Pan de Batata (Sweet Potato Cake)

Pan de batata (Sweet potatoes pudding)

About ten years ago I was in Denmark, where my husband hails from, spending the holiday season with his family. With a full schedule of eating and more eating ahead, I had the “brilliant” idea of treating everybody to an “authentic” traditional Dominican pre-Xmas Xmas meal on the 23rd, including a delicious pan de batata (sweet potato cake) for dessert.

We were not even in the capital, where finding the right ingredients had a slightly better chance than a snowball in hell, instead we were in a small tourist town away from any major city. This idea of mine proved to be quite the challenge.

Pan de batata (Sweet potato cake)

Even under these conditions, I was still able to procure yuca and platanos in a nearby cityand with considerable diligence, a raw leg of ham.

It’s easy to forget that what is common to the point of being unremarkable in our country, is not really so abroad. For a country that consumes a heck of a lot of pork, finding a pernil in Denmark proved to be quite the feat. Since my in-laws own a hotel and restaurants, they have a good relationship with the town’s butcher, who got us one after a couple of days of waiting.

Pan de batata (Sweet potato cake)

Whatever ingredients I couldn’t find I adapted, and substituted. No whole-grain bulgur? I made kipes with peeled bulgur and added a bit of flour to help with the consistency. No yautia or ñame? I made pasteles en hoja with yuca and platanos and added a grated potato to add more starch. Since finding plantain leaves would be impossible in Denmark, I wrapped them in parchment paper.

The most difficult part proved to be guandules (pigeon peas) for a moro de guandules. Nobody had ever heard of them. So, I found some dry beans that looked a bit like guandules and decided to try them. Left in water overnight it only took 15 mins. for them to cook soft. The taste is similar to the “ashy”, nutty taste of guandules. It turned out not a lot unlike the real thing. The beans in question are mung beans, a name that Aunt Ilana dug up for me as the bag had a Danish name that my husband wasn’t able to translate.

Pan de batata (Sweet potato cake)

And since finding batatas (Dominican sweet potatoes) in cold Denmark would be akin to finding rødgrød med fløde being served in the Dominican Republic, I used the more common sweet potatoes (the ones with the orangey flesh) and some corn starch (they have less starch than batatas). It worked. A Festivus miracle!

Sweet potato cake is one of those dishes that are very Dominican. With a short list of ingredients, it is easy to make, and full of exotic aromas and spicy flavors. The one in the recipes and pictures are made with Dominican sweet potatoes. The recipe include instructions to adapt to other type of sweet potatoes. While this dish is not generally  related to Christmas, I find the combination of flavors and spices very apt for this time of the year.

Aunt Clara
Pan de Batata Recipe (Dominican Sweet Potato Cake)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Pan de Batata (Dominican Sweet Potato Cake) has a very exotic and spicy taste. Cinnamon, cloves, and ginger makes it the very embodiment of Dominican cuisine.
Serves: 6 servings
  • 2 lb of sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup of butter at room temperature (or ⅓ cup of vegetable oil)
  • ½ cup finely chopped coconut
  • 2 teaspoons of grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cloves powder
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 ºF (175 ºC).
  2. Use a teaspoon of butter to cover a 9" baking pan.
  3. Peel the sweet potatoes. Grate with the least coarse side of your grater or pulse in the food processor until you obtain a paste.
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients to the sweet potato and whisk until it is well-mixed.
  5. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake until you pinch with a clean knife and it comes out clean (about 35 mins).
  6. Cool to room temperature before removing from the pan.
The variety of sweet potato used for this dessert (batata), although common in the Dominican Rep. might be more difficult to find elsewhere.

The potato used for this is a bright purple one with a greenish flesh and very sweet once cooked. If you can not find this type you will need to add three tablespoons of cornstarch to the mixture to compensate for the lower amount of starch in other varieties.
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{ 17 comments… add one }

  • fatimavh November 13, 2014, 10:28 PM

    Aunt Clara,

    I notice that throughout the post you call this both Pan and Pudding. The link even calls it pudding although the recipe calls it pan/cake. It confused me a bit, as I am used to having both Pan de Batata and Pudín de Batata, which is decidedly smoother and softer than the Pan.

  • Amy November 1, 2014, 11:44 PM

    Can you put a photo of the sweet potato on this page? Can I use grated coconut instead of finely chopped fresh coconut?

