When bad recipes happen to good people

Most holidays I fall victim to the extravagant cake syndrome. Use something tried and true? Never! That’s how I ended up struggling with the white cake-butter frosting-lemon curd filling-toasted pistachio layer cake from Real Simple for Easter. Real Simple, my Aunt Fanny!
So for Thanksgiving I thought I’d try the sweetpotato layer cake from Saveur magazine. Saveur, of course, has never promised simplicity, but I would have expected organization and did not get it. I accept responsibility for not reading painstakingly through the directions before I started — I’m afraid I never do.
I understood from the get-go that I was talking about made-from-scratch cake, filling, icing (praline) and candied pecans. I did not know food writer Ben Mims would just throw all the ingredients in his computer, hit the “scramble” key and publish.  If the stuff that’s used several times had even indicated “divided,” it would have helped. So would an editor, something I never thought I’d admit.
So, in the hopes that this is an ab-fab cake (we won’t eat it until tomorrow), I share my re-written version. It should serve 12, but in this family, if it amounts to anything…



1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 cups flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cardomom ($12 for a wee McCormick bottle this year!)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 eggs
2 cups mashed roasted sweet potatoes
3/4 cup sour cream
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Brown butter in saucepan; stick in freezer and chill until solid but not permafrosted. In bowl whisk flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, baking soda and allspice. Set aside. In mixing bowl beat firmed-up browned butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beat until smooth. Beat in potatoes, sour cream and vanilla.
Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour 9×13-inch baking pan. Add flour mixture to sweetpotato mixture, using electric mixer to combine until until moistened. Finish mixing gently with wooden spoon or spatula. Turn out into prepared pan, smooth top and bake until cake tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool on rack. Halve cake crosswise into two layers.


2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Place whites in mixer bowl and beat until foamy. Meanwhile, stir together salt, sugar and water in small saucepan, bring to low boil, continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup temperature reaches 250. Slowly pour hot syrup in small, steady stream into whites with beater running. Continue beating until whites have cooled and peak softly. Add vanilla. Spread icing over bottom layer and top with second layer.


4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces pecan halves
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup rum
Mix all ingredients together in small saucepan. Cook, stirring often, until thickly glazed, about 4 minutes. Transfer to sheet of foil in single layer and cool. (Mine need to dry overnight without a spell in the oven on a baking sheet.)


6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 (or less) teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Combine ingredients in saucepan, bring to gentle, rolling boil, stirring. Cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat, add vanilla and let cool for 15 minutes, without stirring. Ice top of cake and press candied pecans into praline.

On a happier, smoother note, got together with four women I’d worked with at the Charlotte Observer last week — some of our friendships reach back to 1977. It was fun and we hope to do it annually from now on, maybe with husbands. I don’t necessarily think old friends are best — I have some pretty cool new ones as well — but these broads (and they are broads) are da bomb. More later about our round-the-clock meals. God bless us every one! Oh, wait, that’s the next holiday. Have a good, good day tomorrow.

(L-R:) Yours truly, Cathy the food blogger and non-profit administrator; Kathy, journalist and pet sitter; Jody, writer and rider; Miriam, artist.

One response to “When bad recipes happen to good people”

  1. Looking good! The weight loss has really added up …… acknowledging the eternal incongruity of congratulating someone for there being less of them…


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