Moravian Sugar Cake

This sweet treat is a cousin of coffee cake, with a distinct bread-like texture from the addition of yeast and mashed potato to the batter. Named for Moravian settlers in the North Carolina Piedmont region who are credited with creating it, this fluffy cake is a delicious breakfast, snack, or dessert. We took ours up a notch by using mashed sweet potatoes in place of regular potatoes.

Canned puréed sweet potato offers convenience to this recipe. Smashed roasted sweet potato can also be used but decrease the flour to 3 cups in step 1, and add additional flour as needed.

Moravian Sugar Cake
Yields: 1 (13×9-Inch) Cake
  • ½ cup warm milk (105° to 110°)
  • ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 (0.25-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup canned puréed sweet potato
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • ¼ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
  1. In a large bowl, stir together warm milk and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Sprinkle yeast over milk mixture. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes. Add sweet potato, melted butter, egg, salt, and remaining ½ cup granulated sugar, whisking until smooth. Add 3½ cups flour, beating with a wooden spoon until a loose dough forms.
  2. Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding remaining ½ cup flour, if needed. (Dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky.) Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°) until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours.
  3. Spray a 13×9-inch metal cake pan with cooking spray.
  4. Transfer dough to prepared pan, pressing evenly into pan. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°) until puffed, 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400°.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Using your knuckles, make indentations all over top of dough. Dot with cold butter, and sprinkle with brown sugar mixture.
  7. Bake until top is dark brown and center is firm, about 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm.