Billie's Southern Sweet Potato Cake Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 25 min. Bake: 40 min. + cooling
Grated raw sweet potatoes give this sweet potato cake a light, airy texture that is divine paired with a thick, fluffy frosting.

Updated: Dec. 19, 2023

Sweet potatoes often get overlooked as a dessert ingredient. They typically show up in sides and mains because they’re rich in nutrients and boast a natural sweetness, even in savory dishes. They’re also economical and easy to source year-round.

When sweet potatoes cook in an oven, their starches convert to sugar. This is why a sweet potato seems to leak syrup when it’s roasted. Now, imagine that level of naturally sweet moisture going into a cake. Good stuff, right? Yup, we think so too! Enter sweet potato cake.

Sweet Potato Cake sliced and served in plateTMB Studio

There are two different camps when it comes to baking with sweet potatoes: using sweet potato puree versus using grated sweet potato. In the pureed camp, recipes often recommend baking and then mashing sweet potatoes to encourage density and creaminess. If you’re a fan of pumpkin cookies and pies, you’ll feel right at home with pureed sweet potatoes (or substituting canned puree in a pinch).

The grated camp is more of a carrot cake-like situation. Peel and shred the raw vegetables, then mix them into the batter for a light, fluffy, slightly textured cake. This recipe follows the grated method, saving you lots of time since you don’t need to be baking sweet potatoes, then waiting for them to cool, then pureeing them.

Sweet Potato Cake Ingredients

  • Sweet potatoes: Raw shredded sweet potatoes increase this cake’s loft and keep it soft. Orange-fleshed varieties, sometimes incorrectly labeled as “yams,” will be sweeter and moister than white-fleshed ones. Learn more about the difference between yams and sweet potatoes.
  • Eggs: Room-temperature eggs combine more easily with oil than cold ones. They also become lighter and fluffier as you beat them.
  • Sugar: When a recipe just calls for “sugar,” assume it means white granulated sugar. Granulated sugar has a neutral flavor and a fine texture that breaks down when heated, making it ideal for cake batter. You’ll want confectioners’ sugar, also called powdered or icing sugar, for the frosting because it dissolves readily without heat.


Step 1: Prepare the cake pan

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan.

Step 2: Mix the wet and dry ingredients separately

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until blended; set aside. In another bowl, use a clean whisk to whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt.

Step 3: Mix the batter

Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Stir in the sweet potatoes and walnuts until combined.

Step 4: Bake the cake

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Step 5: Make the frosting

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until combined. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

Editor’s Tip: Butter will soften faster and be easier to beat into the cream cheese if you cut the cube into smaller chunks before letting it soften. When beating here, using a low mixer speed will smoothly incorporate the sugar while minimizing air bubbles.

Step 5: Frost the cake

Spread the frosting over the cooled cake. Slice into squares, and serve. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.

Recipe Variations

  • Make a sweet or spicy frosting: For an easy flavor variation, replace the cream cheese frosting with a rich caramel frosting. A cinnamon frosting, like the one used for this pumpkin cake, will bring out the sweet potato batter’s spices. Sprinkle the top with toasted chopped walnuts for a decorative touch.
  • Go for double-orange cake: Beyond their shared color, oranges and sweet potatoes make a natural flavor pair. In this recipe, replace 1/4 cup of the oil with Grand Marnier, and add 1 tablespoon orange zest to the frosting.
  • Nix the nuts: Replace the nuts and 1/2 cup of the oil with finely diced dried fruit soaked in warm water or another liquid. Soaking apricots in vermouth or white wine or dates in coffee softens the fruit and builds flavor.

How to Freeze Sweet Potato Cake

Sweet potato cake can be frozen frosted or unfrosted, whole or as slices. An unfrosted cake freezes and defrosts more quickly than a frosted one, and you’ll pick up fewer crumbs if you frost a semi-frozen cake. If you want a ready-to-serve cake in your freezer, go ahead and spread on the cream cheese frosting, which will hold up well against the cold temperature. Set the frosted cake in the freezer for about an hour, until the frosting is firm, before wrapping it.

Sweet Potato Cake Tips

Sweet Potato Cake slicedTMB Studio

Can this sweet potato cake recipe be made into cupcakes?

Oil-based cakes convert easily to cupcakes. Just mix up the batter as written, and divide it evenly among greased or paper-lined cupcake cups (each cup about two-thirds full). The batter for a 13×9-inch cake like this one typically fills 24 standard, 12 jumbo or more than 48 mini cupcake cups. Keep the oven temperature the same, but bake standard cupcakes for just 18 to 23 minutes. Jumbo ones will take a bit longer, and mini ones will need less time. The cupcakes are done when the tops have risen, the cake springs back when gently poked, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Can I substitute canned sweet potatoes for fresh ones?

This recipe starts with raw, grated sweet potatoes that soften as the cake cooks. If you substitute this with canned sweet potato puree, start with one-third to one-half as much puree, and expect the cake to turn out heavier and denser. Avoid canned yams, which have added sweeteners and spices.

How do I prevent my sweet potato cake from being too dry or too moist?

This cake keeps releasing moisture as the raw sweet potato cooks, so it’s more likely to be overly moist than dry. If the cake fails the toothpick test but looks done on top, tent the pan with aluminum foil and bake for a few more minutes. Overmixing the batter can lead a cake to settle with a gooey center, and covering it before cooling completely can make the top tacky. To avoid a dry cake, keep an eye on the oven temperature and time. If your oven runs hot or the cake bakes too long, even a moist batter can become overdone and dry.

Watch how to Make Billie’s Southern Sweet Potato Cake

Sweet Potato Cake

Prep Time 25 min
Cook Time 40 min
Yield 18 servings.


  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups shredded peeled sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 13x9-in. baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until well blended. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, spices and salt; gradually beat into egg mixture. Stir in sweet potatoes and walnuts.
  3. Transfer to prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
  4. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until blended. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread over cooled cake. Refrigerate leftovers.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 519 calories, 36g fat (8g saturated fat), 67mg cholesterol, 276mg sodium, 47g carbohydrate (32g sugars, 1g fiber), 5g protein.

I made sweet potato cakes for my kids when they were younger and they told me in their little voices, "Mommy, you're the best baker." Little did they know that was Mommy's first attempt at homemade cake! —Billie Williams-Henderson, Bowie, Maryland