Portion/Yield:Makes 8 muffin-size cakes (see Cook’s Notes)
Sweet potatoes are delicious! When I was a child my mother used to cook them regularly, and on a Sunday she cooked them to serve with our roast. She added sugar, cinnamon, butter and seasoning to diced sweet potatoes, then cooked them slowly in a covered saucepan. The sweet potatoes caramelised and the resulting sticky savoury-sweet combination was an absolute treat with roast lamb.
My mother also cooked pumpkin in the same way. If there were any leftovers (pumpkin or sweet potato mix), she then made fritters the following day and served them sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. See page 375 in my cookbook ‘The British Larder A Cookbook For All Seasons’ for her delicious fritter recipe.
I am always trying to come up with appealing new recipes and ideas and sometimes I just think about how I can put a twist on classic recipes that I love. These sweet potato and coconut cakes are a tasty twist on a classic favourite of mine, carrot cake. I replace the grated carrots with grated raw sweet potatoes, add some coconut (as I like the texture) and, hey presto, here they are!
My grandmother used to make traditional South African tartlets called ‘hertzoggies’, which are sweet pastry-based apricot jam tartlets topped with coconut meringue. Once the meringue topping is added to the tartlets, they are returned to the oven for a few minutes until the meringue becomes crispy on the outside but retains its gooey marshmallow-like centre. The coconut meringue on these sweet potato cakes is exactly the same.
They make a lovely afternoon tea or sweet treat, and they are also good served for dessert with crème fraîche or pouring cream.
The video accompanying this recipe shows the whole process step-by-step, including making the cakes and the meringue topping.
Ingredients & Method
For the sweet potato and coconut cakes
- 150g plain flour, sifted
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
- 75g desiccated coconut
- 175g soft dark brown sugar
- a pinch of sea salt
- 125g (prepared weight) coarsely grated (peeled) raw sweet potatoes
- 70g (prepared weight) coarsely grated (cored) eating apples (skin left on)
- 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
- 125ml sunflower or groundnut oil
For the coconut meringue
- 100g egg whites (from about 3 medium eggs)
- 200g caster sugar
- 50g desiccated coconut
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Grease 8 cups of a muffin tin (or line them with paper cases), line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set both aside.
For the sweet potato and coconut cakes, place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix together using a wooden spoon until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a disposable piping bag (or just use two spoons instead of a piping bag), then pipe (or spoon) it into the prepared muffin cups, dividing evenly. Bake in the oven for about 22 minutes or until a metal skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 2–3 minutes, then carefully turn out and transfer the cakes to the lined baking sheet and set aside while you make the coconut meringue. Leave the oven on.
For the meringue, place the egg whites into a small saucepan; put a clean disposable glove on one of your hands. Place the pan over a low heat and, using your gloved hand, whisk the egg whites with your fingers, then slowly add the caster sugar as you continue mixing, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 37°C. Remove from the heat, transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer, attach the balloon whisk, then whisk until the meringue is glossy and forms soft peaks. Gently fold the desiccated coconut into the meringue.
Transfer the coconut meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle (or just use two spoons instead of a piping bag). Pipe (or spoon) the meringue on top of the warm cakes, then return them to the oven for 5–6 minutes or until the outside of the meringue is crisp but the centre is still gooey. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and leave to cool, then serve warm or cold (see Cook’s Notes).
You can also use this recipe to make 12 cupcakes (using a greased 12-cup cupcake tin) or 1 large cake (using a greased and base-lined deep 18cm round cake tin, preferably a springform tin). Follow the recipe above; bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes, or bake the large cake for about 35–40 minutes, until cooked, then top with the meringue mixture and bake for a further 5–6 minutes.
Once baked and cooled, these meringue-topped cakes will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container.