Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Maple Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Bourbon Maple Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  It’s the season of pumpkins and gourds. The supermarket has an entire section of the store dedicated to them, with several boxes filled to the brim. I realize they’re in season during this time of year, but the one thing I never could understand is why so many people obsess over something as simple as a pumpkin or pumpkin-spice, for that matter. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been a fan of pumpkin in the first place, per the reason as to why I don’t understand the ways of pumpkin lovers. I’ve always preferred the sweet potato, with its subtle sweetness; oh, how it blends so perfectly well with butter and brown sugar! Oftentimes I feel they don’t get the attention they deserve. Well, until Thanksgiving comes around. There’s almost always a sweet potato pie or casserole involved.

  Instead of adding yet another pumpkin spice recipe to the thousands already out there, I decided on a delicious spiced sweet potato cake made with local sweet potatoes and spiced with cinnamon and allspice. Accompanying the cake is a silky-smooth bourbon maple swiss meringue buttercream. The chocolate ganache is optional, but if you do decide on it, make sure to sprinkle on a generous amount of flaky sea salt to finish. You will thank me later. 


SPICED SWEET POTATO CAKE WITH BOURBON MAPLE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

   cake
380 grams cake flour, sifted
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
400 grams raw cane sugar
8-ounces unsalted butter, room temp.
3 large eggs, room temp.
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*1 cup mashed sweet potato
¾ cup whole milk, room temp.

*2 medium-small sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

   bourbon-maple swiss meringue buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 cup raw cane sugar
12-ounces unsalted butter, room temp.
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

   chocolate ganache (optional)
6-ounces fine, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6-ounces heavy cream

Method:

   cake:

  1. Peel and chop two, medium-small sweet potatoes and place them in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water, the maple syrup, allspice, and cinnamon sticks. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is soft- about 10 minutes. Remove the cooked sweet potato from the water and spices and place in a bowl, then mash with a fork until there are no more clumps. Set aside to cool to room temperature before using.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C. Grease and line three, 6-inch cake pans.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the sifted cake flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves; whisk until combined and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the vanilla and beat until just combined. On low speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined(make sure to scrape down the bowl after each addition). Add the cooled sweet potato and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl of the mixer once more and add one-third of the milk and one-third of the flour; beat until just combined, then continue to alternate the milk and flour, making sure to end with adding the remaining third of the flour. Pour the batter amongst the three prepared pans and spread about evenly. Bake for 35-43 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or until the cake springs back up after a gentle touch. Cool in the pans 10 minutes, then using a sharp knife to loosen the cake from around the edges, invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

   bourbon maple swiss meringue buttercream:

  1. Create a double boiler by placing a heat-proof mixing bowl over a simmering pot of water(make sure the bowl does not touch the water). Add the egg whites and sugar and stir gently but constantly with a whisk until the mixture reaches 160°F / 70°C on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and beat the mixture on high with an electric mixer (with the whisk attachment), until thick and completely cool to the touch, about 8 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, begin to add the soft butter, a few tablespoons at a time, until combined. Once all the butter is in, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until silky smooth and voluminous. Scrape down the bowl and add the bourbon, maple syrup, and vanilla. Beat on low until smooth and combined.

  chocolate ganache:

  1. Chop the bittersweet chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium bowl. In another (heatproof) bowl, heat the cream until it’s hot to the touch. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and give it a quick stir then let it sit for 10 minutes. Stir until smooth. Do not pour onto cake until the ganache has cooled and is no longer warm to the touch(it may have thickened a lot by then, but still pourable)

  to assemble the cake:

Level off any dome that may have formed on the cakes during baking. Place the first layer on a cake board/plate/stand, and spread ½ cup of frosting over the top. Add the second layer and repeat with the same amount of frosting, making sure to spread the frosting on evenly. End with the third layer, making sure the bottom of the cake is facing upward; spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Place in the refrigerator so the frosting becomes firm. Pour the ganache into the center of the cake and gently spread towards the edges so it drips down. Serve when the ganache has hardened in place.

Vegan Apple Sage Fritters with Vanilla Maple Rum Glaze

Vegan Apple Sage Fritters with Vanilla Maple Rum Glaze

  There’s no better way to welcome apple season than to fry up a good batch of apple fritters. 

 The weather of late has evoked nostalgic feelings of autumn, putting me in the strange predicament of looking forward to the changing of seasons. If you knew me, you’d know I’m not one to welcome the fall season with open arms; I despise seeing pumpkins, bright orange and red decor of all sorts embellishing stores by the end of July. I would live in a world of perpetual summer if I could- I just really don’t like the cold. But this year is different. I’m actually looking forward to the switch from summer to fall. In fact, I made these fritters in slight excitement. It made me think of my younger self, back when I actually enjoyed the cool days of autumn and the cold, snowy days of winter.

