Friday, January 15, 2010

Winter Loves Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Cinnamon Cream Glaze . . .

Its very name is wintery, don't you think? Though I'm sure I could easily be convinced to do so, at the moment I just can't picture myself biting into a piece of this cake in, say, the dog days of August, while the air conditioning is cranking away and all of the markets are brimming with fresh summer fruit. Some desserts seem to find their reason for existing only in the months ending in "er" or "ary" and clearly this is one of them.

In prowling around our bookshelves and, ultimately, the internet in search of the perfect sweet potato pound cake recipe, I contemplated a few possibilities. One promising candidate was from All Cakes Considered, by Melissa Gray. It looks great, but it contains apple pieces, nuts, and several spices. That all sounds tempting, but today I wanted to make something a little less fraught with competing flavors.

The two primary flavors in the cake that I did bake are simply sweet potato and fresh nutmeg, and the recipe that I settled on comes to us via Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. She adapted it from one that appears in the book Southern Cakes by Nancy McDermott. Molly's post about this cake appeared in her blog last winter in the fretful days just prior to the publication of her warm and funny memoir, A Homemade Life (see what I mean about it being a winter cake?).

Molly used a buttermilk glaze that needs to be cooked, but I've omitted that in favor of a more basic cinnamon cream glaze that's just stirred together. Of course, this is one of those cakes that doesn't really need adornment of any kind. Plain is good too. Sometimes plain is really, really good.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Cinnamon Cream Glaze

(For a printable copy of this recipe, click here!)

For the cake:

3 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
½ cup milk (lowfat is fine)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (Note from Jane: I only had two medium-sized potatoes on hand so, when mashed, that came out to barely 1 and 1/2 cups; I just went ahead and used that amount and it was fine.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10" tube or bundt pan with baking spray. If you don't have baking spray, do a really thorough job of greasing and flouring.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk well. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk and vanilla.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar until light and fluffy, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the sweet potatoes, and mix until the batter is combined. (The batter looks curdled, but that's okay!)

With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture. Beat to just incorporate. Then add half of the milk mixture, and continue to beat on low until well blended. Add the remaining flour, followed by the remaining milk, and beat on low until the batter is thick and smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes (Note from Jane: Molly says "60 to 75 minutes," but my cake would have been badly overbaked if I'd left it in that long!) or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Run a thin knife around the edge to loosen the cake, and then carefully invert it onto the rack. Cool completely.


For the glaze:

1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar (or, if you hate sifting this stuff, just be sure to use Domino's 10X)
2 Tbsp. 1/2 and 1/2 
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Combine the confectioner's sugar, half and half, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir, and keep stirring, until the sugar is completely absorbed and the glaze is completely smooth.

Set a wire rack, with the cake atop it, over a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

* * * *
Now slice a little piece, sit down, and take a bite.

That's one groovy pound cake, isn't it?

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