Friday, March 1, 2013

A Cake Worth Making: Hazelnut Sweet Potato Torte

It's been a few days since I have been on this blog. I have been busy with a few new recipes, photo shoots and other things. I had this idea for a cake; it had been percolating through my brain for a couple of weeks, and wanted to give it a try. I finally got down to it and had some excellent results. I had found a recipe some time back by Chef Eddy Van Damme for a carrot cake made with nut meals. I wondered, though.

I made a cake using sweet potato about a year ago, and it was an excellent cake. The sweet potato was cooked and then pureed and used in the cake, making it very moist. But, I wondered, what if I didn't cook the sweet potato? What if I just shredded it like the carrots for a carrot cake? I wanted to put this idea to the test, though I couldn't imagine why it wouldn't work. I love the idea of using nut meal as the basis for a cake, as it is more like a torte; a heavier, but moist and rich torte cake. Flavors were another consideration. What flavors would go well with sweet potato and nut meal? Ginger, for sure. Vanilla is always a great background flavor. One other thought was that the cake uses one cup of regular flour, to bind everything together. Once cup is not a lot, and I decided to go with a Gluten-Free flour mixture instead, making the cake completely gluten-free.

I went ahead with the cake, but decided to utilize a square cupcake tin my sister-in-law had given me. I knew the cake would not grow a lot. Being a nut torte, if it did rise too high, it would just deflate. I had in my mind the picture of cute little square tortes. I went ahead with the recipe as I amended. I used half hazelnut meal and half almond meal. Next time I will use all hazelnut meal, as I think it would define the flavors more. Not that there was a single thing wrong with the flavors I ended up with! Check out the recipe for this Hazelnut Sweet Potato Torte on my website.

The baking time for the square cupcakes was 20 minutes at 375 degrees. I had some batter left over after filling the square pans, so I put it into regular round cupcake tins and got 6 more. These were slightly smaller that the squares and were done in 15 minutes. The cake batter could be spread onto a half sheet pan and made about 1/2 inch thick. This way the cake can be cut into bar or square shapes and topped with icing in some decorative manner, just like the cupcakes I made. Another option, and one I would like to try, is using round cake pans, either three or four, for thin torte layers, and stacking them with orange curd between the layers. I am making myself salivate, and we haven't yet finished with the last cake yet. Ideas for another day.

Meanwhile, I had the little cupcakes in the oven and turned my mind to icing. What would go well topping these flavors? I have wanted to try using matcha green tea powder in an icing for a while, so that was my first idea. Then, because there was ginger in the cake, and ginger and green tea sounded heavenly together, I decided on adding ginger. At the last minute I thought of a praline pecan flavor extract I had in the cabinet and used about 3 drops of that. It made the frosting taste absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, it totally eclipsed the flavor of green tea and ginger. Next time I make that combo, I will not use the praline extract, or just use it alone. Meanwhile, I still called my icing Matcha Green Tea Ginger Icing. And it was exquisite with the cakes.

Hazelnut Sweet Potato Tortes,
frosted with Matcha Green Tea Ginger Icing,
topped with toasted miniature marshmallows

Hazelnut Sweet Potato Torte

Makes 3 - 4 thin 8-inch round torte layers, 
OR 16 square "cupcakes" 
OR 20 - 24 regular cupcakes

1¼ cups brown sugar
1½ cups almond flour / almond meal
1½ cups hazelnut flour / hazelnut meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup flour of choice (I used gluten free)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
3 eggs
1½ cup melted unsalted butter
12 ounces finely grated sweet potato (about 3 cups grated)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl combine the first 8 ingredients and whisk together to combine; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs for 5 minutes at high speed, until thick and pale. Lower speed to very low and pour in the melted butter and the vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened.

If using a half-sheet pan, line it with parchment and spray the parchment with cooking spray. (I lined the square cupcake pans with little parchment squares also, just as added insurance.) If using half-sheet pan, spread the batter evenly over the surface. Cake will be very thin. It can later be sliced and stacked, if desired.

It can be made in 8 or 9-inch round pans; line the pans and spread batter thinly in 3 or 4 (8 or 9-inch) round pans. If using cupcake tins, this will make about 20 - 24 cupcakes, depending on how full they are. Bake for about 20 minutes for either the half-sheet pan or the square cupcake pans. For smaller round cupcakes, bake for approximately 15 minutes. Cakes are done with they spring back when lightly pressed, or use the toothpick inserted in center to test for doneness.

NOTES: This cake was made entirely gluten free. I made a Matcha Green Tea Buttercream icing with matcha green tea powder, powdered ginger and a few drops of Praline flavor. Plain vanilla buttercream would be equally as good. Use your favorite icing. 

Whipped Buttercream Icing 

Whipped Buttercream Icing
Whipped Buttercream Icing
This basic Buttercream can be altered and flavored in many possible ways. The main ingredients are 1 stick of butter to one cup of confectioners' sugar, with a pinch of salt tossed in. For vanilla, add in vanilla extract and/or the seeds from a vanilla bean.

Makes enough to frost an 8-inch cake

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 - 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, to taste

In no recipe is it as important to have the butter at room temperature as in this one.

Place soft butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium high for about 8 minutes, or until the butter is nearly white and very creamy. Reduce mixer speed to very low. Sift together the confectioners' sugar and salt, and add this to the mixer bowl on very low speed, until moistened, about 1 minute. Return speed to medium high and beat for about 6 minutes more. Add liquids only if needed, and only in very small increments.

VARIATION: (shown in photos above)

Matcha Green Tea Ginger Icing 

1 to 3 tablespoons Matcha Green Tea Powder
½ teaspoon powdered ginger

Sift these ingredients in with the confectioners' sugar, then follow instructions as for Whipped Buttercream Icing above.

As a topper for the cake, back to thinking of what goes well with sweet potato, I thought of some little marshmallows in the pantry. I took a couple of dozen and set them onto parchment on a baking sheet and broiled them till they were puffed and browned, about 1 minute. They completely deflated when they cooled, but they were still chewy and flavorful, and I topped each little cake with one roasted marshmallow. Yum.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.