Sweet Potato Cake with Pecan Praline Icing is the perfect fall dessert. Cooking it in an iron skillet makes it even better.
We love sweet potatoes around here. They are versatile, so nutritious and have a seriously unique taste. Sweet potatoes in side dishes are popular in the fall, and they are great, but we wanted to create a dessert that went beyond the typical sweet potato pie.
We think you’ll love this Sweet Potato Cake with Pecan Praline Icing just as much as we do.
Updated Fall 2018: The original Sweet Potato Cake was a dense, moist cake. While popular with our readers, quite a few asked for a way to lighten it up a little – in other words, make it not quite so dense.
We did some tweaking and the recipe now makes a cake that is plenty moist, and still highlights the flavor of the sweet potatoes, but is a bit lighter. We’re confident that you’ll love it.
Three more recipes perfect for fall that you’ll want to check out are Sweet Potato Praline Pie, Sweet Potato Biscuits and Sweet Potato Cornbread.
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What about the Iron Skillet?
Cooking this cake in an iron skillet makes it extra special. We love our iron skillets, but it is true that anything cooked in an iron skillet can be cooked in another pan or dish.
However, there is just something uniquely southern about any food made in an iron skillet. The even heat is a big benefit. The crustiness around the edges is another. One of our longtime favorites, Southern Living, gives us this list of recipes that should always be cooked in an iron skillet. You’re not going to question Southern Living, are you? We don’t.
Further evidence of our love for our iron skillets is our other recipes that are best cooked in one. Mama’s Mexican Cornbread is a no-brainer, (whiskey sour stains on the hand-written recipe and all).
Then for breakfast or brunch we have our old-fashioned Southern style Tomato Gravy. Simmer it in the iron skillet and then serve over hot biscuits. Oh my goodness – it’s the best ever!
More recently, and just in time for the fall parties and holidays is Collard Greens Dip. Yes, you could cook it in any small baking dish, but a small iron skillet is going to make it so perfect, plus it makes a great, southern presentation at any gathering. Back to the Sweet Potato Cake, though.
Substitutions? You Bet!
As always, we want to encourage you to try a recipe even if you don’t have all the exact ingredients on hand. Keeping that in mind the following are perfectly acceptable substitutions:
- Don’t have or don’t like cinnamon? Whatever spices you want to add would be great – allspice, ginger, cloves, pumpkin pie spice? Any combination that floats your boat is cool.
- No pecans? (well, what’s wrong with you?) We’re kidding (not kidding) about this. We do like other nuts, but around here, the pecan is king. But, you could substitute walnuts or any tree nut that you love.
- Brown sugar? We used dark brown for the praline icing, but light brown is fine – or a combination of both is good too.
- I like to use canola oil, but if you have a different vegetable oil, go for it.
- If you don’t have an iron skillet, order one now! (details below). In the meantime, this cake can be made in a 9 by 13 inch pan, but watch carefully for doneness. It will cook faster than the iron skillet.
The Pecan Praline Icing
Y’all! This stuff deserves a post all its own. In fact, it deserves a place in the museum of “Decadent Indulgences”. I seriously could eat it with a spoon.
The first time I made it and sent Sara a shot taken with my phone her reply was something about sticking her face in it. It’s that good. It takes only a few ingredients and comes together quickly. Pure goodness.
Tips for making Sweet Potato Cake with Pecan Praline Icing
- I used 2 medium sized sweet potatoes and the amount was perfect. Adjust according to the size of your sweet potatoes.
- I scooped the potatoes and mashed with a regular potato masher, but a fork would work fine.
- Watch the cake carefully for doneness by testing the middle with a toothpick. Take it out of the oven as soon as the toothpick comes out clean, because that iron skillet will hold heat and cook a couple more minutes.
- For the icing, pour over the cake while still hot because it will start to harden (like pralines). You want it to still be “pourable”.
For a different spin on fall frosting be sure to check out this buttercream version. It’s Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Frosting and it’s great on cupcakes, cookies and cakes.
Another great dish you’ll want to add to your fall menu is Butternut Squash with Bourbon, Maple & Bacon. It’s to-die-for too!
This Sweet Potato Cake recipe made our list of Reader Favorites of 2017. Check out the rest here.
Southern Food Then and Now is all about traditions, regions and the origins of our favorite cuisine!
