I have to say that I’ve never thought of using sweet potatoes beyond the holiday side dish with marshmallow topping or in pie form, so making sweet potato cornbread a few weeks ago was an eye opener for me. Now I’m really into looking for other recipes that I can make with a sweet potatoes. I immediately thought of pancakes, waffles, scones or cookies, but I just wasn’t in the mood. Since I haven’t made a cake in a while, I thought about making a sweet potato cake. But what kind of frosting? Cream cheese? Buttercream? Nope! Brown sugar! I’m going to make a sweet potato pecan cake with brown sugar frosting.
My goal was to make a cake that wasn’t heavily spiced and would really let the sweet potato shine. I think I accomplished my goal. The cake was very light and moist, with a flavor very reminiscent of a sweet potato pie. The frosting turned out surprisingly light and fluffy after whipping it for what seemed like hours. I really liked making a frosting with brown sugar. It brought a deep earthiness to the cake without being overly sweet and blended well with the pecans. Miles even liked it and he’s a red velvet cake fan! I think this cake would be perfect to serve anytime of the year. I just need to reprogram myself into thinking of sweet potatoes as a holiday veggie.
Sweet Potato Cake with Pecans and Brown Sugar Frosting
for the cake
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2½ cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes, cooled (about 2-3 large sweet potatoes)
- 1 cup whole buttermilk
- ½ cup pecans (chopped + 20 to 30 pecan halves)
for the frosting
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted)
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
make the cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with baking parchment and butter the top of those too.
- Place the pecans (both chopped and half pieces) on in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until deep brown and fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Stir at least once while baking. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a mixer, beat together butter and sugar on medium-high for 4-5 minutes until creamy, stopping to scrape down bowl at least twice. Gradually add beaten eggs. Beat on medium-high for 1-2 minutes until fluffy, scraping down bowl as needed. Add vanilla and sweet potatoes and beat until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed (scraping down the bowl is important stuff, y’all).
- Add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with buttermilk. Beat on low speed until just incorporated, scraping down bowl as needed.
- Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake at 350-degrees F for 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack to cool completely.
make the frosting
- In a bowl of a mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light, fluffy, and smooth. Add salt. On low speed gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, until incorporated. Add in the vanilla and milk and increase the speed to medium-high. Beat until very light and fluffy. Add more milk and sugar as needed for desired consistency.
assemble the cake
- Spread 1/3 of the frosting on the bottom layer of the cake. Sprinkle chopped pecans on top. Place second cake layer on top and spread the remaining frosting on top and sides (if desired) of cake. Place pecan halves on the top of cake.