Battle of the Thanksgiving pies: Pumpkin vs. sweet potato
by Lisa Davis
Nov 02, 2011 | 5357 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the great debates of holiday food, pumpkin pie vs. sweet potato pie ranks right up there with dressing vs. stuffing.

Here in the South, sweet potato has the edge. In a poll of Anniston Star Facebook readers this week, twice as many folks voted for sweet potato pie over pumpkin pie.

Several readers voted for both. “Why settle for one?” asked Ginger Gray Bunn.

Micheal Youngquist agreed with that sentiment, adding that “sweet potato pie is rare up in the northland.”

Heather Adams Ellis voted for “sweet potato with pecans, sugar and cinnamon.”

Donna Trantham Kay voted for the best of both worlds: “Pumpkin pie and sweet potato dumplings!”

And, because there’s always one in every crowd, John Lake voted for “neither — but bring on pecan anytime.”

Here’s how pumpkin and sweet potatoes stack up in other ways:

History: Sweet potatoes originated in the warm climates of Central America and South America. Pumpkins are thought to have originated in North America; they were a staple of Native American cuisine.

Botany: Sweet potatoes are a vine, but the part we eat is the root. Pumpkins also grow on a vine, and we eat the fruit.

Flavor: Sweet potatoes contain about 10 times as much sugar as pumpkin. In a sweet potato pie, underneath all the sugar and cinnamon, you can still taste the sweet potatoes. In a pumpkin pie, all you taste is the sugar and spices.

Texture: Sweet potato pie is not as smooth and velvety as pumpkin pie.

Nutrition: Sweet potatoes have more fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C than pumpkin.

Prep work: If you want to cook with fresh pumpkin, you’ve got to slice the thing open and gut it first, clearing out lots of seeds and stringy innards. All you have to do to a sweet potato is peel it. (Or you can just buy either one in a can.)

Entertainment potential: You can turn a pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern. You can stick a sweet potato in a jar of water and watch it grow a vine.

Versatility: Nobody serves pumpkin casserole topped with brown sugar and marshmallows for Thanksgiving.

Or why not try a pumpkin cake this year?

It doesn’t always have to be pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, does it?

This pumpkin cake is a favorite family recipe from RaDonna Ridner-Thurman, who blogs about cooking and recipes as one of the Anniston Star’s Community Bloggers. (Find her blog, “Savory Servings,” at

This recipe was passed down to RaDonna by her mother, Ava Wilson.

Pumpkin Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree or cooked mashed pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour two 9 inch rounds (or a 9x13 pan).

Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar and vegetable oil. Using a mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined. With your mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and beat well.

Stir in the pumpkin (if using fresh cooked pumpkin, make sure you have gotten most of the moisture out with a cheese cloth or strainer).

Pour the batter into your prepared pan(s). Bake it on the center rack of your oven for about 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Let cakes cool in the pan for about 20 minutes before removing them from the pan. They need to cool an additional hour before you frost them if at all possible.

To assemble: Place one layer on the cake plate and apply a liberal amount of cream cheese frosting. Trim the top of the second cake if needed so that it will lay evenly on top of the first layer. Gently place the second cake onto the first layer and frost the entire cake liberally with remaining cream cheese icing (there may be some leftover frosting, you want to use enough to cover the cake and any gaps).

Note: If you are frosting a 9x13 cake, you can halve the cream cheese recipe.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) of real, unsalted butter, softened
2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened
2 pounds of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Using a mixer, blend the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Slowly add all of the powdered sugar until the frosting is a nice, spreadable consistency. You can store leftover frosting in the fridge; it’s yummy with fresh strawberries.
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