  Drive North, South, East or West and you’re certain to see apple orchards dotted about every direction in the state of Virginia. I can count off my hand at least six apple orchards within a twenty-five-minute radius of me. You won’t find me complaining, though. I’m fortunate to live where I live; it’s a beautiful place, and beautiful places give me so much inspiration when I feel drained and ready to give in. I’m extremely thankful for that. So, I set off to my local orchard, a lovely ten-minute drive with scenic views of Virginia farmland and the Blueridge mountains, then came home with a paper bag full of crisp, red apples just waiting to be turned into these apple sage fritters.


Vegan Apple Sage Fritters with Vanilla Maple Rum Glaze

   dough:

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

3/4 cups cashew milk, hot

1/2 cup raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 *flax eggs 

3 tablespoons coconut oil 

5 cups canola oil, for frying

   apples:

1 tablespoon coconut oil

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 medium sized apples

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/3 cup raw cane sugar

3 large sage leaves, minced

   glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon good rum

1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

    METHOD

  1. *Blend 2 tablespoons of flax seeds in a blender until finely ground. Pour into a small bowl and add 2 1/2 tablespoons water and stir. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric standing mixer, add the yeast and hot cashew milk and give it a little stir. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, and sugar. Add to the yeast mixture, along with the vanilla and flax egg and beat on medium-high speed with the dough-hook attachment until the dough comes together completely and wipes the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl clean- about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the coconut oil, 1 tablespoon at a time; making sure each tablespoon is incorporated into the dough before adding the next. It will seem like it doesn’t want to incorporate at first, but just give it a few seconds and it’ll come together. Once all the oil is in the dough, you should have a soft, smooth dough. lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside, cover with a thin cloth and let it rise in a warm, dry place for an hour or until it has doubled in size. Prepare the apples while the dough rises.
  3. Peel and core the apples and chop them into 1/2-inch long rectangular pieces that have a thickness of 1/4-inch. Add the sugar and cinnamon to the apples and toss until coated. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the coconut oil and add the apples, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and minced sage. Cook the apples, stirring often, until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy thick mixture and apples are somewhat soft, but the centers still somewhat firm(you don’t want them cooked soggy). Cool the apples until ready to use. If there happens to be a lot of liquid from the apples, strain it out. 
  4. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it onto a floured surface. Roll it into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Sprinkle the apples over one-half of the dough, then fold the other side over the apples. Pinch the sides shut and gently roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle again. Sprinkle the remaining apples all over the dough, then roll it into a tube. Seal the ends shut and flatten the tube with your hands slightly, then roll it out with a rolling pin into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. It’s OK if some apples pop out, just keep pushing them back in. The width should roughly be 5-6-inches wide. Using a knife, cut the rectangle down the center long ways, then cut 2-inch by 2-inch squares from the two strips. There should be about 9-10 squares in total. Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet and lightly dust with flour. Space each dough piece about 3-inches apart from one another. Cover with a thin towel and let them rise for 25-30 minutes or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 5 cups of oil(about 2-inches deep) and heat to 350°F. I recommend using an oil or candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature. The oil to stay at or close to 350°F. Cook the fritters, just two at a time, for 2 minutes on each side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked fritters to a cooling rack(place paper towels under racks to catch oil). 
  5. To make the glaze, sift the powdered sugar, then add the maple syrup, vanilla, and bourbon. Whisk until smooth, then drizzle onto the fritters once they have cooled until warm to touch and no longer hot. 

CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY ORANGE TART

  I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving quickly crept up on me this year.  I feel that was 2016 in general as everything flew by so quickly; birthdays, the seasons, holidays.  It makes me somewhat sad, but happy at the same time.  I would say Thanksgiving is somewhat bittersweet for me.  I love the food and family time(even though it can be a bit crazy at times), but it pains me to say goodbye to autumn and hello to winter, which happens to be my least favorite time of the year due to the cold.

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  Anyway, this recipe was sort of a last minute idea and something I wanted to post before I hop on a plane and head south for Thanksgiving.  It’s a deliciously tart, cranberry tart with the addition of citrus and bittersweet chocolate- two, very complementary flavors to cranberry if I do say so.  It reminded me so much of my favorite chocolate bar: dark, not-so-sweet, with crunchy pieces of dried orange peel speckled throughout each bite.  The crust is crumbly with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor.  It almost reminds me of cherry pie.

