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Pecan Sweet Potato Cake

This recipe for Pecan Sweet Potato Cake is from the cookbook, Maida Heatter’s Cakes.

Author Maida Heatter writes:

Hallelujah! An old-fashioned Southern spectacular production, a majestic, regal, three-layer sweetheart, 6 inches high, light/moist/spicy/chunky/nutty, with a generous amount of marshmallow filling and icing and a coating of shredded coconut over all. It is made with shredded raw (uncooked) sweet potatoes most unusual and most delicious. The cake can be made ahead of time and frozen, if you wish, but wait until the day of the party to ice it.

Recipe for Pecan Sweet Potato Cake - www.cooksandbooksandrecipes.com

Pecan Sweet Potato Cake – Photo credit: LaDue & Crew

Cooks&Books&Recipes Featured Cook Janet:

Behold the sweet potato. In Maida’s Pecan Sweet Potato Cake, the sweet potato is a surprising addition to layers of warm winter scents and pillows of marshmallow decadence. It creates a moist and delicately flavored cake reminiscent of more appreciative times. The texture is enhanced by the addition of toasted pecans. If you care to enhance your creative side, no need to look on the side of a box — just add some chocolate chips and torch the marshmallow a tad.

Although the recipe may seem like many steps, don’t let that daunt you.

Pecan Sweet Potato Cake - www.cooksandbooksandrecipes.com

Pecan Sweet Potato Cake – Photo credit: LaDue & Crew

This pecan sweet potato cake is truly easy to mix and put together, looking best in a rustic form.

Review of the cookbook, Maida Heatter's Cakes - www.cooksandbooksandrecipes.com

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Pecan Sweet Potato Cake

Featured Recipe From: Maida Heatter's Cakes

Yield: 10 to 12 portions


  • 2¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • ¼ cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound (about 1½ large) raw sweet potatoes or yams (to make 2 cups, tightly packed, when shredded)
  • 6 ounces (1½ cups) toasted pecans, broken into large pieces
  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves (to be used when icing the cake)
  • 7 ounces (2 2/3 cups, loosely packed) shredded coconut (to be used when icing the cake)

Marshmallow Icing (You will need a candy thermometer.)

  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup egg whites (from 4 to 5 eggs; they may be whites that were frozen and then thawed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract


Adjust a rack to the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Butter three 8-inch round layer-cake pans, line them with parchment or wax paper cut to fit, then butter the paper, dust all over with fine, dry bread crumbs, invert the pans over paper and tap gently to shake out excess, and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and nutmeg, and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and oil just to mix; add the egg yolks and beat to mix. On low speed, add the sifted dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the boiling water and vanilla in two additions. Remove the bowl from the mixer and set aside.

To prepare the sweet potatoes, peel them with a vegetable parer and then grate them on the fine grater of a food processor or with a hand-held grater set over a piece of aluminum foil. Use the side of the grater that has small, round not diamond-shaped openings (to see the shape of the openings hold the grater up and look at the holes through the back). Measure 2 cups, tightly packed.

Stir the potatoes and then the pecans into the batter.

In the small bowl of an electric mixer (with clean beaters), beat the whites until they hold a straight shape when the beaters are raised, but are not stiff or dry.

Without being too thorough, fold about one-third of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites, handling as little as necessary until just incorporated.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops.

Bake the three pans on the same oven rack for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cakes barely begin to come away from the sides of the pans. (These layers might not spring back when pressed with a fingertip, even though they will be done.)

Marshmallow Icing

Place the sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a 6-cup saucepan (preferably one that is tall and narrow in a wide one the mixture will be too shallow to reach the bulb of a candy thermometer). With a wooden spoon stir over
moderate heat until the mixture begins to boil. Cover airtight and let boil for 3 minutes. (This keeps the steam in a pot and dissolves any sugar crystals that cling to the sides. However, if you still see any granules when you remove the cover, dip a pastry brush in cold water and use it to wipe the sides.)

Uncover and insert a candy thermometer. Raise the heat to high and let boil, without stirring, until the thermometer registers 242°.

Shortly before the sugar syrup is done (or when the thermometer registers about 236° soft-ball stage), add the salt to the egg whites in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat until the whites are stiff. (If the sugar syrup is not ready, turn the beater to the lowest speed and let it beat slowly until the syrup is ready. Or you can let the whites stand, but no longer then necessary.)

When the syrup reaches 242° (medium-ball stage), turn the mixer to high speed and gradually add the syrup in a thin stream (it may be easiest if you pour the syrup into a pitcher and add it from the pitcher). Then continue to beat at high speed, scraping the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula, for about 5 minutes, or until the icing is quite thick and stiff. Add the vanilla and almond extracts a minute or two before the icing is stiff enough. If necessary, beat some more. The icing may still be warm when it is used.

Spread the first cake layer with icing about ½ inch thick. Place the second layer over it and spread with one-third of the melted apricot preserves, and then cover it with a layer of the icing, again ½ inch thick. Cover with the third cake layer and the remaining preserves.

Now, it is best to ice the sides first. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to ice the sides, thinly at first, and then build it up until it is about ½ inch thick, or thicker. Smooth the sides. Use the remaining icing on the top. Spread it smooth. After the sides and the top are smooth and even, then, with the back of a teaspoon or with the spatula, form swirls and peaks evenly on the top of the cake.

To coat the sides with the coconut, first spread out the coconut on a length of foil or wax paper next to the cake plate. Take a handful of the coconut in the palm of your hand and turn your hand to place the coconut on the sides of the cake, starting at the top and working your way down. When much of the coconuts falls onto the plate, remove it with your fingers and replace it either on the cake or on the pile of coconut on the paper. Then use a long, narrow metal spatula to pick up coconut that has fallen to the plate and turn it onto the sides of the cake. Finally, fold the paper strips around the bottom up against the cake, and the coconut that has fallen to the strip will stick to the base of the cake. Last, sprinkle all the remaining coconut over the top.

Remove the paper strips by pulling each one slowly and gently toward a narrow end.

Since this cake is so high, use a long-bladed knife to cut it and dinner plates to serve it on; it will fall off the edges of smaller plates.

© 2011 Maida Heatte

Reprinted with permission from Maida Heatter's Cakes, by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel Publishing)

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