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I love children.  They are super cute.  If you have one, I would like to hold that little peanut and see the future in its eyes, and then I would like to stay up as late as I want and eat rum balls in my pajamas while watching violent movies because huzzah!  Let’s just say I had time to buy rum balls.

I get that being a parent is awesome.  But on the flip side, I expect to be exempt from certain things because I don’t have a kid.  These things include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a) having to cut off anyone’s hair for reasons related to bubble gum;

(b) owning or babysitting any of the following: (i) guinea pigs; (ii) hamsters; (iii) mice; (iv) goldfish; (v) those guppies with the big poofy eyeballs; (vi) hermit crabs; or (vii) oh my God ferrets;

(c) engaging in any debate about whether a cartoon, toy, educational program, vaccine or change in the FDA food pyramid is making a child smarter or stupider, gay or straight, or more or less inclined to pay attention or become a teenage parent;

(d) explaining The Tooth Fairy, God, photosynthesis, mortality, the Vietnam War or mathematics of any kind;

(e) buying any of the following in bulk: (i) glitter; (ii) helmets; (iii) jello; (iv) generic white underwear; (v) any kind of tuition; and

(f) having Halloween take over my life in October.  (I was mugged–candy mugged! By costumed marauders!–one Halloween as a kid and have preferred Veteran’s Day ever since.)

And yet, here we are.  Here we are in a town so jazzed about Halloween that the sheriff had to put out a press release confirming that Halloween will be celebrated on the 31st of October only.  In a town whose mere 180,000 inhabitants rank 7th nationally for horror movie rentalsbehind Waco, Texas. 

I should have known Halloween was going to be intense, given the way the South celebrates Fall, which is not even a holiday.  Things like these enormous scarecrows in Eddie Bauer shirts should have tipped me off to the fact that Halloween was going to be a big freaking deal:

According to my Halloween activity guide, there is a ghost walk, a zombie walk and a cemetery stroll.  During the cemetery stroll,  scores of people will dress up like the dead people buried there, including my boy LeRoy Pope and that supercow, Lily Flagg, both of whom I plan to offer some Twizzlers.

We have been told that a stupendous number of children will come to our house.  Busloads of them will be dropped off at the school nearby and herded toward us.  It is apparently such an overwhelming parenting situation that the adults have taken to boozing their way through it.  So not only do we need to buy tons of candy, we also need tons of booze.  This is why child-free people like me are good to have around.  If the sheriff shuts your Halloween booze parade down, I got you covered.  Rum balls, baby.  BLAMMO.  Didn’t think you could get buzzed off them, eh?  Well let me tell you: after about 5 or 6 of those, I start dressing the dog up in its not-Halloween costume.

It is a flannel cape with the letter T on it.

It’s seasonal.

So is this sweet potato nut cake with amaretto frosting.

We had three sweet potatoes left over from the other night, so I started with this Bon Appetit recipe.  But I would never put dried cranberries on sweet potatoes if I cooked them, so putting them in a sweet potato cake sounded weird.  And I love nuts, so I threw in a lot more of those and amped up the spices, and added some molasses and candied ginger and poppyseeds.  I split the flour into whole wheat and white, and switched the frosting from orange cream cheese to amaretto cream cheese.   The result was delicious.  If you like carrot cake, you will like this.  It won’t taste like sweet potato (at least from what I could discern), but it will taste like autumn.

Sweet Potato Nut Cake with Amaretto Frosting

3 medium sweet potatoes

1 1/2 c. white flour

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 1-oz. jar of poppyseeds

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. vegetable oil

1 c. white sugar

1 c. packed brown sugar

1/4 c. molasses

4 eggs

1 1/4 c. nuts (I used 1 c. walnuts and 1/4 c. pecans)

2 tbsp. candied ginger

1 tsp. vanilla

For the icing

2 8-oz. packages cream cheese (you will only use 1 1/2 packages)

10 tbsp. butter (that is 3/4 of a stick)

2-4 c. confectioner’s sugar

4-5 tbsp. amaretto liqueur


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Poke at the sweet potatoes with a fork.  Bake the sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet with their skins on for about one hour.   Remove sweet potatoes, peel them, and mash 2 cups’ worth.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Toast the walnuts and pecans, and chop thoroughly, or pulse in a food processor for about 15-20 seconds.  (The nuts should be finer than “roughly chopped.”) Chop the candied ginger into small pieces.