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  I will say I’ve never once liked cranberries.  Well, until recently.  The only time we’d eat them would be at Thanksgiving and they were in the form of the ever so popular canned cranberry sauce.  Incredibly sweet stuff and not at all of my liking.  But, like most things, you have to start with fresh ingredients and see if you truly like or dislike them.  I despise most anything that comes in a can now, so it’s my motto to always use fresh when possible.  I try to bake by the seasons.  And so, I found my love for cranberries when I decided to use them fresh.  The filling for this tart I could eat by the spoonful as it’s just so delicious!  While simmering away in the saucepan with the citrus, cloves, and cinnamon it lets out the most amazing scent as it floats about the house.

  Speaking of cloves, be sure to remove all of them before pouring the filling into the tart shell.  I accidently left two or three pieces inside and they made their way into my mouth.  Biting into cloves isn’t very appetizing, as they’re a bit potent, to say the least.

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CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY ORANGE TART

crust:

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup super-fine almond flour

4-ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup confectioners sugar

1 large egg (+ 2 tablespoons of a smaller, slightly beaten egg), room temp.

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

cranberry-orange filling:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 orange slices

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks 

3 cups fresh cranberries

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon cornstarch

 

chocolate topping:

8-ounces bittersweet chocolate; chopped finely

4-ounces heavy cream

sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

 

method:

  1. With an electric standing mixer, add the softened butter, vanilla, and salt.  Cream till smooth and just combined.  Add the confectioner’s sugar and almond flour and mix on medium until just combined.  Add the flour and large egg, mix until it comes together, and add the two tablespoons of the beaten egg.  Mix on medium until the dough comes together(don’t over beat).  It should be a very soft dough.  Once finished, tightly wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours(until firm).  Once firm, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a large rectangle or circle(depending on the tart pan you’re using).  Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and place into the tart pan.  carefully press the dough into the pan till it’s fitted, then using a fork, poke holes all around the bottom.  Place in the refrigerator until firm again; while it’s doing so, preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C.  Once preheated, brush the tart with egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon water, beaten) and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the edges shine and are slightly golden and the bottom is cooked through.  Cool completely.
  2. Bump the oven heat up to 375° F.
  3. In a medium sized saucepan, add the freshly squeezed orange juice, orange slices, cloves, cinnamon, and then the cranberries.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cranberries have popped; remove the orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and cloves.  In a small bowl add two teaspoons of water to the cornstarch and stir until combined.  Add this mixture to the cranberries and cook, stirring over medium heat until somewhat thickened.  Pour the cranberries into the cooled tart shell and evenly spread around.  Sprinkle the orange zest over the top.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and cool completely.  Once cooled, remove from tart pan. 
  4. Chop the chocolate finely and place in a bowl that holds heat well.  In a small saucepan, heat the cream until it begins to steam.  Pour over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.  Spread around the top of the tart and let it harden.  Garnish the top with flaked sea salt or orange zest and serve.

PECAN PIE WITH BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

  With Thanksgiving just a mere two weeks (plus a few days) away, I thought I’d post a classic dessert that is often found on holiday dinner tables this time of year here in the South- pecan pie.  This recipe hails from an old 1930’s church cookbook I found while walking about an antique mall not too long ago.  I adapted it a tad bit as I am not very fond of using corn syrup, so in its place, I used maple syrup.  Which, in my opinion, adds so much more flavor to the pie.  The crust is buttery and the pecans on top are crunchy while underneath is perfectly gooey; combined with the boozy caramel whipped cream, the entirety of it all is delicious.  Like other pies, this one did not last long in my home.

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I really love finding such things in antique malls or thrift stores.  The pile of church cookbooks sitting in small corners of such places is often neglected.  But they can be little treasures, really, especially the really old ones.  You don’t know what you’re going to get from them as it’s a collection of recipes from various people of various heritage. Each person contributed one recipe they deemed as a favorite that was passed down to them from generation to generation.  This cookbook I bought has many interesting recipes inside(some advertisements as well that I can’t help but chuckle at; oh, how far we’ve come!) which had me researching the ones I wasn’t familiar with.  The recipes range from fattigmann, rødgrød, and vanillekipferl; to blushing bunny, chicken cacciatore, and stuffed eggplant.  Then you have American classics like apple crisp, this pecan pie, and many others.

