Butternut Squash Cupcakes with Sage Frosting and Allspice

Thursday, September 11, 2008

(The very first cupcake on this site, from the cupcake archives.)

I've been feeling relatively convivial about my cooking the past few days, and decided to take a very laissez faire approach and let whatever was in my kitchen inspire me. I had been playing with the idea of creating my own cupcake after trying a few of Cheryl's. What jumped out was a classic yet contemporary combo of flavors. While you might think butternut squash would taste odd as a cake, pumpkin as a flavor has been becoming increasingly popular in baked goods. This was a slight deviation from that popularity and was very tasty one at that. A perfect autumn treat, one that was actually inspired a soup I had a week ago!

I do wish that the sage flavor had come out a bit more pronounced, but it seems the subtlety was just right according to everyone else. The slight sprinkling of allspice gives it that extra little layer of flavor.

In the future I might use a buttercream frosting as opposed to a cream cheese frosting to cut out some of the tangy flavor, and sprinkle on some rubbed sage for visual appeal and reinforce the sage flavor.

Overall, I was very happy and proud of my first, original cupcake creation. These are dedicated to Rob for his never ending patience with me, and Cheryl for her shibbiness and cupcake inspirations. If any of you out there try it, please send me feedback and let me know how it goes!

Butternut Squash Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes
(Adapted from MarthaStewart.com)

What You'll Need...
1 large butternut squash (for 2 cups of puree)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups of flour

What You'll Do...
1) Quarter and seed the squash. Place in a dish with 1/4 cup of water and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool, scoop out (no skins!) then puree in a food processor or blender.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl, whisk together sugars, eggs, and butter. Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Whisk in butternut puree.

4) Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake at 350 until tops spring back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-22 minutes. Rotate pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool.

Sage Cream Cheese Frosting
(This makes a lot; freeze the rest and use it for bagels or fruit. Throw in the fridge to thaw when ready for use.)

What You'll Need...
1 bunch of sage
3 tablespoons of water
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
12 ounces of cream cheese
1/2 cup of butter
3 cups powdered sugar

What You'll Do...
1. Bring cheese and butter to room temperature.

2. Heat sugar and water in a small pan under medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

3. Chop up the sage and add to the sugar and let boil over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy. Set aside to cool.

4. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment.

5. Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy.

6. Add half of the sugar and the sage syrup. Beat until combined.

7. Gradually add remaining sugar. Spread onto cupcakes and sprinkle on allspice if desired.


  1. that's a wonderful creation! i loved the idea of using sage for savoring the frosting! :-)

  2. that sounds so fantastic. i will totally give it a try!

  3. Sounds fantastic! Good for you for being all experimental :)

  4. I didn't know you made up the recipe - so yummy! I would love to try them with more of a sage flavor, but that is only because I like unusual combinations. Most people would probably love them just the way they were. Keep 'em coming, err, I mean, thanks for bringing them in! ;o)

  5. Fezoca - Thanks a bunch! It's totally yummy. Let them sit overnight in the fridge, then let them come to room temp for best taste.

    Cheryl - YAY! Let me know how they go!

    Liz - *big smiles*

    Megan - It's a very easy recipe. I would up the sage syrup but not by much, otherwise it might get a bit mediciney. Try the rubbed sage as a garnish first for upped sage flavor.

  6. What a great idea! I'm not much of a cake-maker but these recipes look so much fun. Hmm... it is Andy's birthday this week ... I wonder what he'd say to a savoury cake.

  7. Oh man, I'm seriously drooling...

  8. Oh YUM! I've been in such a fall mood, this sounds delicious!

  9. What a great idea! Why *don't* people bake with butternut squash more often when they'll use pumpkin? I'll definitely give these a try (any excuse to make cupcakes).

  10. This sounds SO good. You are amazingly creative. A friend and I were trying to think of vegetable cupcakes we could do and I can't believe we didn't think of winter squashes! That's perfect.

  11. I use butternut squash in the place of potatoes and make lo-cal fake french fries. Cut them up and spray with olive oil spray and bake em up--sprinkle with sea salt.
    This is a wayyyy underrated and terrific vegetable. YAY Butternut Squash!

  12. You are a dreamboat, Babycakes. Sage!? Love it. I want to make this recipe [and will try doing it up gluten free]. Funny we're both baking with fall flavors; I just made up a sweet potato cornbread.

  13. yum... i just made a roasted butternut squash soup with lots of sage -- i feel like this cupcake is its sweeter cousin!

  14. Well, really, now, why didn't I see this sooner?! I just stumbled upon your space now and am devouring the archives - well, mainly the cupcake recipes... your posts are funny, I am enjoying them quite a bit. We had a ton of squash from our garden last fall and i am still using them up in many different recipes - never thought of cupcakes with butternut. This I must try soon. Thanks!

  15. Wow--these look great. I love sage with anything, especially with some squash. And as cupcakes? Genius. I will definitely be trying these out. I'll let you know how they turn out.

  16. Squash is up there in my top five favorite flavors no doubt. And it is definantly underrated. I've been craving a nice fall-ish spice cake. Maybe when I have a little time to bake for fun again I'll give these a whirl.

  17. At first glance, I was like, huh? Then after reading about pumpkin in dessert recipes, it was easier to see what you were going after here. Something I will definitely have to give a whirl to.

  18. One nit - the frosting directions say "chop the fennel" - I think you meant sage... Sounds YUMMY!

  19. hey garret
    simply loved this butternut squash cupcakes with sage frosting and allspice..quite innovative !

  20. These look so good, I love anything with butternut squash!

  21. To echo everyone, these look amazing, I love sage and butternut squash- sounds like a good combination. Just two mini-questions though- about how much in a "bunch if sage" (I grow my own herbs- maybe two dozen leaves?), and do you strain the syrup before adding it to the rest of the ingredients? It doesn't look like there are little bits of sage in the frosting in the picture, but it could be I'm just not seeing it. Thanks for a great looking recipe!

  22. This is such a marvelous combination and I can't wait to try it. Your writing leaves me relaxed and inspired!

  23. I made these for the dinner our prof had for the art seniors at his house and they were loved by everyone, and the reaction was sometimes humorous when I said they had squash in them. :P I posted pictures (and recipe credit) here: http://elsepeth27.blogspot.com/2008/09/cupcake-kind-of-world.html


  24. Would never have thought of savoury cupcakes but now it seems so obvious!

  25. very excited to be making these... or a version of them anyway for Thanksgiving.
    I'm wondering... you say "add the salt" but don't have the amount listed with your ingredients.
    1/2 tsp???

  26. Loved this recipe! I won a competition with it!
    I changed it just a little bit, added some different frostings and some molasses. Still the best I've had!

  27. I made this vegan using vegan butter and coconut margarine with a powdered egg substitute, and it turned out fantastic! I converted the recipe to a cake recipe by adding an extra 7 mins or so. I loved the sage frosting too. I experimented with a maple cream cheese using tofutti brand as well, but I liked the sage the best.
    Making this recipe again tonight.
    ***The second time, I noticed the recipe calls for salt in the instructions but the salt is not listed on the ingredients. I am trying 1/8th teaspoon. I'll let you know if it makes any difference.

    1. I didn't notice a difference when using the salt vs. not using the salt.


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