Pumpkin puree is a common baking ingredient in the fall, not only because it is tasty, but because it is readily available in cans in just about every supermarket. Butternut squash can be made into a puree and, just like pumpkin, it can be turned into dessert just as easily as it can be turned into a savory side dish. This Spiced Butternut Squash Layer Cake uses butternut squash puree as a base for a warmly spiced fall dessert.
The cake starts with plenty of butternut squash puree and is flavored with vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Butternut squash puree can be made by cooking squash until it is tender, then pureeing it until very smooth. Like homemade pumpkin puree, it can be fiberous, so you may need to strain it. It is possible to find canned butternut squash puree (Trader Joe’s carries it this season, for instance). Along with the spices, the cake also has some buttermilk to give it a subtle buttery flavor and tender crumb.
Though cakes made with fruit purees are sometimes heavy, this one is surprisingly light. You can taste the natural sweetness of the butternut squash, along with the vanilla, cinnamon and peppery spice of the nutmeg. You could go even heavier on the spices for this cake and turn it in to more of a “spice cake,” but I prefer a bit of restraint so that the squash can really shine. The vanilla frosting adds a nice final sweetness, with a hint of extra nutmeg that ties in well the the spice from the cake itself.
I finished the cake with a simple dusting of ground cinnamon, but you can double the frosting recipe and pipe a more elaborate finish, if you want to get really creative! The layers are quite tall on this cake and you could cut them in half to make a four layer cake. If you go that route, you’ll also want to double the frosting to ensure you have enough to finish.
Spiced Butternut Squash Layer Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups (approx 15 oz) butternut squash puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 batch Vanilla Nutmeg Buttercream (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly grease.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by butternut squash puree and vanilla extract. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk, then stir in the remaining flour mixture and mix until batter is uniform. Divide evenly into prepared pans.
Bake for 30-34 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Turn cakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
When cooled, place one layer of cake on a cake plate or serving dish. Use a serrated knife to even the cake, if needed. Top with a generous layer of Vanilla Nutmeg Buttercream, letting some of the icing spill over the sides of the cake. Place second layer on top and cover generously with more icing. Pull the excess icing down the sides of the cake and smooth with an offset spatula.
Dust with ground cinnamon to garnish.
Vanilla Nutmeg Buttercream
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/3 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 1/2 – 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Combine butter, milk, vanilla, nutmeg and two cups of confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer until smooth, then gradually blend in remaining sugar until frosting is thick and creamy.