Chai Butternut Squash Bundt Cake

Recently, I acquired a smashing little magazine: "Bake From Scratch" (Fall 2016 edition). What lured me in was the cover photo showcasing a lovely chai butternut squash bundt cake. Flipping through the contents, I was delighted by the number of promising recipes. Usually, you get a magazine and there may be one or two items that are appetizing. This edition, however, had pages of tasty ideas. Sold!

The first thing I baked, naturally, was the chai bundt cake. It's a basic bundt mix with the addition of butternut squash for moisture and sweetness. If you cannot find butternut squash, you could use pumpkin puree or sweet potato in a pinch. The real flavor comes from a healthy tablespoon of loose chai tea leaves. I simply took a bag of one of my favorite at-home tea blends from Celestial Seasonings  (thanks Sulava), cut it open, and added the looseleaf mix.

What makes this recipe unique is the swirl of cream cheese in the middle and walnut topping. Personally, I don't think you necessarily NEED these two elements but they do compliment the cake very well. The cream cheese is like a built in cup of milk and creates a latte effect. Personally, I never drink chai tea with straight water - it needs to be made with some form of milk to take the edge of all the spices. 

The topping adds a textural dimension with the crunch of the walnuts. They are coated in a combination of light corn syrup, maple syrup, a little unsalted butter, and vanilla extract. If you don't like walnuts, I would skip this step and simply have some maple syrup on the side.

This is a bundt full of flavors so do not serve to those faint of heart - test it on house guests who love cinnamon, cardamom, and fall fun. We certainly enjoyed it and hope you do as well!

Chai Butternut Squash Bundt Cake
from Bake From Scratch
Makes 1 (10 Cup) Bundt Cake

*Note: I halved the recipe for my 6 cup pan and it worked out perfect

1 Tablespoon (5 grams) loose leaf chai leaves
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups (525 grams) granulated sugar, DIVIDED
4 large eggs, DIVIDED
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) plus 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour, DIVIDED
1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
1 cup (260 grams) cooked and mashed butternut squash
1/2 cup whole milk
1 Tablespoon orange zest

Bake the butternut squash until tender (I like to roast in oven for about an hour and a half in the oven); allow it to cool then mash. Can be made up two days in advance and stored in the fridge in an air tight container. 

In a spice grinder, grind the chai leaves until finely ground; optional if your mix is already ground. Set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add 1/2 cup (105 grams) sugar and beat until combined. Add 1 egg and 1 Tablespoon flour. Beat until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325. Spray bundt pan with baking spray.

In a large bowl , beat butter, vanilla, and remaining 2 cups of sugar at medium speed until fluffy, 4-5 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl as needed. Add remaining 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, whisk together tea, baking soda, salt, and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour.  In another bowl, combine squash, milk, and zest. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with squash mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until just combined after each addition

Spoon three-fourths of batter into prepared pan. Make a deep will in the center of the batter with the back of a spoon and pour in cream cheese mixture. Gently spoon in remaining batter on top, spreading until smooth.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Serve with Walnut Sauce (recipe below).

Walnut Sauce
makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup (96 grams) chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small sauce pan, bring corn syrup and maple syrup to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in butter, vanilla, and walnuts. Let cool.