Sweet Potato Spice Cake with Pecans and Orange Zest

The perfect cake wears many hats — or that’s what I concluded this morning after polishing off the last slice of a Sweet Potato Spice Cake and calling it breakfast.

This multi tasking menu item started to take shape Saturday afternoon as Sarah was on the road back from Auburn. It ended up as not only dessert, but  a centerpiece during dinner, the source of a lot of discussion, something to send Sarah’s boyfriend home with, breakfast, an after-school snack for Anna, dessert again for Bill …

With the second year of architecture school under her belt and a whole summer ahead of us, there was a lot to celebrate. The idea of a Sweet Potato Spice Cake had been swirling in my head for a few reasons, and a Google search on the topic revealed that I wasn’t the first person to have that idea. We went with Emeril Lagasse’s version, and switched it up a bit — dispensing with the glaze and instead spreading a mix of pecans, brown sugar, orange zest and butter on the bottom of the bundt pan to serve as a crunchy, bursting-with-flavor, baked-in topping.

It, of course, had to be a bundt cake — allowing for the use of the center for a small vase of flowers, and this time the flowers were right  out of the garden. Having found myself in a family full of artists, I’ve learned that presentation is everything. So with style and substance coming in as huge successes, the weekend’s cause for celebration was duly noted.


  • 2 cups raw sugar
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes–about 2 medium. (Cut into 1-inch chunks and boiled for 15-20 minutes until very soft)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbsp. grated orange zest
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar


  • Preheat oven to 325. Coat a 12-cup bundt pan with cooking spray.
  • Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, and sugar. Add sweet potatoes and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. Stir into the wet ingredients in 3 separate batches. Fold in 3/4 cup of  pecans, vanilla and 1 Tbsp of orange zest.
  • In a small bowl, melt butter. Stir in 1/4 cup of pecans, 1 Tbsp of orange zest and 2 Tbsp. brown sugar. When thoroughly incorporated, dot butter and nut mixture onto the bottom of the prepared bundt pan.
  • Gently pour cake batter into the bundt pan and bake at 325 for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before inverting on a plate.