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Sweet Potato Hazelnut Paleo Cake


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I’ve never been a huge fan of cake, even way back in the day when I wasn’t purposefully avoiding food toxins like wheat and excess sugar.

But my wife, Elanne, misses cake every now and then. This was especially true while she was pregnant with Sylvie. So she has experimented with different versions of grain-free cake that weren’t elaborate or time consuming (no time for adventurous culinary exploits, breastfeeding a four-week-old infant) but tasted good.

Yesterday she baked a sweet potato hazelnut cake that fits the bill. Unfortunately she didn’t use exact measurements (we rarely do), but I can give you a general idea of how she did it in case you’d like to give it a shot.

The Recipe


  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. sweetener (coconut sugar, maple syrup, etc.this is optional)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Advance Preparation

  1. Soak about 2 cups of hazelnuts in water for 12-24 hours (Note: this helps break down the phytic acid in the nuts, which is a potent nutrient inhibitor. You should always soak and dehydrate nuts before eating them if you can.)
  2. Bake a large sweet potato at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes until quite soft.

Baking the Cake

  1. Drain soaking water and rinse the nuts.
  2. Peel sweet potato.
  3. Add hazelnuts, potato flesh, eggs, baking soda, sea salt and sweetener (if desired) to blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
  4. Pour into baking dish and bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serving Suggestions

The cake is mildly sweet on its own. We like to eat it with some fermented cream (add 1/2 cup of kefir to 2 pints of full-fat cream, and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours until mildly sour and slightly thick) and fresh berries.

If you’re not eating dairy, serve with coconut milk or cream and berries.

It’s not gourmet, but it’s a nice dessert or snack when you want a treat.

See? You can have your Paleo cakeand eat it too!

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Chris Kresser in kitchen
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Join the conversation

  1. Hi, Chris! Thanks so much for the recipe, it’s delicious, and actually not that hard to make at all! I loved the use of sweet potatoes in baking, who would’ve thought, and hardly any sugar, awesome! I’m pregnant and quite banned from sugar by my midwife, and this recipe got her seal of approval 🙂 I have a question, though: after a few days in the fridge, the middle turned dark greenish, for some reason. Is this normal? We smelled it and it didn’t smell off, looked the next day and it hadn’t spread, so to be safe, we just took those spots out. I looked at the leftover soaked hazelnuts I had in the fridge (that I had also dried after), and they hadn’t turned green. My husband and I were trying to figure if it was the egg or the nuts or the sweet potato, but we have no clue. So if anyone has an idea as to why this occurred, please let me know. I was honestly bummed out, thinking my baking experiment failed. But I just had some cake (removed of the green spots, haha) and I feel fine, so hopefully it’s just a freak accident.

    • “After a few days” – wow, far more restraint than we showed!

      For what it’s worth, after two days we saw no green. But that’s as long as either of them lasted…

      Cake is kinda dangerous, even for those of us who consider ourselves fairly well “sorted out” metabolically!

      But I’d guess it’s dangerous to anyone if it’s green…

  2. Hi, I made this with one egg and half a large mango and no sweetener. It kind of came out of the pan in clumps –but hey–it tasted great! Thanks for this.

  3. I get a good laugh in the morning reading through the extremely hyperbolic comments found on many of the paleo/primal nutrition and health sites. Everyone just needs to reellllaxxx. I am particularly tickled by your responses, Chris. I sense you you agree with me. Anyhow, off to make this cake—sounds delightful!

  4. Hi Chris

    Did you use an orange sweet potato? We mostly have orange ones here in Oz.

    Can’t wait to try the recipe! I use rice syrup as my sweetener – I use a minimal amount and found it has much less fructose than other sweeteners 🙂


  5. Ooh, I am so excited to try this recipe! But, I read that it’s not good to heat nuts over 170 degrees or the oils go rancid which is not healthy is that true? It’s the only reason I’ve been avoiding making almond meal cookies. If not, I’m going for the cake. Also, should the nuts for this recipe be dehydrated first? Many thanks to your wife!

    • Heat doesn’t make oil go rancid, sitting around for a long time does. It’s perfectly fine to cook with nuts!

  6. Hi Chris,
    I’ve learned so much from reading everything on your site and listening to your podcasts.

    Re: soaking nuts to avoid the phytic acid: Would soaking them also eliminate the tyramine that I’ve read is the element in nuts (and cheese and fermented foods) that makes nuts such a primary migraine trigger for me? I’m guessing not (sadly).

    You emphasize that it’s important that we apply the paleo “template” based on our individual differences and needs. At first I was trying to follow the gang and eat all the nuts that are in so many Paleo/Primal recipes. And then I wondered why I was waking up with a half migraine nearly every day. Duh! (I call them Half migraines because I have all the symptoms, I feel awful, but I’m able to function, even if it’s only on a half a brain, unlike the full migraine where I spend hours laying in the dark, barfing, and wishing I could cut off my head.

    I also have had to remind myself that while some people can manage a bit of natural sweetener or other high glycemic carbs, for me they just bring back the horrible carb cravings had all my life until I found Paleo. Maybe 1/4 teaspoon per serving wouldn’t hurt, but then I’d still have a whole cake in the house…with my history, not a good idea! Recently I’ve experimented with blueberries, cantaloupe, yams, pastured cream and full-fat yogurt and so far they’ve all been OK. So by trial and error, I’m discovering the perfect Paleo-Jana diet.

