If you’re looking for a great healthy smash cake recipe, you know how hard it can be to find one that actually tastes good AND looks good. But after having four kids, I’ve finally settled on a butternut squash cake recipe that I LOVE.
And if you’re like me, you’ve spent the last year obsessing over making sure your baby gets healthy food. So why ruin it now? They can have a special treat that they’ll love (and isn’t a sugar bomb).
RELATED: Why we love baby led weaning
Healthy smash cake recipes I’ve made in the past for my other 3 kids have honestly been kind of dry and/or dense, but this one is moist, flavorful, and has a much lighter texture. I may or may not have eaten the leftovers myself, it was so good.
This recipe, which uses maple syrup and butternut squash puree to sweeten it, is just sweet enough to taste amazing without overloading your baby on sugar. And the cinnamon and nutmeg adds a subtle spice to this cake.
Want to make your smash cake with a fox theme? Check out the post below.
RELATED: Easy fox smash cake tutorial
The great thing is, this cake is super simple to make too. My daughters helped me make the batter. They were so excited to bake their baby brother’s smash cake.
RELATED: Best kitchen tools for kids
RELATED: Stress-free cooking with kids
And yes, my little guy loved it. After all, he loves butternut squash!
If you want a step-by-step healthy smash cake tutorial with pictures, keep reading. If you’d rather skip straight to the recipe, click here.
What size should a smash cake be?
Of course, the size of a smash cake is up to you, but I tend to make a smaller cake (since it may be destroyed so much that only your baby gets any). This recipe makes
two three 4 inch rounds, so you can either make a two-tier cake or you can get creative to make a shaped cake.
To make 4 inch rounds, I love my little springform pans like these. They are easy to get cakes out of without damaging them.
How to make this butternut squash cake
This cake uses less sweetener and no white sugar, letting the natural sweetness of the squash shine through.
First, you mix maple syrup with olive oil, then you beat three eggs in.
After that, mix your dry ingredients together – flour (I used a mix of all-purpose and almond, but you can use just AP flour, whole wheat flour, or a mix), leavening agents, and spices.
Whatever you use, mixing your dry ingredients before putting them in the wet ones helps you make sure everything is completely mixed. And if you sift your flour, it will help your cake’s texture too.
Next, you fold the dry ingredients into the wet, and then fold in the squash.
Before you add the batter to the pan, draw a circle on parchment paper (using your pan as a stencil) and cut it out.
Butter the inside surface of your pans, then stick your parchment paper circle to the butter. Finally, butter the parchment paper and flour the pans. This will keep your cake from sticking.
Full disclosure, I should have divided this cake into 3 pans. But I made the batter fit (barely) into two. Jiggle the pans gently to settle the batter before putting the cakes in the oven.
My cakes took over 30 minutes to bake, but I suspect if you put the right amount of batter in the pans it would take less time. Whoops.
Either way, take your cakes out of the pan and put them on a cooling rack to cool completely before decorating.
I trimmed my cakes to remove all that extra poofiness at the top. Cake balls all around!
Icing for a smash cake
There’s lots of ways you can make icing for your smash cake. For this cake, I used cream cheese and butter with a little maple syrup and vanilla added and it turned out great.
Greek yogurt also makes a good smash cake frosting (although it’s not as firm as regular icing. If you’re okay with adding powdered sugar to stiffen it, chilled full fat coconut milk can be used for a dairy-free icing.
Decorating your smash cake
When you frost your cake, do yourself a favor and put strips of parchment paper under the cake before frosting. It will help you not make a mess on the plate below.
A thin layer of frosting (called a crumb coat) can be done first to keep crumbs from peeking through, then you can complete frosting your cake.
When you’re done, just pull the parchment strips out. Voila! Beautiful cake.
Natural dyes for smash cakes
I prefer not to have artificial dyes in my baby’s smash cake. After all, if I’ve gone to all the extra trouble of making a healthy cake, I don’t want to ruin it in the end by adding food coloring!
But if I want to decorate a cake with color, that means I have to be a little extra creative.
I’ve made my own food coloring in the past (I’ve used beets for pink, red cabbage for blue, and turmeric for yellow). I’m a chemist by training, so I get a kick out of making food dyes. But I also realize that 1. some of these methods work better than others and 2. it’s a lot of work and mess to make your own dyes.
For my baby’s birthday, I made a little fox cake. I mixed some squash into the frosting to make it orange. I added a little turmeric too so I could enhance the color without thinning it too much.
And I needed a little brown or black for the eyes and nose, so I used some cocoa I had on hand.
(If I had some black cocoa powder I would have preferred it, but I just used what I had.)
Either way, it came out adorbs!
BTW, if you want to make this fox smash cake (it’s easy!), here’s how to do it.
If you have more sense than I do, you’ll likely prefer this food dye kit. It has blue, yellow, and red so you can mix to get any secondary color you want (NOTE: If you bake with these dyes, they’ll lose color and turn more dull. Just use them in frosting and icing).
Healthy butternut squash smash cake recipe
Yields three 4-in. cakes. Full disclosure, I used the same amount of batter to make 2 cakes, and they poofed out of the pan a lot. I should have divided the batter into 3 pans.
Based on this recipe with a few swaps and less syrup. I’ll be honest, I just used the almond flour because I was low on all-purpose flour and wasn’t up to taking 4 little kids to the grocery store by myself that day. So if you prefer to use all AP flour or even whole wheat, that’s fine too.
Butternut squash cake
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 eggs (ideally room temp)
2 Tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup pureed butternut squash (canned pumpkin would be fine too)
Cream cheese icing
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons salted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (for barely sweet icing. You might want 3 Tbsp.)
For orange color: Add pureed squash until color is what you want.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut out 2 parchment paper circles to fit in the bottom of your pans. Butter your cake pans, and then stick the parchment paper circles to the butter. Butter the parchment paper, and finally dust both pans with flour.
Mix together oil and syrup, and then beat in eggs one at a time. Finally, beat in yogurt.
In a separate bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Gently fold dry ingredients into wet (don’t over-mix!), and then mix in squash puree.
Pour batter into the
two three 4 inch pans and gently jiggle pans to even out the batter (pans will be very full if you use 2 pans). Bake for 25-35 minutes if you put the batter in 2 pans, or 18-20 minutes if you used 3 pans, or until tester toothpick comes out clean.
To make frosting, simply beat ingredients together until smooth.
Allow cakes to cool completely (you can put them in the fridge to speed up the process) before decorating.