Butternut Pumpkin Cupcakes

squash cupcakes for web 2


12-hole cupcake tin

12 paper cases

Chopping board


Food processor

Measuring spoons

Rubber spatula

Optional: wooden skewer

Wire cooling rack


Box grater or microplane grater



200g butternut pumpkin, skin on, deseeded and roughly chopped

175g light soft brown sugar

2 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic

sea salt

150g plain flour, unsifted

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

a small handful of walnuts

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

90ml olive oil

Frosted cream topping:

zest of 1/2 mandarin or orange

zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

70g light cream cheese

3 heaped teaspoons icing sugar, sifted

optional: lavender flowers or rose petals

Alternate Cream Cheese Icing - Ghost Pumpkin Cupcakes

400 g icing sugar

150 g unsalted butter, (at room temperature)

200 g cream cheese

Handful of raisins, for decoration



  • The skin of a butternut pumpkin goes deliciously chewy and soft when cooked, so there's no need to peel it off.
  • Make sure your oven is preheated and ready to go before you start whizzing your pumpkin - the cupcakes need to go into a hot oven as soon as they're mixed up if you want them to rise well.
  •  If you feel like making something less indulgent, these cupcakes are delicious without the topping.

My kids love these pumpkin cupcakes. They taste a bit like carrot cake, as the two vegetables are very similar - I've simply swapped carrots for pumpkin. Both of them are wonderful carriers of flavours like cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. Give these little cakes a go - they're a perfect naughty-but-nice treat. And a great way of getting your kids to eat pumpkin!


Preheat the oven to 180degC/350degF/gas 4. Line your cupcake tin with paper cases.


Carefully halve the pumpkin, scoop out and discard the seeds, then roughly chop (you don't need to peel the skin).


Whiz the pumpkin in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the sugar, and crack in the eggs. Add a pinch of salt, the flour, baking powder, walnuts, cinnamon and olive oil and whiz together until well beaten. You may need to pause the machine at some point to scrape the mix down the sides with a rubber spatula. Try not to overdo it with the mixing - you want to just combine everything and no more.


Fill the paper cases three-quarters of the way up with the cake mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Check to see whether they are cooked properly by sticking a wooden skewer or a knife right into one of the cakes - if it comes out clean, they're done. If it's a bit sticky, pop them back into the oven for a little longer.


Remove from the oven and leave the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make your runny frosted topping. Place most of the mandarin or orange zest, all the lemon zest and the lemon juice in a bowl. Add the cream cheese and icing sugar and mix well. Taste and adjust the amount of lemon juice or icing sugar to balance the sweet and sour.


Cream Cheese Icing: Sift the icing sugar into a free-standing electric mixer, add the butter and beat until pale and creamy. Add the cream cheese, then beat until just smooth - it's really important not to over-mix it. 


Put the frosting/icing into the fridge until your cakes have cooled down and you're ready to serve. Spoon/pipe on the topping (it's important your cakes are completely cool - if not, you're frosting will become runny and not very nice!).


Serve on a lovely plate (or on a cake stand if you're feeling elegant, or on a rustic slab if you're more of a hunter-gatherer type!), with the rest of the mandarin zest sprinkled over. For an interesting flavour and look, a few dried lavender flowers or rose petals are fantastic.
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