“One of my favorite simple Thanksgiving dishes is roasted butternut squash served with a touch of cinnamon, butter and maple syrup -- it's a lot more interesting than predictable sweet potatoes,” says cupcake maven Allison. “The following day, you can mash up the leftovers and use them in our recipe for Butternut Spice cupcakes. Though, of course, if you're too tired to go through the whole cupcake decorating process, you can just divide the cake batter between two loaf pans and bake for about 35-40 minutes. A nice slice of butternut loaf cake is just divine when it's lightly toasted in butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar!”
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir with a heatproof spatula until the sugar is slightly dissolved and the mixture looks like wet sand.
Add the pumpkin seeds and stir continually until all are fully coated. Add the salt, cinnamon, and cayenne and continue stirring for 30 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the butternut squash seed oil, again stirring to coat. Pour the seeds into a bowl and set aside to cool as you bake the cake.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with 24 baking cups.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the butternut squash, granulated sugar, and brown sugar and mix on medium-low until well combined, about 1 minute.
With the mixer running, slowly pour in the oil. Continue mixing until combined. Stop the mixer, remove the bowl and paddle, and use the paddle to scrape the insides of the bowl, making sure everything is fully incorporated.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and add to the batter. Reattach the bowl and paddle to the mixer and mix on medium until just combined, then add the eggs and continue mixing until the batter is smooth, about 10 to 20 seconds. Remove the bowl and paddle from the mixer and, once again, use the paddle to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, ensuring that everything is well mixed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared baking cups, filling them three quarters of the way. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
The cupcakes are done when the centers spring back when you touch them. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cool completely while you make the
In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, add water, then add sugar, corn syrup, & cream of tartar. The last 2 help keep the sugar from crystallizing. (Candy thermometer. Non-negotiable!)
Put the pot on high heat. Be patient and keep your eye on it.
Put yolks & eggs in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment & turn to high. Just let it go! Eggs will triple in volume & go to “ribbons stage.” You can’t overwhip!
Wait on the sugar—looking for 235 degrees, aka “soft ball.” When it happens, be ready to move quickly. Turn off the mixer & add xanthan gum, turn to medium. Remove the thermometer from hot sugar. Lift with two hands.
Rest the lip of the saucepan on the edge of the mixer bowl. Slowly tilt & pour sugar in a slow steady stream down the side of the bowl. Don’t go too fast! If you do there will be chunks of scrambled eggs in your buttercream.
Once sugar is all in, turn the mixer to high. Beat until cool. Gauge this by putting the inside of your wrist to the outside of the bowl. It’s more accurate than your hands.
Switch out the whisk for the paddle. Next we’re adding the butter. It’s too heavy for the whisk and you’ll end up breaking your stand mixer if you stay with the whisk.
Start cutting the butter into thin pieces—you could shave it with a cheese slicer if you’d like. Add butter piece by piece—pain in the derriere, yes, but we’re making an emulsion.
See, if you dump all the butter in at once, the butter & eggs will never combine properly, & you’ll have a “broken” buttercream. You’ll be able to identify this easily—it’ll be a chunky, watery, hot mess.
If your buttercream does break, you can fix it! Turn to medium-high, then add a little more butter, piece by piece, til fixed. Or try adding a little guar gum! This is very strong, so add a pinch & beat for a minute, then check.
Once your butter is added, turn the mixer to med/high to add some air—ten, twenty seconds at most. Quelle Magnifique! It should be fluffy & make you want to eat it with your fingers.
Once you have your base, there’s so many ways to flavor it! Coffee powder! Vanilla beans! Dutch cocoa! Peanut butter! Caramel!
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a fluted tip with the vanilla buttercream and pipe onto each butternut squash cupcake. Sprinkle the candied pumpkin seeds across the tops.
Using a teaspoon, slowly drizzle a little butternut squash seed oil on top of each cupcake, just to garnish (about 1/2 tsp each.)