Amaretti & Butternut Cupcakes

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I revamped, rewrote, and refined my very favorite of all time cupcake recipe. Enjoy!

-I think putting a cookie on top of a cupcake was one of the smartest things I ever did.-

Certain flavors are unexepectedly harmonious in ways you might never expect. Some people add curry powder to brownies, others add feta cheese to their watermelon, I combine hardy knots of winter squash with crispy amaretti.

Yet, this is not necessarily a new combination; in Italy and now in the United States it has become an increasingly popular filling for ravioli in the winter, and is often served with a nutty cream sauce. As strange as cookies in pasta sounds the flavor is spontaneous and endearing to the senses. So, when a flavor combination is this delightful, how can I not make it into a cupcake?

Crispy amaretti are hunted game in this household, their airy bodies musky with the scent of almonds make them a favorite prey for the cookie hungry. Come autumn it's also common to see my squash bowl out, an old wire basket I once picked up at an antique store that holds the obtuse produce throughout the chilly months until I end up carving, baking, pureeing and dicing them into manageable portions for whatever recipe.

Taking these two strong flavors and combining them is a task any adventurous baker should try. Two flavors that are like fall winds mixing and swirling into each other becoming one unified force with more body, more spirit than when they were apart.

Even if it's not this recipe, grind some amaretti cookies into dust and add them to pumpkin pie or bread. Go on. You'll see, I'm right. Then you'll come and thank me and want to try this cupcake recipe even more.

Amaretti Butternut Squash Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes / 350 F oven

I decided to revisit my first ever original cupcake, Butternut Squash with Sage Frosting and Allspice, and use the same base with a few little alterations. I ground up a few of the cookies into the batter in lieu of actually using almond extract in fear it would overtake the squash. The cake is fantastic.

1 large butternut squash (for 2 cups of puree)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
1 cup of butter, room temperature
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 cups of flour
1/3 cup of finely ground amaretti cookies

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, and crushed amaretti cookies. 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 F 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.

5) Frost with buttercream and top with an amaretti cookie.

Vanilla Buttercream
What You'll Need...
1 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What You'll Do...
1. Cream the butter until soft.

2. Add the sugar and then the milk and extract. Cream till soft. Spread on cool cupcakes.

This recipe also makes for a great layer cake. Just use cake pans and increase the time to 35-40 minutes.

If you don't want to use butternut puree', 2 cups of pumpkin puree' from a can also tastes great!


  1. These look wonderful. I am totally going to make these this weekend.

  2. The best ravioli I ever had was one made with a pumpkin and ameretti filling. The sweet nuttyness of the cookies just transformed the dish. These cupcake sound delicious!

  3. I'm absolutely going to get some butternut squash from the farmer's market and give these a go! Your blog (and all your cupcakes) are totally my new best friend! :)

  4. I love that ravioli dish with the amaretti, and these cupcakes are a fabulous riff on it! Thanks for the recipe, and may the force be with you on the papers.

  5. Thanks for stopping by. Absolutely nothing is different tonight from last night, but tonight I feel a lot more connected and not even a little lonely.

  6. Such an unusual combo there. The things that can go so well together astound me.

  7. Hee hee. Cookie garnished with a side of cupcake. I like.

  8. YUM! I'm so going to make these!!

  9. Having just found this blog, I must say that you have a new fan! Thanks!

  10. i made these soon after i found your blog thru

    let me just say, best cupcakes i've ever made...! thanks for being awesome.

  11. Your site is beautiful and these cupcakes look fabulous! Perfect for fall. Thanks.

  12. Fantabulous idea!
    Amaretti cookies and pumpkin are right up my Italian-style alley.

  13. Terrific recipe Garrett, my grandmother is making these for a family gathering this weekend, thanks.

  14. I jut made these and used 1 tsp of almond extract instead of the cookies. These are the best cupcakes I've ever made. We've eaten 3 of them and not even frosted yet.

    Wow!!! thanks for the recipe!

  15. Love your writing - as well as the very original recipes.

    Definitely on my 'bake list' for the weekend!

  16. I just baked several dozen amaretti cookies last week because I couldn't find any ANYWHERE (in the NYC Metropolitan area, can you believe it?) and needed them for a cookbook recipe to review. I was looking for something else to do with the leftovers, and this is it! I love the idea of butternut squash in a cupcake along with the amaretti. Beautiful, mouth watering and bookmarked!

  17. They look absolutely gorgeous. I never had that kind of combination yet. I think I would prefer to roast my own butternut. I just love the scent that surrounds the whole kitchen.

  18. These are so beautiful :) So cute with the little amaretti on top!

  19. This comes at the perfect time! I have a bunch of leftover roasted butternut squash and I may use this recipe as inspiration for a different way to use it up. Thanks!

  20. What a great idea! I love unique flavor combinations.

  21. Wow, I certainly believe this is a fantastic combination. I love butternut squash, and the idea of adding crispy amaretti sounds divine.

  22. Garrett, they look divine! Do the cookies add any texture to the cake? Is it like adding graham crumbs? Hmm, amaretti cookies and graham crumbs... :D I'd love to test this in banana bread, too. Thanks for the intriguing idea!

  23. nightowlchef - It doesn't add much for texture at all. For graham cracker cake, check out this recipe (ignore my awful pictures):

  24. I don't think I've yet graduated to adventurous flavor pairings (guava and chocolate, anyone?) BUT this looks like a match made in heaven. Love the toothsome pictures!

  25. Wow, these look amazingly delicious. Definitely going on my to-do cooking list.

  26. What a great idea. I can't wait to try making these.

  27. I woke up yesterday with a craving for buttercream, and thankfully stumbled across this recipe! (I've made your red velvet cupcakes too, and they are soooo good) I was inspired by the fact that you use stuff that's around your kitchen, so I replaced the squash with zucchini and had to leave out the cookies, but also added cardamom and vanilla bean to the frosting. Oh.My.God. So good. I want to try the original recipe too (as well as all the others you have up)! Thank you!


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