Butternut squash cupcakes with cinnamon pear balsamic buttercream and toasted butternut seeds
Yesterday was the second meetup of the Philly Bakers Challenge. Though the group was on the smaller side, with only 3 cupcakes, I think we hit it out of the park (more on that tomorrow).
This time, our secret ingredient was squash and the theme was fall (very fitting, though we were hot as we sat outside at the pop-up beer garden off Broad St. The October weather has not been kind to the Philly area.
I chose butternut squash to work with, and originally was going to adapt one of my pumpkin cupcake recipes for the challenge. Then I received an advanced copy of Robicelli’s: A Love Story, With Cupcakes (also, more on that later!) and saw they had a butternut squash cupcake recipe. So I adapted the cake recipe, then whipped up a buttercream using one of my fancy balsamic vinegars (so, so worth it) and finished it with toasted butternut squash seeds (don’t skimp on the salt on these bad boys … the salt and the crunch make all the difference).
The outcome was a moist and spiced cake, tangy buttercream that smelled heavenly, and those heavenly little seeds.
The toasted butternut seeds can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wash the seeds and remove all squash residue. Place in a pot with enough water to cover and approximately 1/4 tsp salt. Boil for 5-8 minutes.
Drain the seeds, then pat dry with a paper towel (they don't have to be perfectly dry).
Place the seeds in a glass baking dish and add the sesame oil. Rub the oil into the seeds.
Add the sugar, cinnamon and salt, mixing to coat. Keep the seeds spread out and place the baking dish in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and stir. Place back in the oven and bake for another 5 minutes.
Remove the seeds from the oven and scoop the seeds into a small fry pan. FInish toasting up the seeds over medium high heat. The seeds are done when they've dried out a bit, are golden brown, and crunch when you bite into them. Set aside to cool.
For the cupcakes, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and Chinese 5 spice together. Set aside.
Combine the squash, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until combined.
Slowly pour in the oil, mixing until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix until combined.
Divide the batter between wrappers in cupcake tins and bake for 20-24 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.
For the buttercream, beat the butter until light and fluffy.
Add the confectioners sugar and the pinch of salt and mix until combined.
Gradually add the pear cinnamon balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tbsp at a time, beating to combine between additions. Once all the balsamic is added, whip on medium-high speed to make the buttercream light and fluffy.
To assemble, frost the cupcakes with your favorite tip and top with a few toasted butternut squash seeds.