Sweet Potato Spice Cake with Maple Pecans and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
I know everyone is obsessed with pumpkin, but I really think sweet potato might be the way to go. It's really similar to pumpkin but just adds a little more flavor. Maybe it's because I refuse to use canned pumpkin, but pumpkin has always seemed kind of watery to me. Sweet potato, on the other hand, is nice and thick and creamy all on it's own. Plus, sweet potatoes are just easier to cook! I actually used leftover mashed sweet potatoes for this cake, which made it even easier. If you do use leftover though, make sure they don't have any weird spices in them. The ones I used had a little milk, butter, and salt added. The recipe I used actually started as a pumpkin cake recipe, I subbed in mashed sweet potato one for one and made a few other small changes. I used all brown sugar because well, mostly I just like it better. I swapped out part of the vegetable oil for butter because every cake should have at least some butter. And, I used a little less cinnamon and left out the ginger, because I wanted that sweet potato flavor to really come through and not be masked by strong spices. I think a lot of times "pumpkin" baked goods really just end up tasting like "spice". I think the spices are important to complement the pumpkin, or in this case the sweet potato flavor, but it's easy to overpower it and I don't want that!
Sweet Potato Spice Cake Layers (adapted from cakebycourtney.com)
I used two extra deep 6" pans, filled them about 2/3 full and made a couple cupcakes with the leftover batter. You could also use two 8" pans.
2 cups packed brown light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt (if your sweet potatoes have salt in them you may want to cut this down)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray and flour your pans.
2. Beat the eggs and sugar together until fluffy. Add the oil and melted butter and beat until combined. Add the sweet potato and vanilla and again beat until combined.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sweet potato mixture. Mix just until combined.
4. Pour the batter into your prepared pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. For my extra deep 6" pans this was close to an hour! But the cupcakes were done in 20 minutes. So just keep an eye on it.
I'm not really sure on how much you'll need for the cake because I always just make a giant batch and use the extras to put on salads or just eat by the handful! But I would say start with at least two cups of pecan pieces in a medium bowl. Slowly add maple syrup, mixing as you go, until the pecans are coated with maple syrup. You don't want so much maple syrup that it's pooling in the bottom of your bowl, so stop adding syrup just before that point. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the edges of the pan are just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool, stirring several times while they are cooling. This keeps them from getting all stuck together.
*Side note: You can use this technique with any kind of nuts and they're always delicious (and highly addictive)!!
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (from thecakeblog.com)
This recipe made enough for my 4 layer 6" cake plus quite a bit of extra.
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
7 cups confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1. Beat the butter until smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and combined.
2. Add the confectioner's sugar one cup at a time, beating after each addition.
3. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and beat until combined.
Level your cake layers and then cut them in half to make 4 layers. Put the first layer down on the cake board. Cover with a generous dollop of frosting. Spread pecans over the cake layer but stay about half an inch from the edge. Place the next cake layer on top of the pecans. I like to then go back and smooth frosting over the crack between the layers around the edge of the cake. This helps make sure the new layer is centered and will keep the pecans in! Repeat with the next three layers and then frost the outside as desired. I went for a sort of rustic ridge look by dragging a butter knife in the frosting as I spun the cake stand.