    P.S. Searching your site, I found two mentions of migraines, one in relation to supplementing with Magnesium (which I do daily) and another mention in your “Don’t Eat Toxins” post. I’d love to see a whole post on your recommendations on preventing migraines.


    • Hi Jana,

      Your nut sensitivity sounds like my experience with potatoes – in my case, it’s feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. It lasts for about 3 days and is like a really bad flu. I found that after I stopped eating any potato at all for about 3-4 months, I can now eat small amounts now and then, but once the chemicals start building up, I can inadvertently go over the threshold and have a bad attack of potato-itis!

      Hope you sort out the nut thing, I am really dependent on nuts for snacks at the moment as I don’t eat much fruit.

      Re having sweeteners – maybe what you could do when baking a cake is to make sure to make it for an event, so that you get a slice but there are no tempting leftovers in the house as all the guests eat it.


  7. My wife has come up with a Swedish twist on this – add spices to make a Mjuk pepparkaka (soft ginger cake):

    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    2 tsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp ground cloves
    1/2 tsp ground cardamom

    (Roughly – well, nothing blew up 🙂

    • Yes! I’ve been looking around for the right spice combo to make spice biscuits or cakes…surprisingly it was hard to find even with Google. Thanks David 🙂

      • No worries Allison!

        She’s also just remembered that she added two eggs since she wasn’t sure if it would hold together.

        More experimenting to be done I think…

  8. FYI: I noticed just now when posting, the time stamp is one hour ahead. Since you and I both are on Pacific time, what up?

  9. Chris, as basic a question as this is. . . when you say full fat cream, what is that exactly and where to get it? (I don’t have access to a pastured dairy cow nor a farm of any kind, so just mainstream grocery.)

      • At the supermarket it’s the same thing as Whipping Cream (often called Heavy Whipping Cream) or in restaurants or coffee places, it’s called Manufacturing Cream because they use it to manufacture whipped cream with it. Most stores sell organic whipping cream too. These products are pasteurized, but I’ve made yogurt from pasteurized milk so that shouldn’t be a problem. Greek yogurt is very similar–thick, creamy, slightly fermented and made from mostly cream and delicious on top of baked things. I like Fage (the full fat, not the 0% or 2%) or Greek Gods Greek Yogurt in which they add extra cream. Good luck!

      • Jana B is spot-on with “heavy whipping cream” as a typical supermarket designation. That’s almost always how I’ve seen it in the Pacific Northwest You don’t want products like Half-and-Half (in the U.S., this refers to a very light cream typically used in coffee. It’s only in the teens percent-butterfat, while a heavy cream will be 35% or more butterfat.) Also look for terms like “double cream”.

        • Thank you, both! I use Fage for other purposes, but I thought I was missing something re: full fat cream. I was thinking it was like, ya know, FULL fat. Or full of fat. 🙂

  10. Sweet potatoes can vary tremendously in size.Sucessful Baking is probably the most exact of the culinary arts. Hazelnuts are expensive. Could you give an amount of sweetpotatoes by weight?

      • I am an accomplished cook who improvises and experiments much of the time, but in this case I just wanted to avoid experimenting as much as possible because of the costs.

    • With this sort of cake, it is meant to be relaxed in terms of exact quantities – there are no fancy pants baking techniques here, just good ingredients and taste!

  11. Surely the minerals in say rapadura sugar are negligible and wouldn’t have a marked effect on digestion? Wouldn’t there be a small difference, but really isn’t this condoning sugar intake? Metabolically they are essentially the same in effect?

    • Yes, it is condoning sugar intake – at 2 tsp. for the entire cake, a piece of cake would be 1/4 tsp. of sugar. For an occasional treat, most people can process that amount without any problem whatsoever.

      • Hi Chris,
        You make a good point, thanks.

        This looks like a nice and versatile recipe… I may try with macadaia nuts for a creamy dyanamic.

        Possibly some coconut cream might work too…

    • You could try dates instead of sugar. Or another dried fruit (dates are just the sweetest). They are so full of fiber i don’t get a sugar addiction response.

  12. Apologies if I’ve missed something in the Blog Archive Chris, but how are coconut sugar or maple syrup any different in practice than just plain table sugar/sucrose? If I recall correctly, maple syrup is essentially just sucrose (with its own distinctive flavoring, of course).

    To be clear, I don’t have a problem with strictly occasional amounts of sugar, particularly after any metabolic derangement has been brought under control. But I do sense in some folks regarding “paleo”/exotic sweeteners denial that “it’s all just sugar.” What’s your take here?

    Likewise, any thoughts on dextrose as a sweetener? This would be qualitatively different than many proposed sugar alternatives since it contains no fructose.

    • First, each sugar has a different flavor and that’s one of the primary reasons to choose one over the other in baking. Second, when sugar is refined the minerals, fiber and any other nutrients present in the sugar cane or sugar beets are stripped away. When we eat sugar that is void of these co-factors our bodies are required to use stored vitamins and minerals to process the sugar. Calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium are taken from various parts of the body to make use of the sugar.

      I think dextrose is a better choice than sucrose for the reason you mention.

    • My take is, if i use a sugar, i use the most nutritious form i can. Dates when possible, followed by other fruit/juice, followed by raw unrefined granulated sugar. Other sugars/syrups are not much different from each other in terms of nutrient content, even if unrefined.