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Buttermilk Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing

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Serves 10-12

  • Make the menu:
    Any Night’s All Right
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 97

The "secret ingredient" in this moist, tender cake is grated butternut squash, which is folded into the batter just before baking. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the squash.

For the cake:
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
  • 13-1/2 oz. (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbs. distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2-1/4 cups peeled and grated butternut squash (about 8 oz.)
For the icing and garnish:
  • 9 oz. (2-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tbs. buttermilk; more as needed
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
Make the cake

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan; tap out excess flour.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the oil and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well on low speed. Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix again until just combined. Add half of the flour and the baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg, mixing on low speed until just combined. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk.

Stir the squash into the batter and transfer the batter to the prepared pan; smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes; then carefully invert the cake onto the rack and remove the pan. When the cake is completely cool, transfer it to a serving plate.

Make the icing

In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt until smooth. Add more buttermilk, a few drops at a time, as needed, until the icing is pourable but still quite thick. Pour the icing back and forth in thick ribbons over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the ginger on top. Let the icing set at room
temperature, about 45 minutes, before serving.

Make Ahead Tips

This cake can be made a day or two in advance. After the icing has set, wrap the cake in plastic and refrigerate. Let come to room temperature before serving.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 510; Fat (g): fat g 19; Fat Calories (kcal): 170; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 6; Protein (g): protein g 5; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 80; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 380; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 60; Fiber (g): fiber g 2;

Photo: Quentin Bacon

Really delicious! I doubled the spices and really liked that amount. Grating the squash is the only time-consuming part of the recipe, but I do think they add something special! I had some with the glaze and some without - it's great both ways!

Really delicious and easy to prepare, although peeling & grating the squash takes some time. next time I will double the ground ginger in the cake; it was not noticeable. I whisked all the dry ingredients together before adding them to the batter to ensure they were all well distributed. I loved the icing but I think this cake would be a success even without it. The crystallized ginger garnish is important to the flavor, though.

Great cake! doubled the ground ginger and added some chopped crystallized ginger to the batter. Skipped the icing, as I ran out of time (and was a bit lazy). Everyone loved it. Will make again.

OMG this is a good one! Very moist, very flavourful, everything is perfect.

My husband takes a dim view of desserts containing carrots or zucchini. In fact, he has always said that he likes only two kinds of cake--yellow cake with chocolate frosting and pineapple upside-down cake. Now he's added Buttermilk Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing to his very short list of cakes worth the eating (little guessing that this moist, delicious cake contains a vegetable).

I was a skeptic. I'm not fond of squash but, frankly my dear, this is so moist and tender that I will definitely make this again. My husband loved it; I took it to our supper club and they raved about it. Everyone is surprised when you tell them the secret ingredient. Made soup out of the left over butternut squash and it was a hit, too.

I just made this with LEMON and ginger instead of the spices. Turned out great. 1 tblspoon grated lemon rind and 1 tbl lemon juice AND 1 tbl chopped crystallized ginger along with powdered ginger in the batter. Omit other spices and vanilla. In icing, 2tbl buttermilk, 1 tbl lemon juice and more grated lemon peel. And then the crystallized ginger on top. Very good. A bit subtle, not overally strong. Very nice cake

I have made this cake twice now, and it was outstanding both times. I ate half the cake the second time. The squash is amazing. It's a bit of a grind to grate that much squash but so worth it in the end. I did a really fine grate but I don't think I needed to. I've found I don't use as much ginger as is called for in the icing because it is very strong. I am making this cake again for a bake sale next week. I like this cake so much 'll probably end up buying it.

This cake is awesome! It was so good, I didn't even bother with the icing!

This is the best bundt cake I've ever had. My icing ran off the cake, but I think that was my fault in not making it thick enough. Fresh grated nutmeg is essential. I will definitely make this again.

