Butternut Squash Muffins and Dreaming of Spring

Seed catalogs are starting to jostle for space in my mail box and I couldn’t be happier. They offer me the opportunity to mentally check-out on winter for a while and do some virtual gardening. I do this by curling up with a glass of wine, paper and pencil and devising my springtime plan of attack for the kitchen garden and flower beds.
My garden isn’t very big, but I still manage to drag the planning process out for a few evenings: hashing over the layout, remembering what thrived last summer (and what barely survived), and haggling over decisions like purple or Thai basil.

After all the deliberation (and a few glasses of wine!) I’ve decided I’m going to do things a little differently this year. Instead of using valuable garden space for my herbs, I’m going to make a movable herb garden with pots and planters on our new deck. That is how I used to do it on the tiny back balcony when we lived downtown and my basil was never so nice. Not only will it look gorgeous and free up more space for the pea patch, but the close proximity to the kitchen will be ideal for scampering out barefoot and gathering snippets to add to meals.

One of my Christmas presents from Danny was Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, Jamie at Home. It could have also been titled The Naked Chef Gets Dirty, as he’s up to his elbows in garden soil for most of the book. With recipes inspired by his own love affair with gardening, this is a cookbook I can really get into. It’s divided into seasons and features over a hundred recipes using simple fresh garden produce. There are also pages of gardening tips scattered throughout that I hope to put to practical use this summer.

Come on spring! We’re ready for you anytime.

These muffins were the first recipe I tried from my new cookbook. Really, they should be titled cupcakes instead of muffins, but they were lovely no matter what their name. Moist and flavorful, they reminded me of a really decent carrot cake–only better.

Jamie Oliver’s Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top
makes 12 – 16 muffins

14 ounces butternut squash, seeded and roughly chopped
2 & 1/4 cups light brown sugar
4 large free-range or organic eggs
pinch of salt
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
2 heaping tablespoons baking powder
handful of chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Frosted Cream Topping:
1 clementine, zested
1 lemon, zested
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a food processor, buzz the butternut squash until finely chopped. Add the sugar and eggs. Buzz in a pinch of salt, the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and olive oil and mix until well beaten. Scrape the sides if needed, and mix only until everything is well combined.
(Aimee’s note: if you don’t have a food processor, just grate the squash on a box cheese grater, transfer to a bowl and mix everything in by hand. This works just as well.)

Fill a regular sized muffin tin lined with paper cups until each cup is just over 3/4 full. Cook 20 – 25 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool on a wire rack.

For the topping:
Place the zest and lemon juice in a bowl. Add the sour cream, the sifted confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and mix well. Taste, and adjust the sweet and sour accordingly. Keep in the fridge until ready to top the muffins. If you like, sprinkle the topped muffins with a little more orange zest and lavender flowers.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. These look so delicious. Beautiful pictures too.

  2. i like that… “the naked chef gets dirty”… made me giggle.

    i cant wait for your garden to grow, i remember last year being green-with envy- over your veggies.

  3. I love the pink cake stand:) The muffins are darling!!

  4. I’m with you – going to try to grow herbs in pots this year and see how it goes!

    The spread on the muffins is GORGEOUS. It make me think of Eastery! And I love the pink cake plate!

  5. Those are so pretty and sound delicious!!!

  6. I’m ready for spring, too! And can we talk about these cupcakes? They look amazing! I can only imagine how moist and flavorful they must be. You did a gorgeous job!

  7. I’m ready for Spring too! Enough with the cold.

    These muffins look great!

  8. OMG, that cupcakes look so beautiful. I bet they are delicious too.

  9. Only Jamie would have thought to put squash in a cupcake! He probably has one with “beautiful garden greens!” as well. 🙂 Love that guy!

  10. I’ve had good luck with a number of recipes from that book, but never tied this one.

  11. Hi M.Houseman- Thank you!

    Hi Abigail- That makes two of us. I want to get out there!

    Hi Maria- it’s my favorite stand…

    Hi Abby- you’re right, it is kind of Eastery. G/L with your herbs.

    Hi Jennifer- Thank you!Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Elyse- Thanks! Yes,they came out rather pretty.

    Hi Brilynn- Seriously, eh?

    Hi Elra- Thank you!

    Hi culinarywannabe- Another Jamie fan? Sweet.

    Hi Cheryl- Isn’t it great?

  12. That makes me want to start an herb garden. We almost always used dried herbs, just because we do not grow our own and it is too expensive to buy fresh ones. I have heard it is easy to grow herbs, and you have given me some inspiration to try because I must admit, my thumb is not very green!

  13. I will have to try these soon, I have 5 buternut squash making me feel guilty in the basement. Thursday is pick-up day for my CSA and I get 2 more!!

    I was perusing garden catalogs and stumbled upon a meyer lemon tree. I have been happily dreaming of it ever since and ignoring the white dust piled up outside.


  14. I love the idea of having all the herbs close at hand Aimee.

  15. I've seen a similar version of this recipe before & have wanted to try it for a long while now. They look beautiful! And just a sprinkle of the lavender is plenty… too much and you're eating plants!

  16. Oh my goodness I’ll have to make these b/c I adore butternut squash.

  17. OMG! I can’t wait for spring to get here…but then again where I live it was 90* yesterday!

    I gave you an award over on my blog! Happy Wednesday!

  18. Hi Taylor- Thanks for stopping by! Stick around, maybe I’ll share some tips come spring!

    Hi Robin- Dreamy indeed, I would love to be able to grow citrus.

    Hi Val- Of course you would! Girl after my own heart!

    Hi RecipeGirl- Yes, a light hand is key to using lavender.

    Hi Olivia- You’ll love them!

    Hi Tonja- How exciting! Thank you!

  19. Thanks for your sweet comment on my blog. I’m sorry to say this is the first time I’ve actually checked yours out. Being a personal friend of hers, I of course read Simple Mom every day, but I never jumped over to yours.
    Your blog looks very “yummy” and insightful and I look forward to reading more. :o)

  20. The muffins look delicious.. like a lil taste of Thanksgiving.

  21. This post has me excited for spring – and for some muffins!

  22. I don’t know, I’m still enjoying walks outside, in the snow, wearing my snow suit and everything. Don’t laugh, I’m serious! 😉 Maybe if I HAD space for a garden I’d be looking forward to spring. Ah, well, I guess I’ll live vicariously through you. 🙂 Those muffins sound like something I could eat a dozen of, right now!

  23. I love Jamie Oliver! I am too the aspiring gardener and he definitely makes getting dirty look like so much fun! The muffins look delicious!

    Oh and from the next post! I am so with you on all the points of food bloggers. That could not be more accurate!

  24. Your seed catalogue brought back cherished visions of myself when I had a very big garden patch to tend to. Those were great moments.

    Now to having shared this squash muffin/cupcake recipe…thanks very much becuase I'm always looking for new ways to use one of my favourites — Butternut. I may even use the 'Buttercup' variety for a different twist ;o)

    I'm glad I stopped by…you seem to have a real joy for food.

    Flavourful wishes,

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