Sweet Potato Cake with Spiced Vanilla Buttercream

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It all started with an heirloom pound cake. As far back as Norrinda Brown Hayat can remember, her grandmom Betty made the same plain vanilla pound cake on Sundays–one she’d learned  to bake as a small girl in her own grandmother’s kitchen. As Norrinda grew, her mom, Linda Hinton Brown, took granny’s cake and made it her own, experimenting with versions including everything from pineapple, to buttermilk to sweet potato. Eventually, the three women put their recipes together and opened Philadelphia’s Brown Betty Dessert Boutique. And pound cakes stayed squarely at the center of operations. Among the many versions, this dense, moist and fragrant sweet potato pound cake rivals red velvet cake as Brown Betty’s best seller. The recipe, featured in The Brown Betty Cookbook, yields a statuesque cake. Stand back and marvel!

Makes one three-layer cake, 20 servings

Sweet Potato Pound Cake Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray with flour
  • 1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 8 large eggs

Spiced Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients

  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 14 oz (1 3/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat three, 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Place sweet potatoes on baking sheet and massage the skins with oil. Roast the potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork (50 to 55 minutes.) Set the potatoes aside until they are cool enough to handle. Using a knife, remove the skins (discard or eat) and place the flesh of the potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the potato flesh on medium-high speed to remove pulp, about 1 minute. Push the flesh through a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended. Add the strained sweet potatoes and vanilla and beat until blended.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately add the flour mixture and evaporated milk to the sweet potato mixture, beginning and ending with  the flour mixture and beating until smooth.
  6. Divide the batter equally among the prepared pans and bake until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Make the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and vanilla together on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and salt and beat until blended, scraping the bowl as necessary. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, beating until blended. Scrape the bowl and add the cinnamon. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Set aside until ready to use.
  8. To assemble and frost the cakes, place 1 cake layer, bottom-side up, on a cake plate. Use an offset spatula to spread 1 cup of the buttercream on top. Add the second cake layer, bottom-side down, and spread 1 cup of the buttercream on top. Top with the third cake layer, bottom side up. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream.

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