Southern Sweet Potato Cake

Southerners love their sweets, and this Southern Sweet Potato Cake is no exception. A sniff of this aromatic cake will transport you right back to Granny's kitchen. This cake is versatile enough to bake during the fall season and all year round. In case you haven't had the chance to try a sweet potato cake, we'll give you our two cents—the taste is similar to a carrot cake, but much more decadent. The cake embraces a mixture of spices that include cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. The recipe only calls for one cup of mashed sweet potatoes, but if you're in a time crunch, you can substitute a can of sweet potato puree for the real sweet potato.This Southern Sweet Potato Cake is known for its tender, moist texture and its non-intimidating caramel frosting. The rich brown sugar icing does an exceptional job of harnessing the spices to create the ultimate combination of sugar and spice. This treat is certainly a show-stopper and special enough to stand on its own amidst an impressive dessert spread. If you really want to impress Granny and relish in the glory days, bring this dessert to a family holiday gathering. Don't worry, we'll keep the canned sweet potato our little secret.

Southern Sweet Potato Cake
Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck; Food Styling: Erin Merhar
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs
Makes 1 (9-in.) cake (serving size: 1 square)


Sweet Potato Cake

  • 1 cup (8 oz.) salted butter, softened

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

  • 2 cups (about 8 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

  • Cooking spray

Brown Sugar Icing

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups (about 6 1/2 oz.) sifted powdered sugar


  1. Make the Sweet Potato Cake: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sweet potatoes; beat well.

  2. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and ground cloves a medium bowl. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat well after each addition. Stir in chopped pecans. Spoon batter into a greased (with cooking spray) 9-inch square pan. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

  3. Make the Brown Sugar Icing: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium; add brown sugar. Let come to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla; return to a boil. Remove from heat; transfer to a large heatproof bowl, and cool 45 minutes.

  4. Add powdered sugar to cooled sugar mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until creamy and icing reaches a spreading consistency, 2 to 3 minutes.

  5. Spread Brown Sugar Icing over cake. Cut into squares to serve.

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