Sweet Pootootoo Cake / Sweet Potato Spice Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Added on by Monica Cheng.

When I think of sweet potatoes, I think of June, of graduation, of sweet Sophia and our baking machinations.

Our latest one to date is this sweet potato cakewhich we dubbed endearingly, our sweet pootootoo cake. This cake is the darling of our creative imagination and a celebration of our friendship, which began in a small common kitchen with me slicing lemons and Kaitlyn speaking in Kaitlyn dialect and Sophia interrogating me about how to study for the MCAT. We’ve come a long way, and I can’t say I’ve enjoyed so much froyo and Starbucks and bourbon-infused desserts with anyone else. Since graduation, it’s been a blur of medical school applications, moving to Boston for a brand new job in teaching, and learning to educate the adorable savages that are otherwise known as fifth graders. It’s a grand adventure.

This sweet pootootoo cake is ever-so-pleasantly sweet (of course), with a soft crumb. The cream cheese frosting is spiked with Honey Whiskey and is a lovely complement to the sweet potato cake that is reminiscent of autumn’s pumpkin cake. We even added a plot twist: The cake is gluten free! Toss in a handful of chocolate chips and a generous serving of rainbow sprinkles for a celebratory hurrah because it is (was) graduation and we’re one step closer to achieving our dreams. Hope you enjoy!


Sweet Pootootoo Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting {Gluten Free}

From Alice Medrich | Yield: 12 servings

For the cake:
1 1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (240 grams) white rice flour
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (80 grams) oat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups (340 g) lightly packed, peeled, & shredded sweet potato OR canned sweet potato
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, to taste (optional)

For the frosting:
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup (150 grams) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Splash of Honey Whiskey, to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.

For the cake, combine oil, sugar, and eggs and beat vigorously until lighter in color, about 5 minutes. Mix in sweet potatoes until smoothly combined. In a separate bowl, measure out rice & oat flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients into sweet potato mixture. Mix just until smoothly combined. Pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Reduce to 325F, and bake for 30 minutes longer, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for at least 2 hours before frosting.

For the frosting, combine cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and honey whiskey. Mix until smooth. Using offset spatula or knife, spread evenly on cake.

Note: To make into layer cake, use two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes at 350F and 20 minutes at 325F. 

Orange Banana Bread {Vegan}

Added on by Monica Cheng.

Hey everyone! I've got a beautifully simple, *super* delicious, and pretty ~healthy~ recipe to share today. At long last, after tinkering around with 50 bajillion banana breads over the course of this summer, I've found the one. And, boy, am I excited to share with you all.

This orange banana bread tastes just as delicious as my previous favorite banana bread from Flour Bakery, but with a lot less fat and a vegan twist. Inspired by my friend (vegan at the time but now turned vegetarian...the aftermath of limited college dining options) whose mom care packaged her the most moist and flavorful vegan banana bread I've ever tasted, I was determined to replicate this awesome bread experience from freshman year of college.

The beauty of this recipe is that it takes just one bowl and requires no sophisticated mixing techniques. Just throw all the ingredients together and bake. I don't even bother with a mixer. Less dishes, right? The hardest part is quite honestly the wait, and resisting the aromatic banana from the oven.

What I love about this bread is its intense banana flavor enhanced by refreshing citrus tones from the zest. Orange banana bread is a true classic that never gets old in my family. I can't count the number of times I've made this bread over this summer. We love eating a slice alongside breakfast, or as a snack on-the-go. I hope you enjoy!

All best,

P.S. Summer adventures with hedgehog cupcakes (white almond sour cream wedding cake with hazelnut mousse filling and vanilla buttercream frosting). After surviving the ordeal of peeling and "rescuing"/resuscitating stubborn raw hazelnuts, I have a newfound appreciation for everything hazelnut, including the hedgehogs' filling.


Tips & Notes:

  • Super ripe bananas are key to the recipe. Look for bananas that have many brown spots and smell aromatic from the peel. If need be, it is okay to use a combination of 2 very ripe bananas + 1 sort-of-ripe banana. Note that using less ripe bananas may require a little more added sugar (maybe use 3/4 cup instead of 2/3 cup), since the ripened bananas contribute essential natural sugars.
  • Mash the bananas using a fork, pressing it against the plate until properly mushed. Then, proceed to combine with the other ingredients.
  • I like to use a combination of ~1/3 cup milk and ~2 tablespoons of yogurt. For non-vegans, dairy milk and Greek yogurt work really well.
  • A combination of 1/3 cup white sugar and 1/3 cup brown sugar works well, in my experience. I suspect that using brown sugar results in a less puffy (but no less delicious!) bread, as shown in the present photos.
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg are optional but I enjoy the added subtleties of flavor. And, heck, why not?
  • Feel free to add walnuts and other add-ins (e.g., Booze?! I imagine orange liqueur would be an excellent choice to sub in with the milk.). The recipe is flexible, so please feel welcome to experiment!