  • angie September 10, 2014, 9:59 AM

    which sweet potato did you use we have 2 kinds here were I live I live in Boston

  • Nina November 27, 2013, 11:33 AM

    Excellence!!! Thank you for all you do , researching etc, I’m Dominican & PR
    I was puzzled to had read that guanimos was a Dominican recipe , because my mom , PR made them all the time with bacalo ( fish cod) all the time . My dad however was a chef, he never made this wonderful dish of yours. So the fact that I was born and raised in NY … I was puzzled. Yet the history lends us the truth. Spain… Thainos.. Etc. we all tie in somehow . Thank you so much. You educate many of us, as we are reminded how special we all really are. Gracias Amiga.

  • Esta February 21, 2013, 1:00 PM

    350 Fahrenheit equals cca 175 Celsius…
    After converting the cake turned out delicious:)
    Thank you.

  • Marie January 28, 2013, 12:19 PM

    This post put such a smile on my face. As a food blogger based in Copenhagen (capital of Denmark) with a passion for the Asian, Middle Eastern and South American cuisines I know just how difficult it is getting the right ingredients here. :)

    • Aunt Clara January 28, 2013, 6:49 PM

      Hi Marie, I can imagine it isn’t easy to procure ingredients for these cuisines. I’ve found that Asian markets in DK carry a few of our staples, unfortunately I always run short of one ingredient or two.

  • abby December 9, 2012, 4:40 PM

    Ok so I made it and am wondering what happened. The taste was yummy, but it came out as more of a firm mush/pudding than a bread. Is that the way it’s supposed to be? I followed all the directions. The only thing I did differently was that I grated the batata (I don’t own a food processor) with a cheese grater. After grating, the size seemed too big, so I then placed the grated batata into the blender. After mixing all the ingredients it seemed very watery, but I baked it anyway. At 35 min it was completely undercooked. I think I ended up baking it for a total of 70 minutes. I’m wondering if I should have added a bit of flour to the mix? Or maybe I used too much batata? (I don’t own a food scale so it was weighed on the grocery store scale).

    • Mia March 31, 2013, 2:35 AM

      I just made this today And I had the exact same problem as Abby, except I did use a scale and food processor and it still came out like soft mush. not even very firm, still kind of runny. I swear I followed this recipe to the T.
      I kept putting it back in the oven. I ended up cooking it for about 90 min but it would not get much more firm.
      What should there be more of or less of to make it firmer?

      • Aunt Clara March 31, 2013, 5:02 PM

        Mia, what kind of sweet potato did you use. I explain in the recipe that not all sweet potatoes yield the same results, and give some advice on what to do.

        • Mia March 31, 2013, 8:11 PM

          I was pretty sure it’s the Dominican Batata. I live in a Dominican neighbourhood and they are labeled Batatas but maybe they aren’t. I will try adding the starch next time.

          • mia March 31, 2013, 8:16 PM

            Just to clarify they are batatas with redish/purplish skin and white flesh. They are not the (common in America) white sweet potatoes or the orangey flesh sweet potato/yams. My Dominican husband said they are the only batatas he’s familiar with. Although I am sure there is a variety.

            • Dawn April 28, 2013, 7:54 PM

              I made this, with 4 tblspoons of cornstarch and still very runny.

  • Charlie Sommers December 9, 2012, 1:15 PM

    Thank you for this mouthwatering recipe. The noble sweet potato in America is often ruined by way to much sugar, good ones are quite sweet on their own, and the addition of marshmallows on top of that. Marshmallows are for roasting over campfires or for making Smores from.

    Many years ago I was hunting squirrels with my now deceased brother-in-law at a farm outside the small town of Orlinda, Tennessee. We had returned to our car for a lunch of tinned sardines, pickles, and crackers, when the farmer who owned the property invited us in to dine with him and his wife. They had a magnificent spread and for dessert what they called a sweet potato cobbler was brought forth. I have never had the pleasure of eating that particular dish again but the memory has stayed with me for over fifty years.

    I plan on making one of your sweet potato cakes soon and I believe that the Japanese sweet potatoes I purchase at my local Asian Market are the same thing as your batatas.

  • Mia November 26, 2012, 1:15 PM

    This looks amazing! I had a question regarding the batatas…The ones I always get have a redish brown skin and white center but I’m wondering if they are the same thing you are referring to in the recipe…for a photo look here…[link removed by Clara] (interestingly enough there is a photo from your recipe but I don’t notice any credit to you)
    I live in Washington Heights and this is the batatas that are in all the stores/bodegas so I am guessing this is the same.
    Thank you for your recipes and your time!

    • Aunt Clara November 26, 2012, 1:35 PM

      Yes, that one will work. Here’s an interesting article about the different varieties, several of the ones picture are available in the DR. And thanks for bringing the photo to my attention.