November 17, 2023

Butternut Squash Cake with Penuche Frosting

The autumn harvest offers bakers a bounty of vegetables to highlight in desserts. While the popular pumpkin has a bold flavour profile, butternut squash is subtle yet full of depth. In this recipe, the butternut squash serves as a canvas to showcase warm spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, all-spice and cloves. This rustic cake is not very sweet, so it pairs perfectly with the caramel tones of the penuche frosting. Penuche is a brown sugar fudge. This rich and creamy confection reminds me of sucre à la crème, a traditional Québécois sugary treat.


Autumn Spices

Personalise the flavour profile of this cake, play around with autumn spices! Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, all-spice and cloves are featured in this dessert. Since I find cloves can be overpowering, I chose to put less of that spice. Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking!

Naked Cake

Since the penuche frosting is quite sweet, and the cake is quite moist and tender, I opted to leave the sides of the cake naked. Because of the texture of the cake, you do not need to worry about the cake becoming dry without the frosting. Trust me, this simple, rustic look fits the flavours very well. Covering the cake completely with a penuche frosting would have been overwhelmingly sweet.


butternut squash

vegetable oil

unsalted butter

all-purpose flour

baking soda







granulated sugar

dark brown sugar

large eggs

35% whipping cream


icing sugar


Kitchen scale

Oven thermometer

Two 8-inch round cake pans 

Food processor




Offset spatula

Small saucepan

Medium saucepan

Cutting board


Parchment paper

¼ tsp, ½ tsp, 1 tsp, 1 tbsp

Measuring cup

Bon appétit!


Butternut Squash Cake with Penuche Frosting

Butternut squash serves as a canvas to showcase warm spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, all-spice and cloves. This rustic cake is not very sweet, so it pairs perfectly with the caramel tones of the penuche (sucre à la crème) frosting.


Ariane | Miel et Ganache










  • 2 cups (270g) uncooked butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 12 tbsp (1 ½ sticks, ¾ cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp all-spice
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • 1 ½ (300g) cups granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¼ cup 35% whipping cream


  • 8 tbsp (1 stick, ½ cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp boiled water
  • 1 cup (150g) dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup 35% whipping cream
  • 2 cups (250g) icing sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter 2 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  3. Place the peeled, chopped butternut squash in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 5 minutes, until soft.
  4. Transfer the softened butternut squash to a food processor.
  5. Add the vegetable oil.
  6. Pulse until it becomes a smooth purée.  You will end up with 1 1/2 cups of butternut squash purée.  Set aside.
  7. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan.
  8. Raise the heat to medium and cook the butter until it turns golden brown and releases a nutty aroma.  It will bubble, and there will be little dark flecks at the bottom of the saucepan.
  9. Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the browned butter to a small heat-proof bowl.  Set aside.
  10. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, all-spice and cloves together.  Set aside.
  11. In a large bowl, whisk the butternut squash purée, eggs,granulated sugar, dark brown sugar and the cream together until combined.
  12. Pour the browned butter into the batter, and whisk until smooth.
  13. Use a spatula to gently fold the flour mixture into the butternut squash mixture.  Be careful not to overmix the batter!
  14. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  15. Bake for 33 minutes, or until the moist cake springs back when you touch the top lightly with your fingers.
  16. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let the cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pans.
  17. Flip the cakes out of the pans and let cool completely on the wire rack.
  18. For the penuche frosting, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.
  19. Add the brown sugar to the saucepan.
  20. Bring the mixture to a boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  21. Add the 2 tbsp of boiled water.
  22. Add the cream and bring to a boil.
  23. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the icing sugar.  If this step proves difficult, transfer the penuche frosting to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until well incorporated.
  24. Place a cake layer on the serving platter.
  25. Slather half of the penuche frosting onto the cake.
  26. Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting.
  27. Spread the rest of the frosting onto the cake.
  28. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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January 30, 2023
Marjolaine Bourget
I’ve only tasted 2 of two of your recipes so far but this one is by far my favourite! Shortbread always reminds me of my time in Scotland!
January 30, 2023
Marjolaine Bourget
Very chocolaty (is that even a word?) and very delicious! Thanks for letting me and The Peanut taste!