Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cooking Adventures: Sweet Potato & Earl Grey Cake

My christmas present was a spanking new electric hand mixer from Breville with five different speeds and a one-touch ejection button. As much as I would like to continue boasting about my new toy, what gives me even greater pleasure will be to share with you my recent kitchen adventure baby - SWEET POTATO & EARL GREY CAKES!

Some of my sweetest friends who actually take note of what I like to eat will know me as the Queen of Sweet Potatoes and Green Tea. I light up whenever I spot sweet potatoes or green tea in menus, and especially if they are in desserts. I do love coffee and drink it every day but it does not exactly light me up in the same way Sweet Potatoes and Green Tea do. Sweet potatoes are the most amazing foods ever and if I could, I would go into an essay extolling the virtues of a sweet potato. I was with my friend A back in Singapore when I had my virgin sweet potato cake from a popular Korean bakery-cafe known as Paris Baguette. The sweet potato cake was light and decadent, with chunks of sweet potato and cream sandwiched between layers of vanilla sponge. It is actually quite common to have sweet potato products in Japan and Korea, but not in the 'western' world. Usually a thanksgiving food item, sweet potatoes are unfortunately limited to casserole dishes or just roasted and eaten on its own. There are no sweet potato cakes (not that I know of) in London. Thus, with greater baking powers surging through me after being bestowed an electric hand mixer, I decided to bake my own interpretation of a sweet potato cake! I wanted to create a flavour that is nicely balanced, since people might not be sweet-potato fanatics like me and could possibly find them overwhelming, so I made use of the Earl Grey tea that A gave to me as a parting present. And boy do these two flavours marry well!


Preparation time: 1 hour

Baking time: 35-40 minutes

Bakes approximately 1 huge loaf/cake and 5 cupcakes, or 24 cupcakes.


2-3 medium sized sweet potatoes

250g/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 3/4 tsp baking power

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp table salt

1/2 cup or 125g unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 cup or 190g brown sugar (Caster sugar is fine too, or honey/maple syrup if you want to be healthy)

1-2 tsp ground cinnamon (or however much you like)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs2 bags of Earl Grey tea and 1 bag of Chai (adjust according to how strong you want the Earl Grey to come through)




1. Roast The Sweet Potatoes

Roasting the sweet potatoes take a bit of time, so do plan early!

Wash the potatoes, prick them all over and plonk them into the oven to roast for about an hour at 180 C. Check on them halfway through and turn them around for a bit to make sure they are cooked evenly. Once they are cooked and soft (make sure you can spear through them without facing much resistance), let them cool completely and peel them. Mash them with a fork and spoon until the sweet potato mash is smooth and free of chunks. Do not blend or process.

They do look a bit disgusting with all that sweet potato secretion oozing out of them prick-holes that only happens in the oven, but roasting gives the potatoes the most caramelly and gorgeous flavours. And the intense orange colour. And your whole flat will smell absolutely divine. Compared to boiling them (although it is a quicker option) which just makes them look limp and flaccid. Somehow this paragraph seems sexual. Sweet potatoes are sexy foods. Eh hey!

2. Mix Everything Together

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices (cinnamon and tea mix) together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar together until it becomes light and fluffy (2-3 minutes using an electric mixer, if not, time to train some arm muscles).

Make sure that your butter is so soft that it is almost melting, so take it out of the fridge really early! Mine was still rather firm when I chopped it up, so when I turned the electric mixer on, the butter and sugar just wouldn't mix and chunks started flying out of the bowl.After your sugar-butter mixture is nice and fluffy, add the vanilla and eggs in and mix until just combined. Assuming your sweet potato mash is ready by now, mix it into the bowl and use your brilliant electric mixer for a couple of minutes to blend everything nicely. In case you were wondering, I used three potatoes instead of all four I roasted. I ate one for dinner while baking these lovelies. Now, stir in the dry ingredients and mix until no flour or powdery substances can be seen.

Throw in as many sultanas or raisins as you like and squirt as much honey as you like, but take care to control yourself so that you don't turn something healthy into a sugar-monster whose one-hit-KO move is 'diabetes'. Combine well and the last step is to..

3. Pop Them Into The Oven

Bake them in the 180 C oven for about 35-40 minutes if you are using a regular cake pan or a loaf tin. 30-35 minutes if you are baking them in cupcake form.

When I carried the tray of cupcakes out of the oven, I just could not wait for the cakes to cool properly before taking a bite. The smell was so heavenly and tempting that it was so extremely hard to resist. And how right I was not to restrain myself. The cake is best served fresh out of the oven when they are still warm, hot even. I bit into the most moist and fragrant cupcake I've baked (I daren't use 'I've tasted', but it comes close), with the sweetness of the sweet potatoes accentuated by the tea flavours that permeates every mouthful. The crisp and well-baked top yields to a soft and bouncy interior, its matrix interrupted by the glorious bursts of sultanas, its chewiness probably imparted by the sweet potatoes. To think that no milk was used at all in the production of these cakes! It goes very well with milk though. Needless to say, I did not share the batch with anyone and ate them all over the next few days for most of my meals. Including the non-meals. They are just that addictive!

It might seem strange at first to have both sweet potatoes and Earl Grey tea featuring in cakes, but shovel away the stereotypes and arbitrary categorisation you have about food and you will unearth such a treasure. Besides, it is probably 200 calories less than the slice of chocolate cake or muffin you often eat for desserts and/or breakfast. There's no harm in trying something new out! Just let me know how it goes, or drop me an email to order a batch.

Happy baking!
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