In case you missed it, The New York Times gave a rave review to Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen’s new cookbook, “Poole’s.”
Writer Margaux Laskey wrote: “most cookbooks fall into one of two categories: the aspirational and the useful, those that are flipped through on lazy Sundays, then returned to the top shelf, and those that live a dog-eared life on the counter. With Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, Ashley Christensen has written the rare cookbook that begs to be labeled as both.”
Laskey highlights one of executive pastry chef Andrew Ullom’s recipes, the Sweet Potato Hummingbird Cake, which she calls “revelatory.” Below is the recipe.
Sweet Potato Hummingbird Cake
From “Poole’s,” by Ashley Christensen (Ten Speed Press, 2016).
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 large eggs
2 cups neutral vegetable oil
3 cups diced pineapple
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup dried black currants
2 cups green peanuts
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled (about 3 medium)
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups roasted peanuts, roughly chopped, for garnish
Preheat a convection oven to 400 degrees (or a regular oven to 425 degrees). Arrange the bananas (in their peels) on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven until they are black and slightly deflated, about 25 minutes. Let the bananas cool to room temperature. Remove the peels and discard and transfer the banana flesh and any juices that collected on the pan to a food processor. Process until smooth. Measure 2 cups of the puree and set aside (reserve any extra puree for another use).
Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees convection (350 degrees regular). Spray three 9-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and banana puree until well combined. Fold in the pineapple, vanilla, currants, and peanuts.
Grate the sweet potatoes on the large holes of a box grater and fold into the wet mixture.
Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Divide the batter equally among the three pans and bake until firm and golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pans on wire racks, then turn out onto the racks, peel off the parchment, and let cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the icing. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter and mix on low speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer running on low speed, add the sugar by the ½ cup until it’s fully incorporated. Add the salt and vanilla and mix to combine.
To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to trim the top of each layer to make sure it’s flat (reserve the trimmings for snacking). Place a cake layer on a platter or cake stand. Using an offset spatula, spread 1 1/2 cups of the icing over the first layer. Top with a second layer and repeat with 11/2 cups of the icing. Top with the third layer and use the remaining icing to frost the top and sides of the cake. Press the roasted peanuts up onto the sides of the cake for garnish.
The cake, once assembled, can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, but it’s best the day it’s made. Serve at room temperature.
Yield: one 9-inch cake