Saturday, 21 September 2013

Gluten-free Spiced Butternut Squash and Pecan Cupcakes With Ginger Buttercream

It’s the last few days of National Cupcake Week and I can’t think of a better reason to indulge in some sweet treats to help take the chill out of the Autumnal air.

I’m never happier than when pumpkins and squashes start arriving in my veg box, with their welcoming orange flesh and earthy sweetness. Versatile and comforting, a butternut squash is perfect paired with a punch of spice. If you think it’s weird to put squash in a cake, think again. Vegetables in sweet dishes have a long and moist history. Courgette loaf or a beetroot and chocolate cake have become modern classics, not to mention pumpkin or sweet potato pie and the ubiquitous coffee shop staple: carrot cake.

These gluten-free butternut squash cupcakes are also dairy-free if you leave off the dollop of buttercream (or you can swap the butter in the icing for soya margarine) and, with a good chunk of fresh vegetables lurking inside, you can even class these little beauties as part of your five a day (warning: to make sure you are consuming a full vegetable portion, you may have to eat two or three, just to be on the safe side). Granted, butternut squashes can be a pain to peel (and for most savoury dishes I don’t bother), but my only advice on this score is to dispense with the peeler and get out the big guns in the form of a sharp chef’s knife. And once you’ve peeled it, the rest requires little more effort than a light stir.

Gluten-free Spiced Butternut Squash and Pecan Cupcakes With Ginger Buttercream 

For the cake

2 medium eggs
165ml sunflower oil
210g light muscovado sugar
270g (peeled weight) butternut squash, grated
75g pecans, chopped
185g buckwheat flour
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
Pinch of salt

For the ginger buttercream

125g soft, unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 - 3 tbsp. ginger syrup (from the Chinese stem ginger jar)
2 – 3 balls of Chinese stem ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan)/300°F/Gas Mark 2. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with cupcake cases.

Whisk together the egg, sugar and oil until fully combined and slightly frothy. Stir in the grated butternut squash and pecans before sifting over the buckwheat flour, raising agents and cinnamon. Add the salt and mix everything together thoroughly. Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, whisk the butter until very soft. Sift over half of the icing sugar and whisk again until fully combined. Sift over the icing sugar and ground ginger and whisk again. Add the syrup and chopped stem ginger and continue to whisk until light and fluffy.

Once the cakes are completely cold, fit a large piping bag with a star nozzle and fill it with the buttercream. Pipe a generous swirl of buttercream in the centre of each cake. Apologies for my terrible piping – who knew it would be so hard to pipe buttercream while on crutches!