Japanese Squash (kabocha) Cupcakes with Irish Cream Frosting
I think I have finally found my signature flavor combo. Vegetables and liqueur!
I’ve been wanting to bake with vegetables for a while now and finally found the time (and recipe) to make it happen.
Squash is an acquired taste and I don’t mean that kids hate it and adults love it or vice-versa, there are many adults who dislike the taste of squash as well. Before I moved to Japan, squash and I had a civil relationship–put in front of me I would eat it but I wouldn’t go out of my way to include it in a meal. When I discovered Japanese squash (kabocha) it was love at first bite. Kabocha has a much sweeter taste than it’s North American counterpart, which is strange because according to this article butternut squash came from Japan. buttercup so was a perfect flavor for cupcakes.
KABOCHA CUPCAKES (Yields 12)
Inspired by Williams-Sonoma (who, by the way, are shipping to Japan now)
To make things easier (for myself) I’ve decided to include the full recipe measurements rather than the halved versions.
1 kabocha squash, about 2 lb.
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup low-fat milk
Preheat an oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
Cut the squash in half crosswise and place, cut side down, in a baking pan with the water. Bake until very soft when pressed, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Scrape the flesh from the peel into a bowl. Mash with a fork or puree until smooth; measure out 1 cup. I prepared my squash the night before so I didn’t have to bother with an extra step on baking day.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla and the 1 cup squash puree until smooth. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the squash mixture, followed by the milk, until well blended.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each one about two-thirds full. Bake until a tester (aka toothpick) inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. I recommend letting the cupcakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack. These are very moist cakes so can lose their shape easily, mine did.
As per usual I used inspiration from another source for my frosting. As much as I like traditional cake-frosting pairings, I also like to change it up and try new taste combos like my Coconut-lime cupcakes with Spicy Chocolate Frosting or my Chocolate Guinness cupcakes that I paired with an orange buttercream. Yum! Yum! Yum!
IRISH CREAM FROSTING
8 ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar until smooth. Since I don’t have a stand mixer I used my hand mixer which worked fine. Beat in the Irish cream liqueur. I found 3 tablespoons to be a bit much so I only added 2.
Spread the frosting on the cooled cupcakes and serve immediately, or refrigerate the frosted cupcakes for up to 1 day. I also added a sprinkling of ground cloves to give them a bit of oomph.
Seriously, my best cupcake-frosting combination yet!