Squash Cake…a suprising and FABULOUS cake!

I’ll admit that sheer curiosity and not an expectation of great results drove me to try this cake. After all, I eat squash, but I wouldn’t call myself a “fan” of squash. It is OK. It is healthful. It is fun to grow and pick. But, I wouldn’t say that it sings to me. Recently, though, I found a recipe for squash cake and the title alone had me on board. That recipe had nuts and raisins in the batter which wasn’t going to happen on my watch, but other than that it looked quite workable. I found the recipe in the “Superlatives” Junior League of Oklahoma City, Inc 75th Anniversary Cookbook. It is credited to one Jane Clark Crain who I now hold in completely high regard. Have I written about how much I love Junior League cookbooks? I’m sure there are many good reasons to celebrate the various Junior Leagues across the nation, but my number one reason is their cookbooks. Then again, I love all community cookbooks. They exemplify the meaning of pie.

This cake is ridiculously good. It is totally inappropriate for a cake full of squash to be this good. It just doesn’t make any sense. But it is. My kids scarfed it down (though admittedly, they do not know what was in it) and my husband, Pitts, has been found several times hovering over the cake plate with a fork poised in attack mode, peeling back the plastic wrap. I have visited it at least 40 times over 3 days sneaking bites as though that doesn’t add up to 8 pieces. I have monkeyed with the recipe, doubled the frosting, added a splash of vanilla and played with dried squash circles for decoration. I cannot encourage you enough to give this cake a try. I am over the moon about it. It has a certain Indian Summer appeal and would also be something great to keep in mind as we head towards the holidays. It also keeps like magic so it is a great cake to make a day ahead. And, this one is for all my people who think they cannot bake. It is easy and it is great.


Squash Cake...a suprising and FABULOUS cake!
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Recipe type: Dessert
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 20
A surprising and lovely cake full of fresh squash.
Ingredients
Cake
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups finely chopped yellow squash (do not peel)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • (optional: 1 cup chopped pecans and 1 cup raisins…perhaps even golden raisins)
Icing
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • chopped pecans for decoration
  • dried sugared squash slices for decoration (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir with a whisk. In a food processor, pulse approximately 4 to 5 yellow squash until they are evenly chopped. I chopped small because I needed to hide the nature of the cake from small people. I chopped them into chunks before putting them in the processor because they were being stubborn.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, oil and vanilla. Add the squash and mix well.
  3. Add the squash mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. This is a very thick batter and I suggest that you use a large scraper/spatula. (If using nuts and raisins in the batter, this is when you will add them and stir them in to combine).
  4. Pour the batter into a well greased 9″ X 13″ pan. If you are going to turn it out, you might try putting down a piece of parchment on the bottom of the buttered pan and buttering it on top, too. Mine turned out OK without parchment, but it took some coaxing, and scraping around the edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour or until a toothpick pierced into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Mine was perfectly baked at precisely 50 minutes. I suppose this would also make a great sheet cake, but I can’t opine on baking times or whether the icing would go far enough. Let me know if you try that.
  5. When finished, allow the cake to rest in the pan for at least 10 minutes. You can either frost it in the pan or turn the cake out onto a large plate. I use a wire cooling rack to turn out the cake and then place the plate on top of the inverted cake and then carefully turn it over again so that the round side is up.
  6. Allow the cream cheese and butter to soften thoroughly. Beat them together in an electric mixer. Add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time until fully combined. Ice the top of the cake with the cream cheese frosting. Decorate the top of the cake with chopped pecans and squash slices (see below for instructions on drying the squash).

I’m always appreciative of a cake that allows you to hide a few veggies inside. Very kind.

And it is simply out of the ordinary. It is nice to change things up a bit from time to time. If you show up to a potluck or family reunion with brownies, I assure you that you will not be alone. But if you show up with a squash cake, you will be an original! And yellow squash is so darned easy to come by in Texas.

Note: I decorated my cake with dried squash slices. To make these, slice a squash very thinly. Dip each slice in a combination of cinnamon and sugar (1/2 cup sugar to 1 teaspoon cinnamon). Bake on a rack in a 200 degree oven for an hour and a half. Turn the slices half way through. They will drip sugar and moisture so make sure there is a cookie sheet underneath the rack. At the end of the baking time, these were dry but still pliable. They are roughly the texture of dried apples. Remove to a piece of parchment and cool.

