A fall spice cake made with sweet potato and frosted with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.
I’ve been bad-mouthing spice cakes, carrot cakes, and the like for nearly all my life. Because why would anyone choose any of those when you could also chocolate, vanilla, funfetti, and even cherry chip?
But on more than one occasion I’ve had to eat my words because I’ve had or made such a cake and LOVED it. This sweet potato spice cake is one such cake, and I think it’s made a convert out of me. No bad-mouthing here, I can only sing this cake’s praises.
This sweet potato spice cake is light and tender, with a subtle sweetness from the sweet potato and a hint of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The ultra-creamy cream cheese frosting is still my favorite part, though, and together the cake and frosting make a fabulous pair.
I used vanilla bean paste in the frosting for the full flavor of vanilla with a little less of the fuss, but you could also use vanilla extract or a scraped vanilla bean if you’d like.
I love how this sweet potato spice cake feels so much like fall, and it would be a perfect dessert for any fall party and even a great alternative to Thanksgiving pie.
baking tip:How to cut a cake into even layers
For a more dramatic presentation, you can cut 2 (or more) baked cake layers in half to create more layers and a taller cake. There are several ways to do this, but this method is my favorite and it requires no special tools!
- Chill cake layers completely in the fridge before slicing.
- Use a small paring knife to score the outside edge of the cake halfway up the side. Get down at eye level if necessary.
- Use a large serrated knife to slice through the cake horizontally, using the scored line as a guide. Go slow, there’s no need to rush.
- Lift the top half of the cake up with the help of the serrated knife.
- Use cake layers immediately, or return to the fridge until ready to assemble.
For more help and photos, see my full post on how to cut a cake into even layers.
Sweet Potato Spice Cake
- 1 large sweet potato
- 3 cups cake flour (360 grams)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 large eggs
- 2 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (140 grams), at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk (310 ml)
Cream cheese buttercream:
- 10 ounces cream cheese (285 grams), at room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (113 grams), at room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar (455 grams), sifted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk or cream
To make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prick the sweet potato with a fork, and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until the potato is soft. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Peel off skin and remove any dark spots. Put into a food processor and puree until smooth or mash with a vegetable masher. Measure one cup of puree for this recipe.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8 or 9 inch cake pans lined with parchment paper on the bottoms.
- In a bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves. and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and mix on medium high speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the sweet potato puree and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
- Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the buttercream:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Mix on low until combined, then increase speed to high and beat until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes.
To assemble the cake:
- If desired, split cake layers in half making 4 cake layers total.
- Stack the layers of cake on a cake stand or plate, spreading approximately 3/4 cup frosting in between each layer. Top with remaining frosting.
- Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Store in the fridge.
- The frosting recipe makes enough frosting to fill and cover 2 cake layers, but if you split the 2 layers to make 4 total, you may only have enough frosting to fill and top the cake (but not enough to cover the sides). If you'd like to cover the entire 4-layer cake with frosting, consider doubling the recipe.
This recipe was originally published in October 2011. Photos have been updated.
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