In the United States, most of what are labeled yams are actually sweet potatoes, including the orange beauties that I bought, which I am sure are botanically sweet potatoes. (For more on the difference, check out these posts from The Kitchn and NC Sweet potatoes.) Because there’s enough confusion in my life, my strategy is simply to go to the market and pick out the ones that have the most vivid orange-colored flesh, and use those.
Another thing that confounds people, myself included, are recipes that call for “sticks” of butter as a term of measurement. Having baked professionally in restaurants, if we had measured butter in terms of “sticks,” we would have spent hours unwrapping sticks of butter all day long. Even though I know they are 4 ounces (about 115 grams), it’s hard to wrap my mind around them. However, when you’re embarking on a baking project and your scale seems to have gone missing, you appreciate those sticks of butter with their little marks that tell you how much to lop off if you need, say, 4 or 6 tablespoons. So for the scale-less, maybe we need to start showing a little more love to those buttery sticks?
I usually oven-roast sweet potatoes since it concentrates their flavor. So if you have the oven going for something else, you can prick them a few times with a paring knife, wrap them in foil, and bake until they are tender all the way through. (It’ll take about 45 minutes in a 400ºF/200ºC oven. When done, a knife should go all the way through, meeting no resistance.) Because I wasn’t planning on using the oven, I cooked the sweet potatoes in a microwave oven. Simply prick each 5 or 6 times with a paring knife, place them on a paper towel, and microwave them at high power for 5 minutes. Carefully turn them over then microwave for 3 to 5 more minutes, until they are cooked all the way through. Alice peels and cuts hers into chunks then simmers them in a saucepan with water, until tender – about 15 minutes, then drains them well. Press the pulp through a mesh strainer, potato ricer, or puree in a food mill or food processor. You can also use unsweetened canned pumpkin or sweet potato puree.
Note that the recipe calls for sifted flour. The best way to measure it is to put a 1 cup dry measuring cup on a piece of parchment paper, and sift the flour into the measuring cup, sweeping the top with a knife or flat spatula to level it. Leftover flour on the parchment paper can be dumped back into the flour container.
I baked my two loaves in 8-inch (20cm) foil loaf pans, because my regular loaf pans are somewhere else, along with my scale. You can also bake the cake batter in one deep, large 9-inch (23cm) loaf pan, although the result will be a hefty, dense loaf. It does turn out better if baked in two loaves. (You could also bake it in two 9-inch loaf pans. The cakes will be a little more squat, but will taste delicious.) I would imagine it could be baked in one bundt pan or regular cake pan. If so, bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.