As always, if you are looking for a great source for pecans, try the Pecan Shed. Also, I have been longing for years to purchase a mandoline to slice vegetables and I finally did it. Recently, Cooks Illustrated touted a plastic OXO model as a great buy ($39.99) and I’ve been considering it. I found it at Macy’s recently during one of their sales and and couldn’t resist it any longer. I believe Williams-Sonoma also carries them. Though, I use mine with dangerous wild abandon, I’m here to tell you it is not a toy. But, man is it fun!

Comments

  1. Richelle sons says

    That sounds like one of our favorites, hummingbird cake. (bananas instead of squash) but what a great idea- with the surplus of squash right now. I wouldn’t have even slowed down to read that recipe- so glad you did! Do you have a copy of “Now Serving” from the Junior League of Wichita Falls? I’ll send you one if you don’t! It’s a pretty book- we’ve loved everything we’ve tried

  2. Kelly says

    Hummingbird Cake is wonderful too. I have visions of a Hummingbird Cake that Martha once did that had these huge dried pineapple on top that looked like huge flowers. I think I still have that torn out page in one of my recipe notebooks. I do have the WF cookbook. It is great. Wonderful. I also have an older WF symphony cookbook that has the best Italian Cream Cake recipe in the world, although I make it with less shortening and more butter. Happy baking!

  3. Lael Burton says

    Hi Kelly-this looks great, and I WILL be baking a squash cake. I’m curious as to why you don’t want the nuts in the batter, yet you garnish the cake with them.
    Love the pics of your kids and dog!

  4. Kelly says

    Lael, first I love your name. Second, I’m so glad you asked this because it does sound crazy. I love nuts, and I would certainly put them in the batter if I lived alone. But here’s the catch: my kids are happy to scrape things out of icing but will balk at the whole enterprise if they are in the batter. Go figure. It is like letting the mashed potatoes touch the meat. Sometimes I can get away with it. For instance, they LOVE my cracker pie which is 80% pecans, but I think I just chop them so small that they never figured it out. Happily, my daughter is starting to emerge from this phase, but I still have to engage in the subterfuge if I want my boy to enjoy some of my favorite treats. Silly, I know. Let me know how it turns out, and put lots of pecans in the batter for me.

  5. says

    I made this today–my kids LOVE it!! I told them it was a cinnamon cake & all was well. I am taking dinner to a family tomorrow and needed a dessert, so I divided the batter between two 8×8 square pans and baked for 35 minutes. An added bonus to the smaller cake is limiting my walk-by tastings this week!
    Thanks Kelly!

  6. Kelly says

    And, Petra, I love, love, love your photos too. Friends, Petra writes one of my favorite blogs called ZoomYummy. Click her name to go see it. It is a lot of fun. She did a red velvet cake a while back that was GORGEOUS.

  7. Kelly says

    It really is a good (and superbly simple) cake. It is definitely worth a try.

    Friends, Chocolate Shavings is another lovely blog to peek at when you have a chance. Lovely photos. Lovely food.

  8. Erika says

    This was DELISH. I didn’t have enough oil so I used a cup of applesauce and 1/2 a cup of oil. I was glad I used the parchment paper as the thing weighed a ton and I knew I wanted to turn it out. The groovy little squash slices on top were a conversation starter and I had very little cake left at the end of my party. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I love your blog!

  9. Kelly says

    Erika, I’m very happy to hear that the apple sauce worked. It is nice to cut down on some of the oil…and I’m glad you figured it out for us all. I bet that adds a new dimension to the flavor too. I really like that plan. Thanks for sharing your changes. I always appreciate that. Now I want to make it again with apple sauce.

  10. Kelly says

    Jane (everybody…this is the original author of the squash cake recipe that I used), oh my goodness. I am SO happy you stopped by. What a great recipe! Thank you…far more people than have commented here actually emailed me to let me know they enjoyed the cake. It is a really special recipe. I hope you think I did it justice. If not, we’re all coming over to your house to try it the way it is supposed to be. (just kidding, I promise). And I’m so pleased that you made such a smashing contribution to Superlatives. It is a really fun cookbook.

  11. Christina says

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this recipe! Trying it now! I always have an overabundance of yellow squash during the summer. I hate to see it waste.

  12. Helen Butalla says

    My 5 year old grandson and I made this cake this morning. I only had 3 eggs and it didn’t seem to matter. My grandson has a peanut/nut allergy so we left them out and did not add raisins. I chopped the ends of the squash off after I cleaned them and did take out the seeds. My grandson measured all of the ingredients himself and put them into the bowl. He’s usually a picky eater, but he has already eaten 2 pieces of the cake. Great recipe!

