Enjoy this Spiced Sweet Potato Cake as a dessert for the holidays, or serve as a coffee cake for brunch with a quiche and candied bacon. However you serve it, it’s bound to be a hit with it’s tender and moist texture, buttery streusel topping, and tangy cream cheese glaze.
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Why This Recipe Works
One of our goals at Zestful Kitchen is to take the intimidation and guesswork out of whole-wheat baking. So when we set our sights on a sweet potato cake, we knew we wanted to make it whole-wheat. For the best sweet potato cake recipe, we took a few notes from our Whole-Wheat Muffins. Most notably, the flour hydration step. It’s simple—just allow the whole-wheat flour to hydrate before adding the leaveners and baking.
Hydrating the flour prior to baking allows the flour to hold onto more moisture. Without the hydration step, the excess moisture will evaporate off during baking, resulting in a dry and crumbly cake.
Another thing to keep in mind—you need to roast a sweet potato first. Depending on the size and shape of your potato, this can take more than an hour. But good news! While the sweet potato bakes, the cake batter is soaking—two steps done at the same time.
Whole Wheat Flour
To keep things easy, this recipe uses regular whole-wheat flour. If you have white whole-wheat flour, that should work as well. Just make sure you weigh the flour instead of relying solely on cup measurement. We do not recommend you use whole-wheat pastry flour.
We tested and developed this recipe using whole milk, so that’s what we recommend you use. If you need to use a milk alternative, we recommend soy milk or almond milk.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
To streamline the ingredient list, we rely on a high-quality pumpkin pie spice blend. We prefer Simply Organic, but you can use whatever you like! If you prefer to make your own, here’s the blend we recommend mixing up: 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, ½ teaspoon ground allspice and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves.
Sweet Potato Purée
The star of the show! The first step of this recipe is to roast the sweet potato until incredibly soft. A paring knife should easily slide right through it. Once the potato cools a bit, peel the skin off and purée the flesh until smooth. We do not recommend swapping out the sweet potato purée with canned pumpkin purée. Canned pumpkin has a lot more moisture and will throw off the ratios in this recipe.
Test Kitchen Tips
- To save time, you can make the sweet potato puree up to 3 days in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also soak the batter up to 8 hours in advance.
- If you make this ahead of time, we recommend waiting to add the drizzle until right before serving. Store the cake, without the glaze, at room temperature overnight or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the cake in a 300-degree oven just until warmed through.
- We’ve got an in-depth guide on how to make sweet potato puree. Check it out for tips, tricks and uses for any leftover puree.
- To make lifting the cake out of the pan easier, we recommend laying a long thin strip of parchment paper underneath the parchment paper round in the cake pan. This way, when you’re ready to life the cake out of the pan, you can use the strip of paper as handles.
This cake is a delicious fall and winter dessert! Serve it at Thanksgiving or Christmas with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
And because it’s very snack-cakey and similar to a pound cake, it’s also right at home on a brunch buffet with Spicy Candied Bacon, a delicious Crustless Quiche (or Broccoli Cheddar Quiche), and a simple yet stunning Butter Lettuce Salad.
Sweet Potato Recipes To Try
- If you like this cake, try our Healthy Sweet Potato Bread. It’s like a sweet potato pound cake!
- We love serving out savory Sweet Potato Casserole at the holidays. It’s a fun take on a classic side dish.
- Got leftover sweet potato purée? Make these delicious Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls!
- Our Harissa Sweet Potato Hummus is a great appetizer for the holidays.
- You can also use leftover sweet potato purée in our Vegan Sweet Potato Ravioli.
- Make this one-pot, 30-minute Coconut Curry Sweet Potato Kale Soup from our SOUP-er Simple Soup Series.
We haven’t tested this recipe with gluten-free flour, but go ahead and try it with your favorite gluten-free flour blend! We like Bob’s Red Mill’s. Through our testing of these Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins, we find soaking gluten-free batter is also beneficial for the texture.
We also have not tested this cake with all-purpose flour. Because we haven’t tested it, we don’t recommend making the swap. If you must, swap the flour out by weight, not cup measurement.
If you make this ahead of time, we recommend waiting to add the drizzle until right before serving. Store the cake, without the glaze, at room temperature overnight or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the cake in a 300-degree oven just until warmed through.
To store any leftover cake with the glaze on it, wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Absolutely, use any neutral oil such as vegetable oil.
Try adding a splash of pure vanilla extract to the batter. You can also add chopped pecans to the streusel topping. If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, add any of your favorite fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and cloves.
Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Streusel
Sweet Potato Purée
- 1 large sweet potato, at least 1 pound
- ¾ cup (157g) packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs (100g)
- ½ cup (107g) olive oil
- 3 tablespoons (41g) whole milk
- 1 tablespoon (6g) pumpkin pie spice
- 2 cups (240g) whole-wheat flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon (3g) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (3g) morton kosher salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ⅓ cup (62g) packed light brown sugar
- ⅓ cup (40g) whole wheat flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon milk + more as needed
- Heat oven to 425ºF (218C). Poke sweet potato all over with fork. Roast until soft, 45–80 minutes (depending on size). Remove and let cool. Reduce oven to 350ºF (176ºC).
- Meanwhile, whisk together ¾ cup brown sugar, 2 eggs, ½ cup oil, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice until smooth.
- Stir in 1 ¼ cups (207g) flour until completely combined. Cover and refrigerate while sweet potato cooks.
- Spray bottom and sides of a 9-inch round (or 8-inch square) baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a round of parchment paper to size of pan and lay flat in bottom of pan.
- Mix butter, ⅓ cup sugar, ⅓ cup flour, 1 ¼ teaspoons spice, and ¼ teaspoon salt until crumble and chunky.
- Peel cooked sweet potato, add flesh to a mini food processor and process until smooth. (You can also mash by hand using a potato masher. Make sure you mash it until completely smooth.)
- Add 1 cup sweet potato puree (222g), remaining ¼ cup flour (31g), 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon kosher salt to batter; mix to combine.
- Transfer batter to prepared pan, smooth top and sprinkle streusel evenly over top.
- Bake cake until puffed and golden, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cook cake in pan, on wire rack, for 15 minutes. Carefully remove cake and allow to cool completely on wire rack.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together ¼ cup cream cheese, 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth. Add additional milk, by teaspoon, until glaze is drizzle yet forms a ribbon in bowl.
- Drizzle glaze over cake and enjoy.
Wrap leftover cake in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Could you sub pumpkin instead of sweet potato?
We haven’t tested this with pumpkin, but I would assume pumpkin will have too much moisture and could potentially impact the texture of the cake. If you want to try it with pumpkin, I would recommend squeezing out as much moisture as you can (add the pumpkin to a thin clean kitchen towel or paper towel and squeeze to release water). Once it’s been squeezed to release excess water, I would then weigh out the pumpkin puree (222g) or 1 cup. I hope this helps!
Hi Allison! I just tested this recipe with canned pumpkin today and good news, it works! I recommend grabbing two 15-ounce cans of pumpkin puree (or one large can) just to make sure you have enough. Add the puree to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to release excess liquid—you should get about 3/4 cup released liquid per one 15-ounce can puree. Then use it in the recipe as directed! I found the pumpkin made for a more dense cake, but it’s still delicious and moist.