Buttermilk Cake Hides Butternut Squash

Over the past few months we have featured a few recipes which have vegetables showing up in odd places. There is the Deep Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake which nearly everyone I make it for absolutely adores; shaved, raw winter squash salad, Beet Chocolate Cake, and Beet Sorbet. A while back I asked for other recipes for vegetables in unexpected recipes. This recipe, called Buttermilk Cake, has a hefty two-and-a-half cups of grated butternut squash in it, perfect for right about now when the last squashes in storage may tend to show spots and cry out to be consumed.

This recipe comes from Ruth Thurston in Machias. I gave it a try and took it to Sewing Circle for our monthly birthday observance. Ruth tinkered with the recipe, and I further adapted from the one that appeared originally in Fine Cooking Magazine. Mainly, I amped up the spices.

Despite the vegetable content, this is not exactly what you call health food. Nonetheless, some of the substance of this cake, like the beet and zucchini cakes I mentioned, do convey added vegetable material to the reluctant vege eaters in our midst. Don’t bother to tell them. Just slather on the frosting and pass it with a smile.

By the way, it pays to read the recipe through first before launching into the project. That is actually a good idea anytime, and I confess I forget, and am regularly stumped by a surprise overnight marinating or a few hours of some process or other.

Buttermilk Butternut Cake
  • For the cake:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup or 1 stick of butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ¾ cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • 2 ½ cups grated butternut squash
  • For the frosting:
  • 2 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk to start
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • A grating or sprinkle of nutmeg
  • Finely chopped crystallized ginger
  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan.
  3. Sift together the flour, spices, soda and salt. Set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar.
  5. Add the vegetable oil.
  6. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  7. Mix in the vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  8. Half at a time, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, incorporating them after each addition.
  9. Finally mix in the grated squash, until it is well combined.
  10. Spread in the pan, and bake for an hour to an hour and ten minutes, until it is golden on the top, and a tester inserted comes out clean.
  11. Cool.
  12. Whisk together buttermilk, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg.
  13. Add more buttermilk a very little at a time until the mixture is thick but pourable.
  14. Dribble the frosting over the top of the cake, until it is as frosted as you like.
  15. Sprinkle the chopped ginger over the top as a garnish.



Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.