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PECAN PIE WITH BOURBON CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM

pie crust:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

5-8 tablespoons ice-cold water

pie filling:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup dark maple syrup

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

2 1/2 cups pecan halves

 

for the caramel

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 tablespoon bourbon

caramel whipped cream:

1/2 cup heavy cream, cold

1/4 cup bourbon caramel 

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

pinch of salt

METHOD:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  Add the cold butter in cubes and using a pastry blender or food processor, blend it into the flour till it’s crumbly(crumbles should be pea-sized).  Push the mixture to one side of the bowl and add 3 tablespoons of ice-cold water to the other side.  Using a fork, gently toss the flour into the water.  Add more water by the tablespoon when it becomes dry.  Repeat this until the dough comes together and all the flour is incorporated; it should be a soft, moist dough when complete.  Using your hands, shape it into a disk and loosly wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 25-30 minutes; meanwile, preheat the oven to 350°F.   Once the dough has firmed up some, place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it until it’s about 10-inches in diameter.  Gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unravel onto a 9-inch pie tin.  carefully press the dough into the pan using your hands and then finish by crimping the edges however you would like it to look.  Place the crust in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2.  In a medium sized saucepan, melt the tablespoon of butter; add the brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla.  Whisk over medium-low heat until warm(not hot).  Slightly whisk the eggs together and add to the sugar.  Whisk until all is combined.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and sprinkle on all the pecan halves.  Brush the crust with egg wash(1 egg + 1 tablespoon water)  if you would like it browned.  Bake for about an hour to an hour and 40 minutes.  It will be done when tapped with a spoon and the top is hard.  Cool completely and serve with whipped cream.  

for the caramel and whipped cream:

  1. In a small saucepan, add the water and sugar.  Whisk over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved, once the sugar is dissolves stop whisking and watch the mixture very closely for the next 5-10 minutes.  It should start to turn a light amber, when it does so, quickle remove from heat and stir in the tablespoon of butter.  Once the butter has melted, slowly stream in the cream and stir.  Heat the bourbon until warm and stir into the caramel.  Place the mixture in the refrigerator until cold. 
  2. Place a medium sized mixing bowl in the freezer along with a whisk that attaches to an electric mixer.  Chill for 5 minutes.  Once chilled, add the cold cream, caramel, and powdered sugar.  Whip until soft peaks form.  Serve atop the pie.  

SWEET POTATO AND MOLASSES OAT COOKIES

  It has been some time since I last baked a batch of warm cookies; they seem to be the neglected baked good here on my blog so I thought it high time I sat down and created a cookie recipe to add to my tiny collection.   Since we are now in November(if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking what the heck, already?), that means an abundance of sweet potatoes from the month before!  Here in Virginia, October is harvest time for sweet potatoes- mostly in early or mid-October, as it’s best to harvest them before the first fall frost, which came really late this year.  

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  Of the many vegetables out there, one of my favorites will always be the sweet potato.  My mom bakes them quite often around this time of year and my favorite way to eat them? A good dousing in butter and a generous amount of pecans and brown sugar sprinkled all over the top.  Really, it’s the best thing ever, though, I probably ruin the nutritional value by doing so.  

  My favorite cookie this time of year will forever be molasses oatmeal cookies.  They were always my go-to when there weren’t any chocolate chips in the kitchen; which, believe it or not, was (and still is) a rarity in my home(even with my chocolate obsession).  So, I thought I’d combine my two favorite things and create these soft, not-so-sweet, sweet potato and molasses oat cookies.  Though the ingredient list may look a bit intimidating and long, they’re very simple and easy to make.  Once fresh out of the oven, they are sprinkled with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar, which, once cooled, gives the cookies a slight crunch when eaten.  

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SWEET POTATO AND MOLASSES OAT COOKIES

makes about 12-16 medium-sized cookies

2 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup super-fine almond flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 ounces unsalted butter, soft

3/4 cups brown sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 medium-sized sweet potato, peeled and chopped 

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon allspice berries

sugar topping:

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon molasses

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

finely chopped pecans (optional)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare a large baking sheet by lining with parchment paper or lightly coating with cooking oil.
  2. Rinse, peel and chop the sweet potato into thin chunks.  Fill a small pot half full with water and add the allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, and chopped sweet potato.  Bring to a boil over high heat, once it begins to boil, set a kitchen timer for 12-16 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft in the center.  Discard the spices and strain the potatoes; add mash until smooth.  Set in the refrigerator until cool to touch.  
  3. Meanwhile, combine and whisk the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices; set aside.  In an electric mixer with beaters attached, combine the softened butter, brown sugar, molasses, and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed until fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour and mashed sweet potato.  Beat on medium until just combined.  Stir in the oats.  Using a 1-tablespoon scoop, dollop the cookie batter onto the prepared cookie sheet, spacing two inches apart.  Using a spoon very lighly flatten each dollop of batter, keeping it in a round shape.  Bake for 14-16 minutes until the edges are slighly browned.  While the cookies are baking, in a small bowl combine the two tablespoons of turbinado sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of molasses, whisk with a fork till it’s combined; stir in the cinnamon and pecans if using.  Remove the cookies from the oven and sprinkle on a pinch of the sugar mixture.  Let the cookies sit on the pan for 5 minutes before moving onto a cooling rack.