I’ve never been much for simple, clean flavors. Give me red pepper flakes, garlic, onions, soy sauce, hummus, bacon, chili garlic sauce, sea salt and stinky cheese any day (although not together). If my palate is overwhelmed by the end of a meal, I know I’ve had a good one. And I also know this isn’t always the best way to enjoy a meal, but oh well.
When it comes to desserts, I tend to make the same choices. Butter-rich sugar cookie? Nah, I’ll take a chocolate caramel sea salt macaron at Euro Pane. Salty, caramely butterscotch budino at Pizzaria Mozza? Yes. But every so often, I feel the need to cleanse with something delicate. This pound cake did the trick.
Let me say first that adjectives like delicate, clean and simple don’t necessarily mean healthy. Pound cake earned its name for a reason, both in what it makes you gain, and what all the buttery goodness makes it weigh. It’s just that the flavors in this cake, despite the richness, allowed me to eat a whole slice without my tongue passing out from too much sensory input.
This recipe is one that Molly Wizenberg of Orangette adapted from Southern Cakes. She recommends a buttermilk glaze for the cake, but since I didn’t try it, I won’t say you should have it, so here’s the link to her recipe so you can decide for yourself.
I made this the last time I went home to Pennsylvania, and my genius mother suggested we use the frozen bag-o-spuds that you can microwave, instead of cooking and mashing fresh sweet potatoes. Although normally, both of us would rather make something fresh, we figured that in a cake, we wouldn’t be able to taste that the potatoes were frozen. And we were right.
This cake is best warm, excellent the day of, and still good after that. I brought half of it back with me to California, encased in plastic wrap, and a week later, I was still munching on it. Which is why I’ll probably never fit into my wedding dress again. Oh well. Why would I want to anyway? This cake is worth it. It was moist—thanks to the butter and potatoes—rich, dense, and just slightly spiced. It was simple, it was good. No, it was fantastic. And it was just the vacation that my tongue needed.
Next up, the tongue vacation is over—the richest chocolate mocha layer cake EVER.
Happy holidays, safe travels, and yummy desserts to all!
Sweet Potato Pound Cake
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
½ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
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 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. (Molly notes that the batter may look terrible at this point, and it certainly does, but that’s normal.) 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 60 to 75 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and cool completely before serving. But I didn’t.