Gluten Free Sweet Potato Spice Cake with Apricot Carob Filling

by Maria Theresa Maggi on November 19, 2013

gluten free sweet potato spice cake sliceThe Buddhists and Hindus teach that earthly existence is a continual wheel of circular motion, fueled by desires that entrap us within that motion, like a potter’s wheel or a water  mill–or, to be more modern, a clothes dryer or the food processor. And as the famous actress Betty Davis once said “Life–it’s not for sissies.” So I’m going to give it to you straight.

This recipe is a cake with flour and sugar in it. Yes, it’s gluten-free flour. And yes, there’s only a half cup of sugar. But flour is flour and sugar is sugar. Period.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved to bake. The girl scout badge that required me to make a layer cake and frost it was one of my most treasured. In fact, for a time, what I wanted to be when I grew up was a baker. It’s in my blood. My maternal grandmother’s brothers ran a bakery. My grandmother taught me their tricks about not burning pie crust in the oven and how to cool a cake. I still have a pastry cloth my grandmother gave me that harkens back to these times.

But I don’t make pie crust anymore. (I do make dog biscuits for Romeo, though, so I still use my rolling pin now and then.) And I don’t usually make cakes. So I will blame this cake on the internet, and an image somewhere on Pinterest of a chocolate sweet potato cake. It looked nothing like this one, but it got my “wheel” turning. Not so much to taste the cake, but to create one that would be in the ball park of healthy, for a special holiday treat. And to see if I could do it after all this time.

The first two years I ate plant-based, I baked every week. I was so thrilled to be feeling better and so thrilled I COULD bake again, just fat free at first, and then gluten free, too, once my “science experiment” to test whether wheat would be okay for me to eat without all the fat showed me that no, that had not changed. I am forever indebted to two amazing women  for all I learned about baking in this new way: Susan Voisin of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, and Karina Allrich at Gluten Free Goddess. If you need to learn how to do both of these things, besides the meager advice I offer here, I highly recommend you hop back and forth between the recipes on their two blogs to figure out how to do both in your own individual way.  Your education will be invaluable.

Gluten free and fat free baking is a lot like setting the kid in me who wants to play with a chemistry set free in the kitchen. It’s not a streamlined process and it can get very  messy. Like life, it’s not for sissies. It’s best not to expect the texture and heft of gluten free baked goods to resemble the ones made with gluten and loads of fat and sugar; it’s like pressing ” quick spin” on that wheel the Buddhists call Samsara. But if you have a sense of adventure, and want a gluten free fat free treat that’s delicious in its own right, and healthier than most conventional cake, then tie on your apron and follow me into my  laboratory:

gluten free sweet potato spice cake in progress

I made this cake twice. The first time I used Susan’s Applesauce Ginger Cake as a template. I had made it before (for company) as the applesauce cake it is meant to be,  only gluten free, and it had come out fine. This sweet potato version came out good, but I thought it was a bit too heavy, and maybe a tad too dry. Since mashed sweet potato is more dense than applesauce, I went back to Karina’s Pumpkin Bundt Cake recipe to check her proportions of leavening and liquid. I kind of hopped back and forth between the two recipes to decide on my own measurements.

The inspiration for the carob apricot filling also came from two divergent places: wanting to come up with a tasty, creative riff on the chocolate sweet potato cakes I saw out there, and wanting to avoid the disappointment of putting a glaze on the outside of the cake, only to have it soak all the way in. This is a recurring problem I’ve had with icings and glazes on gluten free baked goods. So I got the inspiration to beat that chemistry to the punch by putting a gooey, luscious fat free filling on the inside of the cake.

The other nice thing about gluten free baked goods is that they take to freezing. In fact they often deepen in flavor after having been frozen. So if you have extra cake (like I did) you can slice it up and freeze it. Here is my second cake all sliced up and ready to go to Poetry Night:

gluten free sweet potato spice cake in slices


For someone who is a veteran at eating low fat and plant-based like I now am, this cake is a once-in-a-great-while special occasion treat.  For the folks at Poetry Night, it’s a foray into the strange unknown. Poetry Night was originally called Chocolate, Wine and Poetry Night for good reason. I didn’t say anything at all about the cake, just put it on the table with the dark chocolate cupcakes and the pumpkin cream custards. A couple of people besides me had a slice. One thought to tell me it was good. As I was leaving, juggling putting my coat on and holding the dog leash and the cake plate, the hostess offered to help. “Is this gluten-free? she asked, and said she was “trying to do that.”  She took a piece, and then a bite. Her face changed. “This is GOOD,” she said. “I could do this.” And then again. “This is REALLY GOOD.”

So if you have a sense of adventure like my hostess did, or want to unleash your mad scientist in the kitchen, try this cake out as a holiday treat. Or if you are a died-in-the-not-wool traditionalist, try out my Pumpkin Pie in the Free World.

And that’s how the Samsara dessert wheel turns. Gluten or no gluten in the flour, a little sugar or a lot, it’s not for sissies. I am grateful the small amounts of  this cake I did eat produced no fibromyalgia flares. I bravely took the rest home. Gave some to my neighbor. Put the rest in the freezer–until company comes, and it’s time to spin the wheel again.

With wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving,

Maria (moonwatcher)

Leave a Comment

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Veronica November 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm

That looks tasty! And kudos for the patience to try and try again until it was perfect. 🙂 I love the picture of your kitchen filled to the brim with cooking stuff- it’s how a good kitchen should look!


2 moonwatcher November 19, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Thanks Veronica! 🙂 I’m glad you like the photo of my kitchen “laboratory”–I am definitely a messy cook! 🙂


3 angela November 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Yum ! This looks so good Maria, you’ve done it again : ) and I’m glad it didn’t give you a fibromyalgia flare.

I’m a messy cook too : (

Happy Thanksgiving. Love Angela X


4 moonwatcher November 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Thanks Angela! Glad to know you’re a messy cook too. 🙂 And a Happy Thanksgiving back to you.


5 Linda Grace Kingsbury November 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Looks yummy. I plan to make it up in a couple of weeks and will let you know how it goes. Thanks.


6 moonwatcher November 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Welcome, Linda Grace! Thanks! Look forward to hearing how it goes. And seeing you too!


7 Marla Harrison November 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Very nice web site.


8 moonwatcher November 21, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Thanks, Marla, and welcome. 🙂


9 Sarah November 22, 2013 at 8:20 am

Moonwatcher, I am thrilled to meet you here in cyberspace. Your journey is beautiful, as are you. When you want company, check my food blog (sporadic but delicious) – also oil free, wheat gluten free, vegan, whole grain/veggie based, and perhaps visit my musings on The solidarity and love I feel as I read this recipe is amazing. I’m going to experiment a bunch with pumpkin and sweet potato and if successful, will blog that too. Haven’t used any egg replacer .. is it necessary?


10 moonwatcher November 22, 2013 at 8:25 am

Welcome, Sarah, and thank you so much for this wonderful comment. I look forward to checking out your blog(s)–so nice to meet a kindred spirit on the journey. 🙂 About the egg replacer, no, it isn’t always necessary. But in this case, because the sweet potato is so dense, it gave the cake some extra moisture and lift so I included it in the recipe I posted. The first cake I made did not have it. It tasted good, but was a bit more dry, dense and compact. So you could experiment. 🙂


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