcakes break barriers. Vegetables can be a dessert + 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

cupcake ingredients
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
1 egg
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.


  1. Wonderful! I particularly like that white chocolate frosting. What an awesome pairing!



  2. Des cup's cakes bien appétissantes, @ croquer sans modération
    Je te souhaite une belle journée ensoleillée

  3. Although I love squash, I wouldn't have thought of putting it into cupcakes. And the white chocolate frosting wouldn't have been my first idea of how to frost them. I love it when baking puts unexpected elements together that work beautifully!

  4. My family uses the phrase 'that's different' when they are not impressed with what I've made. It's the kiss of death and means I've got lots of eating to do. I love squash so these sound perfect. That frosting looks just like whipped cream piled on top. Mmm

  5. These look amazing! I love the idea of using squash in a cupcake, I'm definitely going to have to try it sometime. After all, squash, especially butternut squash is so close to pumpkin!

  6. Well! I just might conquer my dislike of butternut squash with this recipe. I adore white chocolate. Since butternut squash is healthy, then I can eat these with zero guilt. Right?

  7. @A Feast for the Eyes, Absolutely. :P

  8. I'd easily go for pumpkin cupcakes, so butternut squash doesn't really seem like a stretch to me. They look amazing!

  9. These loos wonderful Valerie with their white chocolaye icing.

  10. I love butternut squash and your cupcakes look just perfect.

  11. Butternut squash is one of my favorite fall foods so I would be a huge fan of these! I also am not a big white chocolate fan, but do think white chocolate frosting is the perfect compliment to some desserts!

  12. this sounds so interesting with the butternut squash. i must try it! i guess i have a different reaction from your sister. haha :)

  13. The recipe looks great. I was just wondering though, what piping tip did you use?

  14. Hi Jabari!
    For these cupcakes, I used an Ateco star tip number 4. But any wide star tip will work if they have a 3/8-inch opening. Also, when I piped the frosting, it wasn't as cool as it should have been, so the folds were much softer than normal.

    I hope that helps! :)

  15. I just made these cupcakes over the weekend and topped them with your salted caramel frosting from your triple caramel cupcakes recipe and they were such a tasty distraction from my readings for uni! So dangerous, so easy to just eat the icing with a spoon, loved it! Thanks for the always delectable recipes :)

  16. @Ariane, I'll definitely have to try that combo sometime, it sounds wonderful! Thanks for letting me know. :)

  17. Sounds delicious! I'd like to make these for a holiday dessert party at work. Do you think it will taste ok if I made them into mini cupcakes?

  18. @Yummm, You could absolutely make these in mini-form. Depending on their size, be sure the reduce the baking time slightly. :)

  19. I made these yesterday & they are absolutely delicious! I'm usually not a frosting kind of gal, but I wanted to eat this frosting by the spoonful. This has definitely made my list of favorite cupcakes to bake!

  20. @Anon: I'm going to revisit this recipe - just to experience the frosting again. Thanks for the reminder. :D

  21. This recipe has been a favorite of mine for years! Moist, yummy, & perfect every time. I really believe that the frosting sets them apart from any other cupcake of its kind. I also love to swap out the almond extract for peppermint & use it to frost chocolate cake or sugar cookies for Christmas. Thank you!


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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