Cream together the sugars, molasses, oil and vanilla in a mixer.  Add the eggs.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger and allspice.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the mixer with the wet ingredients.

Fold in the nuts, candied ginger, poppyseeds and sweet potato.

The batter will be thick.  Pour it into two greased and floured 9-inch round pans and bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Let the cakes cool.

For the frosting:

Beat 1 package plus 1/2 package cream cheese with the butter in a mixer until fluffy.  (This is easiest if the butter is at room temperature.)  Beat in 2 c. powdered sugar.

Add amaretto and adjust sugar to suit your taste.  (I do not like sweet frosting, so 2 c. sugar may not be enough for you).

This is not a frosting that will form stiff peaks, so if it looks too goopy to spread comfortably on the cakes, chill the frosting in the refrigerator for an hour before assembling the cake.

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kate #

    I am pretty sure that between you, Scott and Thunder, the chance of having an incident with bubble gum is pretty high. Also, I am nearly certain that you have already bought glitter in bulk.

    Don’t forget to add (viii) dumbo RAT to part (b). My nephew has one. They are pretty crazy cute though (google for images).

    I am not sure what to think of Thunder’s new cape. It kind of says “Vermont superhero” to me, and I am not sure any of the (good) superheros came from Vermont.

    October 6, 2011
    • I know it– in drafting the list, I realized that we already own most of the things you buy for children because of (1) the dog (e.g. paper towels); (2) my clumsiness (e.g. band-aids, 2 huge bottles of peroxide, and I hear you on the gum); or (3) weird craft projects (e.g. I just bought sprinkles in bulk, and have food coloring on the shopping list). See that is what I mean– I am pretty decent back-up (rum balls or otherwise) for someone who doesn’t have kids!

      Vermont superhero is hilarious. We should sketch a few panels of what that would look like and make a blog comic strip of sorts.

      October 6, 2011
  2. jz #

    Do people generally buy helmets in bulk?
    This is so entertaining. Good work kat!

    October 6, 2011
  3. Emily #

    As a parent, I join you in pretty much all of your wishes for your life… Fingers crossed I can pull it off. Maybe we could write a parenting book on this theory: rum ball parenting? Hmm starting to worry that this comment is going to land me in front of social services. I’m kidding, people!! Dont call the cops please.

    Re fall as a holiday: this season is one of my favorite things about the south. Hope that doesn’t disappoint. Maybe now you know why we are trying to move. I recommend throwing yourself headlong into it: SEC football, gourd plethora on the front doorstep, LL bean scarecrows and all. When in Rome…

    Vermont superheroes: Ben, Jerry, Trey Anastasio, Grace Potter… I think thunder is in good company!

    Hilarious post, Kat! Happy fall y’all!

    October 7, 2011
  4. You are cracking me up. I love how we are having opposite experiences, which are at the same time very similar. For example, from what I can tell there are NO sweet potatoes in Bogotá, and I haven’t had an oven in either of my apts, but they do like frying stuff and Halloween is big (except that this year it it falls near an election, which means you can’t buy alcohol…doesn’t seem like that would happen in AL…and I’m not sure how that will work but will let you know). Oh and everyone has kids here, Colombia should win a prize for Most Fertile Nation, or Second-Most Fertile Nation After Brooklyn, NY. xoxo lacey

    October 12, 2011
  5. Joan Cathie #

    I hate recipes that state ingredients such as ‘3 sweet potatoes’. Sweet potatoes range in size from large to quite small. Much better to state weight in grams.

    January 20, 2015

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