This recipe turned out very well. I used 1/2 applesauce & half canola oil to reduce the fat a little bit and you could not tell the difference. I also used almost double the powdered ginger in the cake based on other reviews and it was great - it did not overpower anything else in the cake. The cake took a total of 1 hr 20 minutes to bake for me. My pan is a clay glazed bundt so it cooks a little different than the metal ones. I also used a long wooden kabob stick to test it so I got down pretty far in the cake and that worked worked out very well for determining the cooking time. It was very moist and you could not tell there was squash in it at all. The cake is good without the frosting, but the frosting really does make this cake excellent with the candied ginger so I wouldn't skip that. I used only half of the amount of frosting called for. I just put it on slowly and made sure to cover all of the cake using a spatula and it was fine.

We made the cake, agree with others that it is a good, solid foundation. More sugar as a glaze didn't seem necessary, but more ginger definitely helps. After tasting it plain, we tried serving it with a topping: rum-ginger syrup whipped into creme fraiche with bits of crystallized ginger. That was very good. Next time we'll put the pieces of crystallized ginger right in the batter. If it still needs a foil we'll add the creme fraiche topping again.

Very moist and tender. I didn't make any changes in the recipe. It is a keeper. I too didn't care for the icing when I tasted it but it tastes great with the cake. I just made a second cake to give as a gift.

Everyone at the office loved it. The hint of nutmeg in the cake and icing, the ginger on the icing and the wonderful crumb of the cake made this a new favourite of mine. Great with coffee!!!

This was delicious! Definitely a keeper. It was nice and moist and the butternut squash gave it a nice flavour.

This cake was a huge hit! It is moist and rich and made a nice presentation with the crystallized ginger on top. Usually pound cakes are difficult at higher altitudes but I made some adjustments for 5000+ feet and it worked great. BAKING POWDER: decrease 1/4 teaspoon SUGAR: decrease 3 tablespoons LIQUID: Add 5 T. buttermilk FLOUR: increase 6 tablespoons TEMPERATURE: Increase 25 degrees.

I made this as a birthday surprise for my friend coming home from a week-long ski trip. It went over extremely well with the ski group. It was the perfect cake to have in the afternoon (as well as the next day in the morning with coffee). It was very moist and rich, yet not too sweet which is why I think it was received so well. The crystallized ginger I used was very sharp so I reduced the garnish amount to 1/4 cup. Great recipe!

Ultra moist, very simple, nice crust, very soft crumb, and no errors in the directions.

I made this cake just for fun. Decided to test it out on my husband and our grandchildren (26 and 22). I judge my cakes from the very beginning...meaning I taste the batter. (I know it isn't wise.) The batter was delicious. While the cake was baking I made the icing. I tasted it as well and I hated it! Should have known because it was straight buttermilk and sugar. Then I added some brandy to see if I could redeem it. I thought it was still terrible. My husband said "I'll bet it will be good on the cake". So, I took a risk and tried it. Well, I served the cake with the icing on top and we devoured 1/2 the cake in one sitting! It was delicious and I was thrilled to have something that was different. I'm so sick of all the old predictable menu items! I will make it for a nice dinner party next month. FYI to make it really easy, I bought precut butternut squash and ran it through the grating feature of my cuisinart! It worked beautifully.

Texturally,wonderfully moist but still cakey, but needs more ginger in the cake to be picked up by the crystallized ginger. I used nonstick spray to coat the pan, and I think melted butter would also be an improvement over cold butter to coat the inside of the Bundt pan. All those angles are hard to coat well. Recommended pan was 31 dollars and said 10-15 cup capacity, while several cheaper pans also on Cooking.com had the 10 cup capacity called for in the recipe. I used 12 cup,cooked up fine.

Delicious, delicious cake. Very moist and tender. One thing I noticed about the way the instructions were written that should be changed: the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg should all be combined in a bowl and whisked together to evenly distribute the baking soda, BEFORE adding it to the batter. Otherwise, the baking soda, which is what makes the cake rise in this recipe, could cause the cake to rise unevenly, or cause tunnels through the cake.

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