Butternut Cupcakes with Cardamom Buttercream

Butternut Cupcake with Cardamom Buttercream

Can I call these cupcakes?  They are really very moist, lightly sweetened muffins, topped with a wonderfully spiced buttercream and a sprinkling of chopped almonds.  Enjoy all the flavors as they unfold without feeling overpowered by the sweetness that so many of the “other” cupcakes fall prey to.  These golden cakes are the essence of fall, and will satisfy the young and old.

My six-year-old has a class party tomorrow where they are carving pumpkins and having store-bought treats during lunchtime.  Between being on the full GAPS diet and Halloween coming, we have been talking a lot about what he might like to have in exchange for all those candies and treats.  We have already made deals to trade his candy for quarters, and even a new toy.  But even then, sometimes, your cute, freckly little boy just wants a really tasty treat.  These cupcakes are perfect for the occasion.

Ever since Cara at Health, Home and Happiness posted this recipe, I have been making those muffins every week or so.  They are not too sweet, and have a more delicate flavor than you might think with the bolder spices of autumn running through it.  They are delicious for breakfast, warmed up and melting with a generous pat of butter.  Oh, and a glass of raw milk (find raw milk near you here).  I am also positive that they would be amazing with a spicy cup of chai tea with cream.  But for M’s party, I wanted to jazz them up a little bit by adding my own homemade buttercream.  The result was honestly better than I had imagined.

When you consider yourself a real foodie, the difference between a muffin and a cupcake tends to narrow down, because we tend to end up with lower sugar content in our homemade recipes.  Usually the difference between a cupcake and muffin is explained this way: muffins are bread-like and cupcakes are cake-like.  To me, this basically means that cupcakes have more sugar in them.  Since I have nothing to prove by adding more honey to a perfectly balanced muffin recipe, I now declare these muffins to be cupcakes!  (And also because I am going to put frosting on them.)

Butternut Cupcakes

1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, softened (buy coconut oil here)
6 eggs, preferably pastured
2 inches fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
3 tablespoons coconut flour (buy coconut flour here)
2 cups almond flour (buy almond flour here)
1 1/2 cups pureed butternut squash
1/3 cup raw honey (buy honey here)
1 teaspoon sea salt (buy sea salt here)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (buy cinnamon here)
1 teaspoon vanilla (buy vanilla extract here)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine soft butter, eggs, ginger root, and coconut flour.  Using an immersion blender, blend well until all the clumps from the coconut flour are gone.
  2. Now add the almond flour, butternut squash puree, honey, salt, cinnamon and vanilla.  Mix well, until just incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and give one last stir to make the batter uniform.
  3. Butter a muffin pan generously, then fill each cup with a paper liner (buy paper liners here).  Using a large ice cream scoop, spoon heaping scoops of batter into each paper liner.
  4. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the middle of the cupcakes are set when you jiggle the pan.  Let cool completely in the pan, set on a cooking rack.  Loosen with a knife, and gently remove.

Cardamom Buttercream

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or palm shortening, softened (buy palm shortening here, buy butter here)
1/3 cup raw set* honey (buy set honey here)
1 teaspoon cardamom (buy cardamom here)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (buy cinnamon here)
1 pinch nutmeg (buy nutmeg here)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (buy vanilla extract here)
1/4 almonds, finely chopped, preferably soaked and dehydrated (or buy soaked/dehydrated nuts here)

  1. In a large bowl, combine softened butter with honey with a hand mixer on medium.  Beat until fluffy.  Add cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.  Mix well.
  2. If desired, you can make the frosting even fluffier by putting the frosting bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes, then mixing on high one more time.
  3. Use to frost the butternut cupcakes, smoothing to create a lovely pattern.  Top with finely chopped almonds, if desired.
*Set honey is thick and spreadable, not thin enough to pour.
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  1. These look incredible! Thanks for sharing on Fresh Bites Friday, Kendahl! I make a butternut squash muffin that is crazy good, but I never thought about putting buttercream on top (and cardamom buttercream-swoon!). I know what I’ll be making this weekend 🙂

    • Wonderful! I’m so glad to have found your carnival too 🙂 And I hope they turn out marvelous. It’s always nice to impress everyone with a delicious treat that isn’t all that common. Everyone who has tried these cupcakes has freaked out a little, in a good way.

  2. Does M’s school let you bring homemade treats? I was just at the grocery store trying to figure out something less processed for Asher’s class party. Sigh…

    • They only let me bring homemade treats for M, but not to share. So he was pretty happy with his cupcake and his GAPS cookies. I should have also brought chocolate buttercream for him to use to decorate it, but he was okay decorating one for fun with conventional frosting, and then eating one plain. Plus we got to play together and carve a pumpkin!

    • Oh, and the best luck I have had finding something storebought that’s good for a class party is cookie dough from the Whole Foods bakery. That way they’re a little cheaper and you can just bake them off and they’re “store-bought”. But if your teacher isn’t comfortable with that, you could always just get something already baked from WF or Trader Joe’s. TJ’s has some awesome cookies! (But they are, sadly, still not even close to GAPS-legal).

  3. These sound scrumptious! I love squash in all forms. And cardamom! I recently discovered it’s many uses and it is fantastic.

    • Tell me more about these uses, because I am loving cardamom in this frosting. Plus, in the frosting everything is raw. So raw butter, raw honey, and raw spices could be quite tasty AND beneficial. I need to try pairing it with chocolate somehow…

      • I made these cupcakes tonight and they are currently tied with my favorite dessert of all-time: Carrot Halva, which also uses cardamom. I’ll be posting the carrot halva recipe on the blog soon, so you’ll have another use for cardamom! Cardamom is my favorite dessert spice! 🙂 Thank you so much for posting this recipe!! I love it!