  13. Kelly says

    Helen, this makes me so happy. That is a memory your grandson will enjoy forever. I wish I had cooked and baked more with my grandma. I miss her so.

  14. Gabriele says

    I had no idea you can use yellow squash to put in cake. The pictures look so appetizing, i am making one right now. It is close to my zucchini squash recipe and it ought to be delicious. Can’t wait to get it out of the oven.

  15. Jane says

    I am so glad I stumbled across this recipe!!!! This is one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. It looked like a simple spice cake recipe, but the taste is anything but simple! Delicious and addicting. I’m starting my second one in a few days. I plan on making 9×9′s and freezing them, to be iced when defrosted. We had a bumper yellow squash crop this year and I’ve used them in all sorts of recipes, but this is the way to go. I reduced the icing since a little went a long way for us, but sprinkling the pecans on top was perfect.(I prefer not to have them in the cake.)I will try the squash rounds when I serve it for company, as they look beautiful. I am going to try your black bean enchilada casserole tonight for my vegetarian son. Looks so good. Thanks for all the recipes.

  16. Autumn says

    This is the recipe that brought me to your blog! it’s phenomenal. I made it for my spanish class at school and it was gone before the class was over. I made it for thanksgiving this year, and I had fantastic comments. Tonight i’m going to bake it in muffin form so my mom can eat it on the way to work in the morning. Thank you for the phenomenal recipe !

  17. Autumn says

    just following up! i baked the squash cake in muffin cups at 325* F for 22 minutes. they were perfect. It made roughly 30 muffins.the amount of frosting was great

  18. Darlene Hinkefent says

    Have an over abundance of summer squash from my garden this year and plan to try this recipe very soon…thanks!!

  19. Angela says

    Love this! I have made three in the past week. Partially out of necessity (I ran out of oil) I have substituted applesauce for some of oil. My favorite is the cake made with 2 lunch box cups of blueberry applesauce and 3/4 cup of oil. Headed out on vacation and I just picked all my squash so I could make cakes to freeze and enjoy later.
    Thanks for sharing.

  20. T Wee says

    I was gifted both yellow crookneck squash & zucchini from my parents’ over-abundant garden & am not yet into the spirit of canning this year. When I googled “best squash cake recipe” I happened upon this site and the cake, coupled with your story (in particular the part about having to hide the veggies from your children as I am in the same predicament with my 4 lil ones), I was inspired to give it a try! I baked it exactly as your recipe dictates, except I mixed the crookneck & zucchini. Exactly at 50 mins., my cake came out of the oven, looking & smelling DEVINE! I wrestled a bit getting it out of the pan even tho I had greased AND floured the bottom. My kids rushed in to see the culprit of the delightful smell that had permeated the house & begun to drive them insane with anticipation. I shared the parts that clung to the baking dish with them & we all lamented over the fact that those crumbs were the moistest, delectable cake crumbs we’ve probably ever had and they were GONE all too quickly. We eyeballes the perfect cake sitting on the rack and debated letting it cool enough to frost or dive in NOW! I finally decided we should exercise some restraint and wait, because something told me when frostes this cake was going to be “if I knew I was gonna die what would I want for my final supper” worthy! LOL! And I was sooooo RIGHT! My 9, 5, 3 and 1 year old children helped me sample the first pieces cut from this enormous wonder which I presented to them as “Cinnamon Cake with Vanilla Frosting” (because they also have a cream cheese phobia), and we were all in heaven. Thank you so much for sharing both the recipe. AND the child-friendly tips. This is truly one of the best cakes I have ever eaten IN MY LIFE!

  21. Elena says

    Kelly,

    I made this cake last night and it was indeed fabulous! Extremely moist – I don’t think I ever made such a moist cake. I made it with coconut oil which added a lot more flavor than just any vegetable oil.

    Hands down this is the best zucchini/squash cake type of recipe I’ve tried. Congrats!

    Now the not so good:

    I cut down sugar in half and it was still a little too sweet. I always half the sugar in western recipes. FYI – same volume of sugar and flour means there is twice as much sugar as there is flour because sugar is twice as heavy. So, you are basically putting about 750gr of sugar per 400gr of flour and that is just ridiculous. Sorry, if I could find a way to be less harsh about this. People in the US are used to putting too much sugar in their recipes, they don’t even know it. But once they try a desert that’s not overly sweet, most people will say “oh, I like how it’s not too sweet”. Indian desert tend to be very sweet too, but the difference is that those deserts come in candy sized portions.

