a funny bias

Last week, Daniel asked me if I could bake a cake for Jo's birthday party. Which, you know, is not a huge deal. I could bake a cake in my sleep. But then he asked if it could involve sweet potatoes.

This was a surprising request, because, well, I had no idea that cakes could involve sweet potatoes. A quick google search told me that yes, that is a thing. Daniel even went so far as to provide a recipe, which was vegan. (Daniel's new-found veganism might mean you will see more vegan recipes on here. It might not. Y'all know how much I love butter.)

There is a funny bias against vegan baked goods. By and large this is changing, with the popularity of places like Babycakes up in New York, but it still exists. People don't expect vegan baked goods to be delicious and moist like non-vegan baked goods.

So I was nervous. I've never baked consciously vegan before (though now I have a label for any vegan goodies on here [note: some of the items on that page do have butter, but as it's for sauteing, you can substitute for olive oil]), on top of which I always get nervous when I bake something new. And on top of all of that, I was bringing this to a party where many people I did not know would be partaking of this baked good.

All my nerves, as usual, were for naught. I iced and decorated the cake (okay, that part I was actually excited about) and jerry-rigged a carrying case out of a plate and tin foil. When I unveiled it, before most of the guests arrived, those in attendance seemed impressed with just the description of what it was. Once the cake was cut and served, people incredulously asked, you made this? The most impressive victory was over those who are most certainly not-vegan; John Paul noted that usually vegan baked goods are dry and not-so-good, but this was moist and delicious.

So there you have it. This is a vegan cake to win over non-vegans. It's a little bit more work than I usually like in a cake, but it's worth it, especially if you want to be able to serve those of your friends who don't partake of dairy.

Sweet Potato Cake with Almond Milk Icing
adapted heavily from here

for the cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 (15 oz.) can sweet potato puree OR 2 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla

for the icing
2/3 cup margarine
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup almond milk
2 tsp vanilla

If you, like me, cannot find sweet potato puree and are using sweet potatoes, chop them up in fairly small pieces, bring some water to boil in a large pot, and let them sit in there until they fall apart effortlessly.

While that is happening, or if you were lucky enough to find a can of puree, mix together in a large bowl the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

When the potatoes are falling apart, beat them into a puree, either by hand or with a mixer (because I was short on time, I used a mixer). Add the wet ingredients to the mix: puree, water, oil, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla. Stir well and divide the batter between two cake pans. I used nine-inch pans, but feel free to use whatever you have, depending on the type of cake you want.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick/knife comes out clean. I allowed my cakes to cool overnight, but they need to be completely cool before you ice them. The original recipe recommends 15 minutes in the pan, then 10 minutes on a wire rack.

For the icing, beat the margarine with a mixer for about 30 seconds, then add in the milk. Feel free to add the vanilla at this point; the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons, but I just eyeballed it. While mixing, slowly add in the powdered sugar. Please note that you might not need all 4 cups of powdered sugar. I only measured out three and barely used all of it. How much you use depends on what consistency you want as well as how sweet you would like the icing to be.

Now for the tricky part: creating the layers. Using a large knife, slice the top off of one of the cakes. This will make the cake more solid and steady, which you will appreciate later, trust me. An illustration:

Once you've done that, spread the icing on the top of the bottom layer. Carefully place the other layer on top, and continue icing. Decorate if you'd like, or serve and enjoy!