Kate Lawson: Butternut squash cake wins in any event

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

I am always thrilled when someone asks me to bake a cake. I especially like it because that means I can give it to them and not have it sitting around waiting to jump on my hips. A few weeks ago, a colleague asked me to make a cake for a fundraiser.

So I started thinking seasonally about what cake I would make. Seasonal ingredients are easier to incorporate into a pie; simply add some sugared fruit into a pastry shell and bake. With a cake, it can be a little more difficult. I considered an apple cake or pumpkin cake for the event, but when I saw this recipe for Buttermilk Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing made with grated butternut squash in an old issue of Fine Cooking, I knew had I picked a winner.

I almost went out of my mind while the scent of it baking filled the house. It was all I could do to not slice into it once the icing was drizzled on, but I held fast. I’m told the cake went for a pretty penny at the fundraiser. Maybe I’m in the wrong business. Any which way, I had to bake it again to see for myself. It was moist and tender and rich. Yes, I picked a winner.



Buttermilk Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing

Recipe from Fine Cooking, Feb./March 2009

The secret to this moist, tender cake is grated butternut squash, which is folded into the batter just before baking. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the squash.

For the cake

4 ounces (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan

13½ ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¾ cup buttermilk

2¼ cups peeled and grated butternut squash (about 8 ounces)

For the icing and garnish

9 ounces (2¼ cups) confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons buttermilk; more as needed

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon table salt

¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Make the cake: Position the rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan; tap out excess flour.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the oil and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well on low speed. Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix again until just combined. Add half of the flour and the baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg, mixing on low speed until just combined. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk.

Stir the squash into the batter and transfer the batter to the prepared pan; smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes; then carefully invert the cake onto the rack and remove the pan. When the cake is completely cool, transfer it to a serving plate. Serves 10 to 12.

Make the icing: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, nutmeg and salt until smooth. Add more buttermilk, a few drops at a time, as needed, until the icing is pourable but still quite thick. Pour the icing back and forth in thick ribbons over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the ginger on top. Let the icing set at room temperature, about 45 minutes, before serving.

Make ahead: This cake can be made a day or two in advance. After the icing has set, wrap the cake in plastic and refrigerate. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Per serving: 479 calories; 18 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 34 percent calories from fat); 75 g carbohydrates; 46 g sugar; 57 mg cholesterol; 381 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber.