Do you know what is sad? I live minutes away from so much of my family, and yet I rarely see them. We realized last week that not only had we been several weeks without seeing Gerrit’s parents, but it had also been an embarrassingly long amount of time since we had had dinner with my extended family. And since my parents are in the middle of the house-renovations-that-will-never-end and my great aunt and grandmother have had their summer consumed by my great aunt moving houses, I decided it fell to me to have everyone over for dinner this weekend.
There is so much to love about having family over. There is the gathering around the table and the talking and story telling. I love when we have my grandmother and great aunt over and hear stories about decades past, and on Sunday night we finally had a chance to show them pictures from our trip to Italy as well.
But one of the things I also love about having family over for dinner is that it is my chance to cook for a crowd. It’s my chance to make two of my favorite new roast chickens for dinner with an entire baguette. It’s my chance to make a cake where half of it will actually get eaten (or given away). It’s my chance to have every seat filled (and more chairs pulled in).
We are a small family. There were seven at our dinner table on Sunday; and while growing up I often wondered what it would be like to have so much extended family that we take up multiple tables and rooms, I love my family the way it is. And I love cooking for them.
Sweet Potato Pound Cake
adapted from Southern Living Magazine
This is a perfect on-the-cusp-of-fall kind of cake. It has the warmth of cinnamon, and the sweet potatoes still taste like autumn without being as distinct as pumpkin would be. I changed a couple of things from the original recipe, like adding brown sugar for that molasses flavor and texture. I also had less sweet potato than the original recipe called for, so if you have 2 1/2 cups of sweet potato that’s great, but if not just reduce your flour by a bit (I had 2 cups of sweet potato and so used 2 1/2 cups of flour instead of 3 cups). But I decided to tell you how many sweet potatoes you might need rather than tell you how much you should measure out, because it irks me to no end to feel like I would need to bake a whole extra sweet potato just for the little bit I was missing.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Wait Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
2 medium sized sweet potatoes (about 2 to 2 1/2 lbs.)
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Begin by baking the sweet potatoes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Scrub the potatoes clean and dry them off and place them in a baking dish in the oven. Bake for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, until they are soft when you give them a small squeeze. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle them.
2. Meanwhile, reduce oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a bundt pan or tube pan and set aside.
3. In a large bowl combine the cream cheese and butter. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Then add the sugars and continue to beat until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition just until incorporated.
4. Return to your sweet potatoes. Peel them and put all of the pulp into a small bowl. Mash the pulp together and measure out how much you have. If you have less than 2 1/2 cups, then you’ll need to reduce your flour amount by just a bit less than however much sweet potato you don’t have (Example: if you are missing 1/2 cup sweet potato, then reduce your flour measurement by a little less than 1/2 cup). Add the sweet potato to your butter/egg/sugar mixture and mix together until incorporated.
5. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Slowly add the dry ingredients in batches to the wet ingredients, mixing on slow speed after each addition just until incorporated. Then stir in the vanilla.
6. Scrape the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a couple of small crumbs are fine though).
7. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then run a knife along the edge of the pan and turn the pan over to let the cake fall out. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour, and serve (alongside vanilla ice cream is great).