Caramelized Butternut Squash Upside-Down Cake

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caramelized butternut squash upside down cake recipe
Photo: Matt Dutile/Styling: Erin McDowell

Nothing against pumpkin pie, but it feels kind of tired. This year we’re going rogue with our autumnal desserts: Introducing caramelized butternut squash upside-down cake.

“I love to make upside-down cakes as sheet cakes,” recipe developer Erin McDowell tells us, “because it feeds a crowd and it’s such an impressive presentation. This one is very sticky, very moist—kind of like sticky toffee pudding. And it slices so beautifully.”

“In order to get it caramelized enough,” she continues, “you have to cook the butternut squash beforehand, but it’s just a quick blast in the oven and you can mix the cake batter while you’re doing it.” It’s a bit of extra work, sure, but according to McDowell, it has an important benefit: “Since all vegetables lose moisture as they cook, it allows for the shrinkage before you arrange the pieces in the pan. This way, you can ensure you have full coverage over the batter, whereas if you just tried to put in raw pieces, you might end up with splotchy bits where the cake comes through. That extra step is worth it.”

Because the caramel coats the cake almost like a glaze, this beauty doesn’t need any accompaniment…but if you wanted to gild the lily, a drizzle of cold heavy cream just before serving would do.

New Thanksgiving tradition? We think so.


Butternut Squash and Pan Preparation

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds/906g)—peeled, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons (42g) honey

6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup (109g) dark brown sugar

Cake Batter

6 ounces (170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup (212g) dark brown sugar

3 large eggs (170g), at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups (241g) all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1½ teaspoons ground ginger

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup (240g) sour cream

Heavy cream, ice cream or whipped cream for serving (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease two baking sheets with nonstick spray.

2. Prepare the Squash and Pan: Cut the butternut squash halves into ¼-inch-thin slices. Arrange them in an even layer on the prepared baking sheets, then drizzle the honey evenly over the surface of the squash. Transfer to the oven and roast until tender and just starting to have a bit of color at the edges, 17 to 20 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

3. Use the butter to generously grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, being especially generous with the bottom and corners of the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the base of the pan.

4. Arrange the cooled squash in an even layer on top of the sugar. Really pack them in tightly so the whole base is evenly covered.

5. Make the Cake Batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

6. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until well incorporated and scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.

7. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and salt to combine. Add about half of the dry mixture to the mixer and mix to incorporate. Add half of the sour cream and mix to combine. Repeat to incorporate the remaining flour mixture and sour cream.

8. Dollop the batter all over the pan, using a small offset spatula to spread it into an even layer. It should spread easily, but take care not to disturb the squash underneath.

9. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes inside the pan, then run a small offset spatula around the edge. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet (to catch the excess juices that may run off). Cool completely, then serve with a drizzle of heavy cream, whipped cream or ice cream, if using.

Nutrition Facts
  • 426 calories

  • 23g fat

  • 53g carbs

  • 5g protein

  • 31g sugars

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Note: The information shown is Edamam's estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.

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erin jeanne mcdowell

Freelance Food Editor

Erin Jeanne McDowell is a recipe developer, food stylist and author of multiple cookbooks, including The Fearless Baker, which was named one of the Best Baking Books of 2017 by...