the appetizer:

United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State by Warren Brown, includes recipes like Cassata Cake (Ohio); Sweet Potato Cake (Louisiana); Mud Cake (Mississippi); and Italian Meringue.


Sweet Potato Cake (Louisiana)

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake

Sweet Potato Cake (Louisiana)


I couldn't pass up the opportunity to create a cake with one of my favorite ingredients-the sweet potato. It's grown in such quantity in Louisiana that it has been named the state vegetable. Thanksgiving with my family always features my sister Lenora's delicious sweet potato puff, so my affection for this vitamin-rich tuber goes back to the days before I knew anything about cooking.

Now, before you go shopping, let's sort out the difference between the yam and the sweet potato. Unless you're at an international market with produce imported from Africa, South America, or the Caribbean, anything labeled a yam is in fact a sweet potato. I buy Garnet and Jewel sweet potatoes all the time and used to think they were true yams. Occasionally, marketers may use the "yam" label to try to differentiate their produce from "sweet potatoes" that have tan skin and a whitish flesh but aren't as sweet as the Garnet or Jewel. I use the Jewel variety because the flesh is soft and the flavor is mild. If you want a more intense flavor, select the Garnet.

I've paired this cake with Canned-Milk Cream Cheese Frosting, which is creamier than regular cream cheese frosting and has the distinctive taste of evaporated milk. It's not to be missed.

Ingredient Amount
Sweet potatoes 20 ounces, about 5 medium potatoes
Unsalted butter, for rubbing potatoes 2-1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons)
Buttermilk 1/2 cup
Vanllla extract 1 teaspoon
Dry Ingredients
Ingredient Amount
All-purpose flour 10 ounces (2 cups)
Potato starch 1 ounce (3 tablespoons)
Baking soda 1/2 teaspoon
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Nutmeg, freshly grated 1/2 teaspoon
Cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
Pecans, lightly roasted and chopped 5-1/2 ounces (1-1/2 cups)
Creaming Ingredients
Ingredient Amount
Unsalted butter 8 ounces (1 cup)
Superfine granulated sugar 16 ounces (2 cups)
Dark brown sugar 4 ounces (3/4 cup)
Whole eggs 3
Egg yolks 2
For the Canned Milk Cream Cheese Frosting
Ingredient Amount
Cream cheese 8 ounces
Unsalted butter 3 ounces (6 tablespoons)
Light brown sugar, packed 4 ounces (1/2 cup)
Confectioners' sugar, sifted 12 ounces (3 cups)
Evaporated milk 1/4 cup
Salt pinch
Orange juice 1 tablespoon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place the rack in the middle position.

2. Rinse and pierce each sweet potato a few times with a fork, rub it with about 1 tablespoon of butter, and wrap in foil. Roast until tender, about 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 335 degrees F. Grease two 9-by-2-inch round pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

3. When the sweet potatoes are cool, scoop the flesh out and puree it in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

4. Combine the potato puree (it should be about 2 cups), buttermilk, and vanilla in a bowl; combine the dry ingredients except the pecans in another bowl. Set aside.

5. Cream the remaining 8 ounces of butter and the sugars in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes.

6. Add the eggs followed by the yolks, one at a time. Let each incorporate before adding the next.

7. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the sweet potato mixture about a third at a time without pausing between additions.

8. Stop the mixer and fold in the pecans using a flexible spatula.

9. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs.

10. Leave the cakes in the pans until the pans are cool enough to handle, then invert onto a rack. Use an offset spatula to release the cakes, if necessary.

11. While the cakes are cooling, whip the cream cheese in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

12. Add the butter and brown sugar and mix until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat at high speed for 3 minutes.

13. Add the evaporated milk, salt, and orange juice. Beat thoroughly for 2 to 3 minutes.

14. Allow the cakes to cool completely before using the frosting to assemble a layer cake.


The Big Easy's Big Treats

Beignets. To make beignets, flat pieces of yeasty dough, 2 to 3 inches square, are quickly deep fried until golden and puffy. These forerunners of the raised doughnut are served hot, generously sprinkled with powdered sugar, and ideally paired with café au lait made with chicory coffee. The beignet was declared Louisiana's state doughnut in 1986.

Pralines. While the word "praline" in France refers generally to candy made with nuts, in New Orleans it's the name of a distinctive confection made with brown sugar, granulated sugar, pecans, cream, and butter. The "prah-lean," as it's referred to locally, is sold throughout New Orleans but is especially associated with the French quarter.

Bananas Foster. This luscious dessert was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans. Bananas are cooked with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon; dark rum and banana liqueur are added to the pan and then ignited; and the bananas and sauce are served over ice cream. The dessert, with its dramatic flambé, is often prepared tableside.

Gâteau de Sirop. The gâteau de sirop IS a Cajun classic, made with rich, dark cane syrup—like Steen's 100% Pure Cane Syrup, the favored Southern Louisiana brand. Similar to gingerbread, this dense, moist cake (often called pain masse) is served plain, with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream, or drizzled with cane syrup.


State the Facts

The first book to focus on the Creole cooking of New Orleans was written by Lafcadio Hearn in 1885.

The sweet potato, a native American crop, was the primary food consumed by soldiers during the Revolutionary War.


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This page created January 2011