  4. Jennifer J says:

    Those sound delicious! Do you have any suggestions for substituting the almond flour? We have severe peanut and treenut allergies (but can use coconut flour) and I’m forever wishing I could make some of these yummy baked goods that call for almond flour.

    • Do you have issues with grain, like allergies, etc.? If not, it generally works to use a 1:1 ratio and switch it to sprouted flour. The sprouting helps neutralize the phytic acid, making it more digestible. You can soak your own wheat berries (like a soft white wheat), then dehydrate it and grind it like normal wheat berries. Or you can buy it here: http://www.ournourishingroots.com/resources/#flours and see how it goes. I love sprouted flour, and I look forward to getting back to using it when we’re all done with GAPS.

      • Jennifer J says:

        Thank you! I appreciate your help! We have gluten intolerance, but maybe some other kind of sprouted grain flour would work. Oooh… maybe quinoa. That is fabulous resource. Thanks for sharing the link.

        • Wow, sprouted quinoa, what a great idea! I hadn’t even thought of that (GAPS doesn’t allow quinoa, but after you “finish” GAPS it’s one of the first grain-like things GAPS folks try).

  5. These look amazing! If I don’t have coconut flour, is there a substitution I should make? Thank you!

    • The only substitution I have heard works is that 1 cup almond/sprouted flour = 1/3 cup of coconut flour. This is because coconut flour is really fibrous, so you have to use a lot of eggs to lift it. So if you change the coconut flour, then you also need to alter the eggs. Use 3 eggs for every 1/3 cup of coconut flour.

  6. Why are you allowed to supply store bought food for the class but not homemade???

    • I think it’s a liability issue. Homemade food is unregulated you know *eyeroll*. But I get it. They’ve probably been sued over things like that. But at least I can make sure M gets good food, it’s all I can do.

  7. Those look sooooo good!! I’m going to pin these so I don’t forget about them. I def want to make these soon.

  8. Cannot wait to try these. I just put up pureed butternut last weekend so I am all set! Just a question: do you have a “print” button on your recipes, and if not, would you consider that in the future, perhaps? Love your site. Thanks for the beautiful recipes.

    • I really should get a print button, huh? I noticed one on another site just this week and thought that I need to start looking for a widget. And thank you for reading. I’m glad you like it here 🙂

  9. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I’ve been a cake decorator for over 20 years and I’ve recently switched to the WAPF diet/Traditional Foods diet…and could not figure out how to make a buttercream that was still light and fluffy (palm shortening didn’t really work for my half shortening/half butter recipe substitution). Your buttercream recipe should work (it’s not super hot here except for a few weeks during the summer) and I have raw honey in the pantry. Can’t wait to try it!

    • Yes, this works pretty well. I use grass-fed butter, so it’s creamier than other butters. And my set raw honey is pretty thick (I get a local one that I know sets up nicely in frosting). Then, depending on how hot it is, I might need to refrigerate it, even after I frost the cake/cupcakes. But that’s not so bad. My son’s birthday is in the summer, and I just do the refrigerator technique with the buttercream, then I keep the cake in the fridge until 30 minutes before we cut it. 30 minutes is perfect timing, it’s not too cold, but not totally warmed up and drooping. I’m glad you like it!

  10. Recipe looks great! One question though: in the batter recipe- you say 1/4 cup butter or 1 stick. However 1 stick is usually 1/2 cup. Just wondering what was intended 🙂

  11. These look absolutely yummy, and I love that you have a healthier version of frosting. I’ve been on the hunt for healthier versions of sweets to introduce to extended family and at school. We are allowed to bring homemade treats to school even though there are kids with peanut and nut allergies. I’d be happy to have a go-to recipe to ensure all the kids in the class get to join in the treat.

    Almost forgot to add that cardamom is a favorite spice of mine. I make Swedish Christmas Bread from The Angry Chicken at Christmas time and it has cardamom in it.

  12. This recipe looks amazing! Have you tried it as a loaf bread instead of muffins? Would I need to make any adjustments?

  13. Unfortunately, these did not turn out well for me. They are a nice texture to eat, but they didn’t rise AT ALL. It might be because I used coconut oil instead of butter in the batter, and I also used homemade almond flour (with soaked/dehydrated almonds) which was not very finely ground. Why do you not have baking soda/powder in the recipe? Would that help it rise?
    Also, I used palm oil in the frosting instead of butter… and this… is… amazing. Such a beautiful color! And so delicious 🙂

    • I’m guessing it’s the coarser almond flour. Because I usually make these without any leavener and they rise well enough. But you could definitely add baking soda/powder and it will help, especially if you would like to use the homemade almond flour. I have also heard (but haven’t confirmed myself) that using a stoneware cupcake pan can help them rise much more.

      (If you are on GAPS baking soda isn’t GAPS-legal but I see a lot of people eat it anyways. And baking powder has cornstarch in it, so that’s why it isn’t GAPS-legal.)

      • Thanks Kendahl! I love your website, and look forward to experimenting with this recipe so that I can successfully use homemade almond flour.

  14. These were amazing! I tried out this recipe, and we just died and went to heaven! LOVE!

  15. These sound so incredible! I love anything with cardamom, these really look and sound fantastic.

  16. Do you think this would work with soaked almond flour? I know that’s usually a game changer and I don’t have alot of successful experience converting recipes to soaked flours. I’m looking for a good cupcake recipe for my one year olds birthday party, but I’m thinking it would be best for her sensitive tummy to have soaked flour and I want something that others will enjoy as well!

  17. Hi Kendahl!

    Might you be able to tell me the measurements to substitute wheat flour, instead of the almond and coconut flours?

    Thank you!


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