December 9, 2004

potatoes, sweet or not?

Sunday, December 5

There is carrot cake. There is zucchini bread. There is pumpkin pudding. So why not potato cake?

There are snacks made with potatoes (such as savory potato pancakes), but sweet cakes using potatoes seem to be uncommon. Long time ago, I made potato cakes - or rather potato squares, since it was rather thin cake made in a square pan - but it is my only experience with using potatoes in making cake. Recently I came across a recipe recipe for potato cake (in Japanese), and meant to try it for a while.

Although the recipe I used is in Japanese, it claims to be of German origin, called Kartoffeltorte which literary translate to "potato cake". It is a fairly easy recipe, even if it requires egg-white beating.

I microwaved three potatoes then mashed them (I couldn't bother to put them through a ricer), added egg yolks and sugar. Then I beat egg white with some sugar, folded it in the potato mixture, then baked in the oven. That's it.
The only thing I changed with the original recipe was that I added some vanilla extract, and sprinkled with cassonade or French brown sugar on top of the batter for an enhanced flavor.

The results: my potato cake tasted like, pretty much, sweetened mashed potatoes, although I am not sure if you can imagine such a thing.

It wasn't bad, but it was a bit bland and was certainly not a very sophisticated kind of cake. It wasn't heavy, thanks to the whipped egg whites, and a bit too dry. I remember the last potato cake, I mean potato squares, that I made more than ten years ago did not have an overpowering taste of potato and tasted perfectly fine as a teatime treat. This one, I would have liked it a lot better if it hadn't been sweet at all - although, in that case it would have been just regular mashed potatoes.


Speaking of potato cake, there is sweet potato cake which I like a lot better than the potato cake that I just made. In fact, I love sweet potato cakes.

The cake, simply called "sweet potato" in Japanese, comes in various different shapes, but is a very popular treat in Japan, especially in the autumn when the vegetable is in season. Soon after I came to Hawaii I learned that what people call "sweet potatoes" here aren't sweet potatoes at all - at least not the kind I have known as sweet potatoes. Of course I know that they are sweet potatoes, but they are confusingly different from ones called sweet potatoes in Japan, even if the two are very much alike; I found sweet potatoes available here are - there are several different varieties, but in general - moister than their Japanese counterparts and have a taste that is a bit like carrot (specially the ones with orangy flesh).

So over here, sweet potatoes just don't cook or taste like they would in Japan, but I figured that I could make a decent sweet potato cake that are similar to what I would have in Japan, if I use ones with white to yellow flesh. Once I have right kind of sweet potatoes, the rest is easy; I cook them, mash the flesh, mix with sugar and cream/milk, and maybe butter and/or an egg yolk, then broil until it is nice golden brown on top. This used to be my regular after-school snack when I was young, and while I don't go to school nowadays, I still love it.

Apparently, this cake doesn't seem to have a national publicity in this country; last year when I first made sweet potato cakes like these and left them in the toaster oven, he had some bites and liked them, but it was later revealed that he had thought these cake had been, simply, yummy baked sweet potatoes that were really sweet and soft. There may be good sweet sweet potatoes, but it would be hard to be that sweet or soft...


Reid said...

Hi Chika,

The potato cake sounds interesting, it's too bad that the flavor wasn't really there. On the other hand, the "sweet potato" sounds interesting. I've never had it before. In fact, I normally don't like the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. I prefer the Okinawan sweet potatoes (those with the purple flesh). I find the flavor to be a bit more delicate and refined.

chika said...

Hi Reid,

I, too, prefer Japanese sweet potatoes (including Okinawan ones) to the orange-colored carrot-like sweet potatoes. I suspect some sweet shops might make those "sweet potatoes" over there... (I tend to think you guys have everything Japanese-y in Honolulu)

Anonymous said...

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Posted by Huy Hoang

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Posted by lehoangduy