    I hope you’ll try this – you’ll be surprised!

  22. Cyndi says

    Made this cake last week. The kids are growing squash at their garden at school and bringing it home but they won’t eat it. This was perfect!! Although I will say with the icing it was waaay too sweet for adult tastes. I would probably make it as a bread next time and leave the frosting off. But a huge thumbs up for a moist, tasty way to sneak in squash. And beautiful photos too. Glad I discovered your blog!

  23. estrella gopez says

    It was good! Except that it came out too moist. And next time I need to lessen the sugar. Maybe 2 cups instead of 3 cups.

    I really need your advice re the seemingly excess moisture. If I can solve that, then this cake is perfect!

  24. Kelly says

    First, I would say that this is, in fact, a very moist cake. But if I was trying to reel back on the moisture the first thing I would look at is the squash. Squash is a very “wet” creature. If I wanted to cut back on the moisture, I would spread out the chopped squash on paper towels and sprinkle it with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. This should draw a lot of moisture out of the squash. You can then dab the squash with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture that doesn’t drip to the bottom. I would then omit any additional salt from the recipe or add only an additional 1/4 teaspoon. This would be my first line of defense if I found the cake too moist. It is an easy spot to get a little of the “wet” out without altering the chemistry of the recipe too much (like reducing the sugar could do). If you try this with the drained squash and less sugar, let us know how it turns out…I love the feedback and I know my readers love options to modify recipes to their needs. Thanks, Estrella…and I love your name!

  25. Kelly says

    Yes, Marsha. I’m glad you asked. I even changed the ingredient list to “finely chopped” to be more accurate. I think the only reason I didn’t grate it by hand is that chopping it in the food processor was so handy. But, yes…by all means!!

  26. Robyn says

    I made this today (along with squash cookies and squash fritters). My dad bought a gaggle of Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Patty Pan Squash from the farmer’s market. I used different kinds of yellow squash for this recipe. I used only 2 cups of sugar and it was plenty sweet, especially considering the frosting was super sweet. I used a cusinart mini food prep (processor) and got a REALLY fine chop on the squash. I used the skin and the seeds and everything! I think making the squash really fine helped it float throughout the cake and not sink to the bottom. I think using baking soda AND powder really helped with the lift. It was moist but NOT too dense. I actually looked up the exact squash types I used and I used 1 whole straight yellow squash and half of a yellow goose-neck squash. I found the goose-neck squash to be much drier and a little heartier and probably helped with the moisture. In the end I got a moist, but not too dense carrot-cake type quality result. I have to give serious compliments to you on your recipe as I got absolutely RAVE reviews. I do suggest letting it sit in the fridge for about an hour after frosting if you like your frosting a little more firm (it’s my personal preference).

  27. Alexandra says

    Just made it! It tastes lovely, nice sweet taste. I didn’t have grater so I used potato peeler and removed skin and sliced thin. Then blended it on high with mixer, so it broke up on its own. ^^ Eating frosting-less and taste fine.

  28. Charlotte says

    If you like this but are short on time, mix one boxed cake mix with one can (15 oz.) pumpkin. Spray a cake pan and pour the cake/pumpkin mixture in and smooth to even. Bake as directed (usually 350* F for 30 -45 min depending on your pan. Let cool. Dust with 10X (powdered) sugar and enjoy!

  29. Chris Mihelis says

    I made this cake last night and it is wonderful! Thank you for the recipe :)
    It reminds me of a cake my Mom used to make except she used chopped apples.

  30. Kelly says

    No I haven’t, Diane. I’m sorry. I’d love to hear if any other commentors have tried freezing it. It would be handy. Banana nut bread freezes well, if memory serves. But this might have more moisture than an average BNB. Hmmm. I’m going to think on this for a bit.

  31. tanya says

    I made the cake today, and put them into cupcakes. They took about 40 minutes to make 2 doz. Taking them tomorrow for a picnic, already sampling the batter and is very good, reminds me of an apple cake.

  32. Catie says

    Made a few adjustments: halved the sugar, added 1/2 t of nutmeg, used 1 1/2 c applesauce instead of oil, used 6 small yellow squash, peeled and shredded, and added pecans to the mix. I baked in loaf pans, for about 65 minutes at 350, and the batter was enough for two. Skipped the icing. Breads are easier for us to split up and grab on the go, so that’s why I changed it up a little. This was still super delicious and a great alternative to banana nut bread. Thank you so much!

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