As we tested recipes for our story on sweet potato casserole, for Issue #142, we were intrigued by the dish’s 19th-century antecedents— puddings and pies that straddled the line between sweet and savory. We decided to see what would happen if we came down squarely on the side of sweet, and this recipe was the result: layers of spiced sweet potato cake with marshmallowy meringue icing in between and a topping of praline and candied pecans. It will make a spectacular finish to any feast.
- 26 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for pan
- 3 cups flour, plus more for pan
- 1 3⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. ground ginger
- 3⁄4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
- 1⁄4 tsp. ground allspice
- 2 3⁄4 cups packed light brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups mashed roasted sweet potatoes
- 3⁄4 cup sour cream
- 2 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 8 oz. whole pecans
- 1 1⁄4 cups sugar
- 1⁄4 cup dark rum
- 2 egg whites
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1⁄4 cup milk
- Make the cake: Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9″ × 13″ baking pan; set aside. Brown 16 tbsp. butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat; chill until solid. Whisk flour, 1 tsp. salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, baking soda, and allspice in a bowl; set aside. Beat browned butter and 2 cups brown sugar on medium speed of a mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until smooth; beat in potatoes, sour cream, and 1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla. Add dry ingredients; beat until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula; bake until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool; halve cake crosswise into two layers.
- Make the candied pecans and marshmallow icing: Heat 4 tbsp. butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; add pecans, 1⁄4 cup sugar, and rum, and cook, stirring often, until thickly glazed, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a sheet of foil in an even layer; cool. Boil remaining sugar, 1⁄4 tsp. salt, and 1⁄4 cup water in a 2-qt. saucepan over high heat, without stirring, until syrup reaches 250° on a candy thermometer. Place whites in a bowl, and beat on high speed of a mixer until frothy, about 1 minute; slowly pour hot syrup in a steady stream into whites. Continue beating whites until cooled; stir in 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla. Spread icing evenly over bottom cake layer; cover with top cake layer.
- Make the praline topping: Bring remaining butter, salt, brown sugar, confectioners’ sugar, and milk to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over high heat; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in remaining vanilla, and let cool, without stirring, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Pour sauce over cake, and arrange candied pecans on top.