Orange Banana Bread

Generously adapted from Food Network | Yield: 1 loaf, or 6 - 8 servings

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Zest of one orange
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/2 cup non-dairy milk or yogurt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate chips, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350F. Line loaf pan with parchment paper, or grease with cooking spray.

Whisk together mashed bananas, sugar, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest. Add flour last, and mix until just combined. It’s okay if the batter is lumpy. Pour into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, and chocolate chips on top for a crispy crackly top.

Bake 50 - 60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve & enjoy!

Juniper & Honey Pots de Créme

Added on by Monica Cheng.

A Blank Verse on Junipers, Honey, and Pots de Créme
From a practicing not-poet

Juniper, jenever, berry delight,
Oy, not chocolate chips, you say? Could it be? [Caroline's mother]
Fragrant pine, sweetened by honey, melting,
Gliding, sailing, subtle complexity,
Of harmonious custard pot de créme.
A simple light twist on a French classic,
Sure to please and wow, tickle the senses.
"What about me?" the princely nooblet asks.
Surely we could not, would not, leave him out.


Enjoy! Now, onward to graduation and sweet farewells to college~   -Monica

Juniper & Honey Pots de Créme

Slightly adapted from Yossy Arefi | Yield: 2-3 servings

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries*, lightly crushed
3 egg yolks
Whipped cream, sea salt, toasted pine nuts to serve

*Alternatives: vanilla bean, lavender, rosemary, citrus peels/zest

To use the berries, place them in a zippered bag and lightly crush by rolling a rolling pin or wine bottle over them.

Combine heavy cream, milk, honey, juniper berries in a small saucepan. Bring to low simmer and turn off heat. Steep for 30 minutes, and then strain out berries.

While cream steeps, preheat oven to 300F. Place 2-3 ramekins inside a baking dish containing hot water that comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Whisk egg yolks until well combined. Then whisk warm cream mixture into egg yolks. Divide mixture into ramekins and fill to the top (maybe leave 1/2 inch space). Fish out extraneous floating substances (egg yolk or whatnot) using a spoon.

Tent dish with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until custards are set but jiggle slightly in the center. Cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Garnish if desired, serve, and enjoy!


Added on by Monica Cheng.

It’s the spring quarter, and I have yet to fully come to terms with the fact that this is the last nine weeks of my undergraduate studies at Northwestern. It’s weird because I’ve been so preoccupied with preparations for the future -- fellowships and medical school applications -- that I think I have not had a chance to truly appreciate the present.

Soo, this spring, I want to be able to enjoy my last months as a college student in Chicago, especially now that I know for sure that I will be leaving the city and spending the next year in Boston. Despite having ventured to the various parks, museums, shops, and neighborhoods of Chicago over the past four years, it feels like I’ve only just grazed the surface of what the city has to offer and there are still many new and exciting places to explore. Which is great. I have a list of things to do this last Chicago spring...like, bike down the lakeshore path to the city, see the Museum of Contemporary Art, try the Bongo Room, and relish another pistachio & honey ice cream from Jeni’s.

In the spirit of trying new things, I have decided to face my long-held fear of yeast, which is -- to be honest -- not grounded in any reality. Cue, focaccia.

Focaccia is the perfect beginner’s bread. Easy to make, no fuss, and no kneading necessary. It requires few ingredients outside of flour, warm water, and yeast. After a two-day slow rise and a second rise, you get a beautifully golden crusted focaccia with a satisfying chew and a springy flavorful top, packed with the flavors of rosemary, thyme, mozzarella, and other spices. Dip in olive oil to as a snacking bread, or slice in half to make a sandwich. Enjoy!



From Food52 | Yield: 6 - 10 servings

3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or high-gluten bread flour)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/8 cup olive oil

Shredded mozzarella & parmesan cheese, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, garlic powder, for topping

Whisk together flour, salt, and yeast. Add warm water and stir by hand until sticky dough forms. Pour olive oil into container. Transfer dough to container, turn to coat, and cover tightly with lid or plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator to rise for 1 or 2 full days.

Line 9 x 6.5 inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer dough to prepared pan. Spread out as much as possible. Place in warm place (oven, with light turned on) and let rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour. The dough should feel fluffy.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Pat focaccia to even thickness of approximately 1 inch on baking sheet. Dimple entire dough using fingertips (kind of like playing piano chords on the dough), and drizzle with olive oil. Add toppings. Bake 15 minutes, or until top is uniformly golden brown. Enjoy!

Storage: Store in air-tight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 5 days.