Have you wanted to try a honey- or maple syrup-sweetened frosting recipe but were not sure where to start? Try one made with sweet potatoes as well.
Photos by Zachary Cross
Even though I love orange sweet potatoes baked whole, roasted in cubes, in recipes, or by themselves, I am not a fan of plain cooked white or purple sweet potatoes. I’ve successfully used the white ones in place of noodles and Irish potatoes, but not for much else. When I saw this recipe from Beyond the Bite I knew I had to try it.
Why sweet potato frosting? There are several good reasons. First, it’s made with local ingredients. Depending on the options you choose, the main ingredients are sweet potato and honey or maple syrup. Other local options include milk and butter, as well as local foods used for color.
Next, it tastes good! I find most frostings too sweet - and fairly tasteless as well. This frosting is sweet enough without being cloying. Also, sweet potatoes lend a little of their taste to this frosting without being overpowering. Flavoring does not mask the sweet potato in some of the recipes, but does tone it down. In a couple of options I made (chocolate, pink with beet juice) the sweet potato was undetectable.
Last, the nutritional value of this frosting is much higher than traditional frostings. It’s still dessert but sweet potato frosting has, per serving, less sugar and more fiber than traditional buttercream frosting. Depending on the type of sweet potato it can even have approximately 25% of the RDA for Vitamin A. Bonus: purple and orange colors are naturally occuring. I easily created pink with beets as well.
I checked out a few other recipes online, but the basic idea is to take cooked, pureed sweet potato and emulsify it with some sweetening and other ingredients, such as, often, but not always, fat.
One of the things that I do not normally care for in purple and white sweet potatoes is what I consider a fruity flavor. It’s mild, but something that I do not want in many savory dishes. It’s perfect in a frosting, though! Zachary said he assumed the pink frosting had raspberries in it (an addition I’ve used in the past) in part because of the color, partly because of the flavor. It’s subtle, though, so it’s not for berry lovers only.
The consistency of this frosting is right for piping and it holds it shape well, with some cautions. First, make sure you blend the frosting long enough. It needs to fully emulsify and this takes several minutes. I found it worked better in my food processor than with beaters, but I think if I had been more patient with the beaters they would have worked as well. I wondered what was wrong with some of my frosting; it looked fine and then broke when I used it. Then I remembered Dana’s post about chocolate chip cookies and the importance of creaming the butter and sugar for a full three minutes. I can get impatient, so I do best if I time it. An unemulsified frosting can be pretty, such as this recipe, but it’s a pretty specific combination of ingredients, and the result is not a pipable frosting.
Next, keep your frosting cool. I thought I had read on one recipe that the frosting gets too hard when refrigerated, and will slide right off a cake when cut. So I kept my frosting room temperature. Well, then my kitchen got pretty hot, and the frosting got quite warm in the piping bags while I was handling it. Then it separated. Next time I’ll keep the frosting I’m working with in the fridge. A long time chilling might make the frosting hard, but I don’t think a short time in the fridge will. And I’m not sure it’s an issue anyway! I can’t find that reference that I thought I remembered. In the photographs you can see the pink and white frostings starting to separate. I was able to blend the pink again, but needed to chill it as well. The purple frosting looks much better, but I realized later I need to blend it a little longer as well. Again, make sure you blend it long enough!
The recipe from Beyond the Bite calls for lemon juice and zest as flavoring. I wanted a vanilla frosting so I chose milk and vanilla instead. There was still a sweet potato flavor and the color is not as white as I would like (I think perhaps the original recipe had some photo editing wizardry going on and my expectations were too high). When I changed up the recipe again, and used the water from cooking beets in place of the milk, as well as butter instead of shortening, the sweet potato flavor was gone, and the color was a nice pink. The purple sweet potato, with milk and vanilla again, was a lovely shade of lavender. I was disappointed that it was not as bright as these, but my potatoes did not start out that bright, either. That is an upside as well as a downside of natural colors: they vary unpredictably.
I did not make a vanilla frosting with orange sweet potatoes (that could be great for fall), but I did make a chocolate one. I’m still working on the right amount of honey and chocolate, though. Most recipes I found called for already sweetened chocolate and I wanted to work with unsweetened chocolate and honey or maple syrup.
There are also low fat versions of this recipe online. Here’s one for purple, and one for white. I assumed they would not hold up as well, but in the near future I plan to give them a try and see which I prefer. One advantage they could have is that they may not dilute the purple or orange of the sweet potatoes as much as the recipes with butter or shortening do.
Whichever option you choose, you have an interesting option for Valentine’s Day or any sweet occasion.
From Beyond the Bite Paleo
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated palm shortening
1/2 cup puréed Japanese sweet potato
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
To make the sweet potato purée, peel, chop, and boil 1 medium sized Japanese sweet potato until fork tender, then place in a food processor, blending until smooth, and setting aside in a container for later use.
Back in the food processor, puree together 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated palm shortening, 1/2 cup pre-pureed sweet potato, honey, sea salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest, until fully combined and creamy.
1.I used baked sweet potatoes. Make sure your potato is well drained if you boil it.
2. Be sure to blend the ingredients for several minutes. Don’t stop early, even if it looks good.
3. For a vanilla frosting use ¼ cup milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract in place of the lemon juice and zest. For pink, use the water from cooking beets in place of the lemon juice. Other fruit or vegetable waters or juices may work well. For purple/lavender frosting use purple potatoes.
Printable recipe here
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