I have a friend who maintains that drinking is good for him – because he only drinks organic wines and beers. I feel similar way about this recipe – it’s packed with vegetables and nuts, so surely it must be good for you… even if you are detoxing?
Traditional Caribbean cakes are scented rather heavily with sweet spices and essences. While they are delicious – especially with a cup of coffee made from freshly ground Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans – I have reduced the amount of spices that would normally be used in this cake, and have made the essences optional. This suits my own personal tastes but you can, of course, be more liberal with them if you wish.
For the best flavour and an appealingly moist texture, use freshly grated coconut. However, if it isn’t readily available or is too much of a hassle to prepare, desiccated coconut (sweetened or unsweetened) will still be delicious. You may reconstitute it in hot water, if you wish – though this is not strictly necessary for this recipe. If you use dried desiccated coconut, the cake will keep longer than it would if you were to use fresh or reconstituted coconut.
Use any kind of nuts you like – cashews, almonds and walnuts are all traditional, and I often ring changes by using different varieties in this recipe. If using pistachios or almonds, you may want to dip them in boiling water for a minute or so and remove their coarse skins – but again, this is not strictly necessary.
This is an old-fashioned cake recipe that’s quite forgiving – you can put as much or as little effort into it as you like, and the end result should still be finger lickin’ good. The only thing you have to remember is not to be heavy-handed in mixing the cake mixture, and not to over-cook the cake. Serves around 6.
9 oz/ 225g orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
Juice and finely grated zest of ½ lemon
4 oz/ 100g fresh grated or desiccated coconut
3 oz/ 75g sultanas
3 medium eggs
4 oz/ 100g white or pale brown caster sugar
6 oz/ 150g unsalted butter, softened
9 oz/ 225g wholemeal flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon allspice berries, freshly ground
A couple of drops natural almond or vanilla extract (optional)
2 oz/ 50g unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts, chopped
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/ 350F/ gas mark 4. Grease a deep, 8-inch round cake tin, and line the base and all the sides with lightly buttered greaseproof paper.
2. Just when you’re ready to bake, peel and grate the sweet potatoes (not too far ahead in advance, otherwise they’ll start turning grey-black). Combine them with lemon juice and zest, coconut, and sultanas.
3. Beat the eggs, and whisk in the sugar and butter. Add to the sweet potato and coconut mixture, and mix well.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and all the spices, and fold them into the cake mixture. Add the almond or vanilla extract, if using, and the chopped pistachios.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours. Pierce a skewer or knife into the centre of the cake to make sure it comes out clean. If not, place the cake back into the oven until done, taking care not to overcook.
6. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to cool before serving warm or at room temperature.