Vegetables in Funny Places: Potato Spice Cake

Another in our series (over a couple of years) of vegetables in funny places: here is Potato Spice Cake sent by Ruth Thurston in Machias. Personally, I love spice cake and needed something to take a talk at the library. A friend of mine use to grouse that we couldn’t have a dog fight in this burg without refreshments being served. So I threw this together—it goes quickly if you use a mixer—then cut it into pieces and off we went.

Ruth noted that she found this recipe in “Woman’s Day, I think,” quite a few years ago. It makes use of unseasoned mashed potatoes and even said that a cook could use instant mashed potatoes instead which I will not have in the house, because I developed an aversion to them in my youth. My mother loved instant mashed potatoes and I grew up thinking mashed potatoes weren’t much good. Encountering the real thing in early adulthood, I was astounded and delighted and never went back to instant. I understand that they are useful for thickening chowder but have not tried it myself.

For spice cake, in fact most spiced baked goods, I routinely measure generously, rounded teaspoons instead of level teaspoons. I adore freshly grated nutmeg and happily risk scraped knuckles to obtain it.

If you are not a fan of sprayed oil for greasing a pan, you can use the old butter paper trick. When you peel the paper from a stick of butter, fold it up and save it. There is usually enough butter clinging to the paper to do the job. In fact, this recipe will give you two butter papers to use.

I usually regard raisins and nuts as optional, unless, of course, you are making a raisin nut cake. A half cup of raisins is about a handful, and I chose pecan pieces because I lost my sense of proportion at Trader Joes when I looked at bags full of pecan pieces and came home with a challenging number of them to use.

P.S. Do any of you know, or did you know, Grace Additon who use to write a recipe column for the Maine Sunday Telegram? One of you readers sent me a clipped recipe of hers and it piqued my interest. I would love to know more about her.

Potato Spice Cake with Caramel Frosting
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup or 1½ sticks butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup cold mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • Caramel Frosting
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. To Make the Cake
  2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a nine-by-thirteen-inch baking pan.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time.
  5. Add the potatoes and beat.
  6. Add the flour to the butter and egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk, combining very well after each addition.
  7. Fold in the raisins and nuts.
  8. Pour into the baking pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean.
  9. To make the frosting
  10. Make frosting by melting butter over medium heat and cooking the brown sugar in it for a couple minutes until it is smooth and glossy.
  11. Add the milk and bring to a boil.
  12. Take off the heat and beat in vanilla and enough confectioner’s sugar to make smooth and spreadable frosting.
  13. Frost cake after cooling it.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.