Sweet Potato Cake with Pecan Praline Icing
For the Sweet Potato Cake
- 1 cup sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed about 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1-¾ tsp. baking powder
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- ¾ cup canola oil
- ⅔ cup buttermilk
For the Pecan Praline Icing
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½-3/4 cup chopped pecans
For the Cake
- Mix all dry ingredients.
- Mix all wet ingredients.
- Stir wet into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Bake in a 10″ iron skillet (or 9×13 inch pan) at 350 for 30 to 435 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
For the Icing
- Melt butter over medium heat.
- Stir in cream and sugar.
- Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in confectioners sugar and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and then stir in pecans. Cool for 2-3 minutes.
- Pour over cooled cake.
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A few things you made need to make your Sweet Potato Cake:
- A mini chopper like this is our favorite way to chop nuts
- Pre-seasoned 10 inch cast iron skillet
- Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
- Stainless Steel Whisk Set
Love sweet potatoes?
This is a super simple recipe that makes a wonderful side dish year round. Only 4 ingredients are in this one and it has humble beginnings in the Gullah culture of the Carolina Lowcountry. Gullah Style Sweet Potato recipe can be found here.
I love cooking with cast iron! My grandma always cooked her cornbread in a cast iron skillet. That pecan praline icing looks to die for!
Thanks, Jennifer! You’re correct – that icing is pretty divine!
That looks like a true Southern delicacy! My Father in law usually brings me back some fresh pecans back from Georgia! I’m putting this one on my list! I am a huge fan of everything you have in this amazing cake!
Thanks so much, Beth
Shashi at Savory Spin says
Oh my word! I’m a huge fan of sweet potato cake – but never have I had it with as mouthwatering an icing as your Pecan Praline One! Wow! Scrumptious!
Thank you, Shashi! That icing is pretty good.
Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious says
So that icing has me drooling! Oh my word!! Can’t wait to make this one.
Hahaha, Dorothy! Thank you.
Oh boy…I’m going to have to make that cake now for Thanksgiving! 🙂
Hope you enjoy Kim!
My family would love this. I will give it a try tomorrow . Thanks for sharing.
Hope you enjoy it, Ivory.
What kind of ice cream would be a great accompaniment for this wonderful looking cake? Butter Pecan? or any other ideas?
Mmmm…. that’s an interesting question Sharon. My personal preference would be a good, classic vanilla. But, butter pecan would certainly be in the same flavor family.
Erika gilmore says
Can we use a 12 inch skillet instead of 10?
Sure. It would just be a little thinner and cook faster. Just keep an eye on it.
I would think it would be fine, erika. Just keep an eye on it in the oven because it will cook faster because it will be thinner.
Do you prep the skillet?
Yes, Janis. Prep just like you would a cake pan. Either some type of grease and then flour or using a baking spray, like Bakers Joy.
Sharon Purciful says
Can you use canned sweet potatoes if you don’t have fresh?
Sharon, I would be afraid to try it with the kind that are packed in syrup. I’m afraid the other ingredients would interfere with the recipe coming out right. If you can find some with no added ingredients that are just packed in water I’d be more likely to give that a try.
This is probably my favorite cake ever!!! But the couple times I made it, it was dense. What can I do to get it to puff up while baking?
Hi Ashley, Thanks for writing and so glad you like the cake. The recipe was developed to be a dense, moist cake. A few readers have mentioned wishing it was lighter, though, so we are going to work on the recipe and try to at least offer a lighter version. When we get it perfected we’ll post the update in our weekly newsletter. If you’re not subscribed you can do that here, so you won’t miss it.
Julie @ Back To My Southern Roots says
Wow, what a fantastic recipe. It looks amazing!
Thanks so much, Julie!
This was delicious, quick, and easy. Thank you! Great way to use left over baked sweet potatoes, too.
Exactly! So glad you enjoyed it, Connie!
Jeri Nichole Locklear says
I’m making this tomorrow for a best friends luncheon!
Questions about substitutions:
Could I use cake flour instead of plain flour?
Salted butter or unsalted butter?
Hi Jeri, I don’t think the butter will make any difference. I would just google substituting cake flour for all purpose.
Gretchen Montgomery says
I would probably love the original dense version of this sweet potato cake! Do you have that version saved?
Awww… so sorry, but no. However, it is still a cake on the dense side even as updated. Hope you’ll give it a try and let us know what you think.