Pumpkin and carrots get all the attention in the vegetables-for-dessert world. But there are so many other vegetables you can dessertify. To be fair, sometimes zucchini loaf pops in and beets seem to be vying for a spot through certain natural type red velvet cakes.
But the options don’t end there. There are many more ways to dessert your vegetables. Butternut squash is practically pumpkin anyway-it's so pumpkiny that it’s most likely been masquerading as the pumpkin purée in the can you used for your last pumpkin pie. Probably. It’s a curcurbita conspiracy.
Also, there is really no such thing as a vegetable anyway. A vegetable is just a plant that we eat, that we don't call a fruit or a herb. In fact, loads of them are actually fruit, botanically speaking, just masquerading as vegetables. To confuse things even further, some fruits are not fruits (that interloper rhubarb!) and every plant that we don't call a fruit is either called a vegetable, herb, grain or just not food.
So squashes are fruits, so this must be a fruitcake then! In fact they are berries, in the botanical sense, since they have a bunch of seeds in one fruit-body.
Anyway, this ramble is just to say that we shouldn’t be too closed-minded about what does and does not belong in a cake. The butternut squash makes for a very moist, but still very fluffy, comforting, Autumnal sort of cake. The cake is probably moist enough that it doesn’t really need a syrup drizzle to keep things tender, but if you are feeling it, a bit of half strength simple syrup (1 part sugar to 2 parts water) with some vanilla and cinnamon wouldn’t hurt anything. Your call.
butternut squash cake:
adapted from Pastry Affair
4 large eggs
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups butternut squash puree (1 large butternut squash, roasted until very tender, peeled and mashed)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp each ground nutmeg, ginger & cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 6” cake pans with parchment paper.
Beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, butternut squash puree and vanilla until everything is evenly incorporated. Add in all remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.
Portion about ⅔ of the batter into the two prepared pans. Reserve the rest for later or make a few cupcake. Uncooked batter freezes really well.
Bake about 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans at room temperature or in the fridge.
whipped cream cheese frosting:
adapted from Just a Taste
2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups cold heavy whipping cream
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until soft. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well incorporated. Whisking at a medium-high speed, pour whipping cream into mixer bowl in a slow stream. Frosting should become very fluffy.
Trim cakes as required to flatten and level the tops. If using, drizzle syrup generously over the cake layers and let soak in for a couple minutes.
Place one cake layer on a 6" cake board if you have it, or a flat plate or cake stand. Cover cake with a very generous layer of frosting. Sandwich next cake layer on top and frost cake quickly all over with an offset spatula, making sure to cover all exposed cake. Chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes and then frost with another layer of frosting. Use a bench scraper at a 90 degree angle to tidy up the sides, evenly turning the cake as you hold the bench scraper and add more frosting to fill up any holes or crannies. Decorate with sprinkles if your heart is full of childlike wonder, or leave plain if you prefer a stark, cold, brutalist cake to help you to steel yourself to the cold grey winter to come.