Kabocha Cupcakes

What’ s kabocha, you say. It may sound strange but kabocha cupcakes are to die for, especially baked fresh, in the middle of winter. Kabocha are a type of Japanese winter squash or pumpkin. I wouldn’t have normally headed for a dessert recipe right after my cooking hiatus, however, I came across a mini pumpkin/sort of squash in the kitchen pantry and decided to make something of it.

Squash or Pumpkin is so simple to bake – and with this recipe, even simpler. I adapted the recipe from the Willams Sonoma Eat Well cookbook. In standard fashion, I made a few changes to the recipe to suit my taste.  I used a small pumpkin in place of kabocha (since that’s what I found in the pantry and the flavors are pretty close). I replaced the milk with orange juice (simply because I did not want to use milk). I replaced granulated white sugar with organic brown sugar – which simply means that sugar is mixed with molasses. Molasses is one of those tastes that you either like or you don’t. I personally think it adds a certain warmth and heartiness. I added some chopped pecans to most of the cupcakes, for variety and texture. I also added a small quantity of lightly roasted ground star anise, which adds a hint of licorice to the cupcakes! This may also sound peculiar but there’s something fragrantly addicting about the scent of star anise.


  • 1 kabocha (or another squash/pumpkin, about 2 lbs)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (used brown sugar instead)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground lightly roasted star anise
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk (used orange juice instead)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Then lightly oil a pan and place the pumpkin halves cut side down on the pan. I also lightly oiled the outside of each pumpkin half to ensure each did not dry out while baking. Bake until very soft, about 45 -60 minutes. Remove from oven, peel, mash or puree and measure out approximately 1 cup.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, vaniila and the mashed squash/pumpkin. In a second bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and salt. Stir flour mixture into squash mixture, then add the orange juice. Mix until well blended.

Spoon into a muffin/cupcake pan lined with cupcake holders. Fill each cupcake holder until it is about 80%-90% full (try to evenly split the batter between 12 cupcakes). In about half or all the cupcakes, drop chopped pecans on top before placing in the oven. Bake for approx. 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees F, until a toothpick or knife inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.

To frost about half the cupcakes, mix the following together until smooth:

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp lemon juice

Spread onto cupcakes and serve a variety of nutty, frosted and plain cupcakes.


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