I would never say that a cake is ‘healthy’ based simply on the fact that it contains a vegetable. I mean, I’ve eaten some pretty sinful carrot cakes (and enjoyed every bite). However the inclusion of a vegetable in something that would normally be served as comfort food with a cup of tea can’t help but make me feel slightly virtuous.
I love a challenge and dislike waste so when confronted with a butternut squash teetering on the edge of inedibility, I considered a lot of options. I know you can make soup or stew from squash but frankly I fancied cake and cravings for cakes are rarely satisfied by soup, at least in my experience. A quick perusal of the archives reminded me that I have very successfully made cake from leftover sweet potatoes on several occasions, so why not squash?
Although butternut squash is very mild, it isn’t as sweet as sweet potatoes, so I knew I’d need to play around a bit with the flavouring of the cake. When I considered the inclusion of pecans for flavour and crunch I started to think about maple syrup (I love maple pecan anything) and as they say, the rest is history.
It is so easy to make this cake. Cooking butternut squash takes very little effort. Simply cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, brush it with a little oil and bake it at 400°F (200°C). It takes about forty minutes and I cover it with a bit of foil towards the end to prevent browning. Then I just scoop out the squash, mash it thoroughly and leave it to cool. There is no reason why, if you are confronted with a squash that is reaching the end of its useful life, you could not roast it one day and then make the cake another day. Provided you cover and refrigerate the squash once it is cool, it should keep for at least a couple of days. One butternut squash should yield about 2 cups mashed which is just right for this recipe. Don’t panic if it’s a little less than that; it will be fine.
Then all you have to do is mix the sugar and the wet ingredients together in one bowl.
Next, sift the dry ingredients and spices into another bowl and add the nuts. Then stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones.
Pour into the loaf pans and bake.
It’s that easy.
The cake tastes great plain, making a lovely breakfast with a cup of tea or coffee.
And dressed up with its gorgeous maple glaze it is positively addictive.
- 2 cups mashed and cooled roast butternut squash (1 squash)
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- ⅔ cup buttermilk
- ⅔ cup mild vegetable oil (I use organic sunflower oil)
- 4 eggs (at room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3½ cups all purpose (plain) flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- For the glaze
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar (icing sugar)
- 4 to 5 tablespoons maple syrup (you may need slightly more or less)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour (or line) two 2 pound loaf pans (about 9 x 5 inches or 23 x 13 centimetres).
- In a large bowl, mix the sugar, maple syrup, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, eggs and butternut squash together until well blended.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
- Stir in the chopped pecans.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir together thoroughly but do not beat.
- Divide the batter between the loaf pans.
- Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes in the pan.
- Take the cakes out of the pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- To make the glaze, measure the confectioners' sugar into a small bowl.
- Using a whisk, gradually beat in the maple syrup, a tablespoon or so at a time, until a drizzle-able consistency is reached.
- Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cakes.
- Let the glaze dry for at least 30 minutes before slicing.