This week I posted on Facebook how busy I was, which prompted Dad to suggest that the blog might suffer. Uh, no. I can cut a lot of corners in my life, but baking is something I almost need to do. When things get stressful--when you're contemplating a move to another country, when your child is getting ready to leave you again, when your client asks you if you could just completely rearrange a document within the next couple of hours--there's something soothing about turning butter, sugar, eggs, and flour into something completely different. So I baked this week. I waited until my most urgent project was finished, but I baked.
It was a very American cake this week. Fortunately, I bought my sweet potatoes from a different vendor this time, and they were the "normal" orange kind. I got one for the cake and one for me to eat for lunch--in Mississippi I would eat a sweet potato for lunch just about every day. Now it's an exotic treat. But hey, there are many, many food items to compensate for that. Unfortunately they're not quite as cheap and low-cal.
This is a good cake, though maybe not a great one. It's moist and dense and sweet and cinnamony, which are all good things, but there's nothing that made me go wow! And then there are the peanuts. Salted peanuts, like almond extract and Meyer's dark rum, are kind of a Maida Heatter signature ingredient. She likes them in banana bread, cookies, and in this cake. They go on the top and bottom of the cake and add some crunchiness and saltiness.
This did not go over well with my crew. We were all tasting our first slice when Sami said, "Ew! There's something salty in the cake!" The girls, meanwhile, carefully trimmed their crusts to avoid the peanuts as well--I think they objected to the texture more than the salt. Julia said that they looked pretty, though. I kind of liked them, but then again, I'm a salty-sweet-crunchy kind of girl. Ever had matzoh crack? I rest my case. And one of our friends who got a piece of this cake asked me to make it again months later.
Here's the recipe. If you like a moist, dense, sweet, cinnamony cake with a salty, crunchy exterior, go for it!
Sweet Potato Pound Cake
2/3 c. (3.2 oz.) salted peanuts, chopped very fine, divided (I imagine pecans would be good here--or even cashews)
8 oz. (2 sticks) butter
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 scant cup (6.5 oz.) sugar
1 scant cup (6.5 oz.) brown sugar
4 large eggs
10 oz. cooked sweet potatoes (preferably baked/microwaved), peeled and mashed
3 c. (12 oz.) sifted flour
Heat the oven to 350. Butter a Bundt pan and sprinkle in half of the peanuts. Swirl and tap them around to coat the pan; leave any remnants in the bottom of the pan.
Cream the butter with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until nice and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then gradually add the sugars, beating about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating a minute or so after each addition. If you're using a hand mixer, your arm should be getting a pretty good workout. Now add the mashed sweet potatoes and beat until they're incorporated. Finally, mix in the flour on low speed just until it's incorporated. Pour the batter into the peanut-crusted pan and sprinkle it with the remaining peanuts. Now put the pan in the oven and let it bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes (check it after an hour--mine was done after only 1 hour). Cool on a rack for 15 minutes and then unmold onto a plate or another rack. Enjoy warm or room temperature. Julia highly recommends microwaving slices of cake on the next day.