No Roasting or Mashing Required: Gingery Sweet Potato Cake

When I saw Yossy Arefi's "Gingery Sweet Potato Cake" in Snacking Cakes, I just assumed that the cake was made with mashed sweet potatoes. I've used sweet potatoes in baking before (like in this tart, this spice cake, and this pound cake), and all of those recipes require you to roast and then mash or puree the potatoes first. But as I read through Arefi's recipe, I realized that it includes raw, grated sweet potato. This seemed like such a weird idea. I mean, I know you can use raw grated carrots in a cake, but you can eat carrots raw. I was so curious about this grated potato cake that I had to give it a try.

Because you don't need to roast the sweet potato in this recipe, the cake comes together quickly, although you do need to spend some quality time with a box grater (or a food processor with a grating disk -- which was definitely my choice since it's so much easier and faster). This cake includes not just grated sweet potato, but also a grated pear. The headnote says that the pear "adds a bit of additional moisture and sweetness, but its flavor mostly melts into the background."

To make the batter, you whisk sugar and eggs until pale and foamy; add oil, ground ginger, cinnamon, and kosher salt; stir in grated sweet potato, grated pear, and chopped crystallized ginger; and fold in flour, baking power, and baking soda. You pour the batter into a parchment-lined pan and sprinkle on more crystallized ginger and some turbinado sugar before baking.
The slice of cake pictured in the cookbook has a bumpy top that looks rustic and inviting. The top of my cake was less attractive and basically flat, although the crystallized ginger and coarse sugar added some some visual interest. When I sliced it, you could clearly see the orange shreds of sweet potato inside. This delicate texture of this cake really surprised me. I was expecting it to be heavy because of the potato, but the crumb was very tender; if you picked up a slice, the thinnest part of the wedge would wobble. The flavor of this cake reminded me of carrot cake or zucchini cake -- it was beautifully spiced with no clear flavor from the potatoes or the pear. However, the crystallized ginger was a highlight, adding lovely texture and sweet-spicy flavor. It's listed as an optional ingredient, but I can't imagine making this cake without it. 

I thought this cake was terrific. I never would have guessed that you could put raw potato in a cake and have it taste this good!

Recipe: "Gingery Sweet Potato Cake" from Snacking Cakes by Yossy Arefi. 

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