Sweet Potato Cakes

20 Nov
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Mad schedule this weekend. The cooking and eating of the cakes was wedged into an already busy Sunday morning, the preparation occurring over the course of the couple of days before it. I needed something simple, and so I turned to the sweet potato cakes that had been in the mental hopper for a while now.

Let me start by stating in no uncertain terms my typical disdain for sweet potatoes. I like sweet potato fries in a burger basket with a pint of Guiness, and enjoy them as a complement to a serving of home fries at breakfast. Baked sweet potato, though, is gag-worthy for me. Even baking and spooning what I did to get my puree about put me over the edge. But something about it as a central ingredient in something like these cakes turns my usual dislike on its head.

I say this because I know there are others like me. I’ve had the conversation with those people many times before. And to those of you, I say you’re right to be skeptical–that stringy, malodorous, weirdly textured baked version of the sweet potato is indeed odd, at best. But it works in cakes. It really does.

I first overcame my fear of the sweet potato via some breakfast cakes at a local haunt here in Iowa City. My wife orders them all the time, and I used to react in much the same way I do when she preps a tuna melt in our kitchen. I was desperately hungry one morning, though, and in a “state” (we were in our 20s and kid-free–I was no stranger to that “state”) that precluded any kind of critical palate. My wife couldn’t finish her sweet potato cakes that day, and I threw caution to the wind. I’ve been a convert ever since.

Really, these cakes are almost identical to the Flapjack O’ Lanterns from a few weeks back, save for some different spicing. Owing to this, I knew they would be dense, sifting be damned. So I decided to go one better in an effort to introduce some variation. I attempted to make the sweet potato cakes so dense they were hard to swallow. I did not sift my dries, but mixed them lightly, at best. And when I added the wet ingredients, I barely mixed at all—just enough to say I did (and even then it was a white lie). Mission accomplished–holy hell were they dense. And I mean dense as in kind of dangerous for little ones. Our son loved them, but kept coughing and reaching for his water. My wife even had to sweep his mouth at one point. (And if that ain’t appetizing at a breakfast table, I don’t know what is!) Even the dog hacked a bit following the bite he was afforded.

I pass that along just in case it isn’t your thing. Sifting would help, as would maybe beating the final mixture with a hand mixture to force a little air into it. Hell, you might even try some separating and folding of your eggs if you’re really worried about it.

Pants: I had just finished a run, so was cooling off, so no. (And no, the ridiculousness of running before the cakes feast is not lost on me.)

Planning: Just had to carve out some time in the schedule, which was no small task this week. That I roasted and pureed the potato as my Saturday evening activity is the clearest statement on where my reality currently resides than anything else I can imagine.

Gathering: Just the tater–rest are kitchen staples these days in our household.

Execution: Pretty easy since I scheduled the most time-consuming portion of the recipe for the evening before. I cannot stress enough the absolutely preposterous density of these things. It makes them a bit unwieldy on the griddle. You have to be vigilant–I browned one too long. Go low and slow with the griddle–nothing above 350. And hell, dense is what I was seeking, and the end result was worth it, which leads us to…

Results: Another winner all around. The  boy kicked his feet against his chair and purred while he ate (and choked). I know not of a truer endorsement than that (minus the choking). Keep your beverage close at hand.

Crossover Potential: As noted, they’re not at all unlike the Flapjack O’ Lanterns, which is to say they are almost identical to the Flapjack O’ Lanterns. The crossover potential from those previous cakes applies here, too.

The cakes recipe (for roughly 8 cakes):

  • 1.25 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (micro-planed using real nutmegs, courtesy of old buddy, Tony!)
  • 2 large eggs (cage-free)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (organic)
  • 3/4 cup pureed sweet potato (organic, freshly roasted)
  • Whole milk for adding to processor with sweet potato (organic)
  • Maple syrup (organic)
  1. Pierce a medium-sized sweet potato a few times with a small knife, wrap in foil, and bake for 60-75 minutes at 350 degrees–it’s done when the knife enters it without resistance
  2. While still hot, unwrap potato and cut lengthwise in half; using spoon, scoop out the meat, avoiding the peel, and plop into food processor
  3. Reset oven to warm setting, around 170 degrees (or engage warmer drawer if you have one)
  4. Add a splash or three of whole milk to the potato in the processor, then process until pureed completely
  5. Preheat griddle to 350 degrees
  6. Mix the dry ingredients lightly with a whisk
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients
  8. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing with a wooden spoon until just combined
  9. Keep completed cakes in warmed oven while you make the rest
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2 Responses to “Sweet Potato Cakes”

  1. Amber Cummer November 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    I love a good sweet potato cake, and these were no exception. Well done, well done. The density didn’t slow me down a bit. I give these an A!

  2. Annie November 21, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    What a great way to start the work week, Jacob. Thanks for the smile.

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