The Harvest Baker: the Cookbook You Really Need In Your Life & Recipe for Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Have you ever read a cookbook and had to stop at the VERY FIRST RECIPE to make it? Such is the case with Ken Haedrich's The Harvest Baker: 150 Sweet and Savory Recipes Celebrating the Fresh-Picked Falvors of Fruits, Herbs, and Vegetables

I love it. 

The Harvest Baker: the Cookbook You Really Need In Your Life & Recipe for Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze

Picture this: I was sitting on the porch at our cottage up north early this summer, perusing The Harvest Baker for review here. And the very first recipe - Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins - drew me in. It was the description did it:

"These are so good that they'll have you counting the days until spring, when you can get your hands on fresh berries and rhubarb again...light and cake-like, rich and moist, these muffins are laced with cinnamon, cardamom, and lemon zest, just enough to notice but not enough to interfere with the delicate fruit flavor. A sprinkle of sugar on top gives them a crunchy lid that constrasts nicely with the soft interior. Serve them out on the patio or screened porch, on one of those warm spring weekends that melt away the memory of winter."

Who could resist? 

Not I. We had fresh rhubarb from a farm stand down the road, and fresh strawberries from another. My favorite spice is cardamom, so you know that was already in the pantry. I was good to go. And let me note: the recipe introduction, so beautifully written by Haedrich? It was understated. These muffins were sublime.

The Harvest Baker: the Cookbook You Really Need In Your Life & Recipe for Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze

There are several recipe concepts in this book that you may have cooked many times, but these recipes come with new, creative twists that take them to a new level of deliciousness. There are also inventive ways of incorporating vegetables into the recipes to make your baking more wholesome and tasty. 

Tip: don't skip the tools section. You may have thought you knew everything about your kitchen, but there are excellent tips for pans for baking, and important information on when to use specific kinds of bakeware. Even if you're a lifelong cook, this book has much to teach about baking.

There are also excellent recipes for delicious foundational items (like the food processor tomato jam), as well as alternative ways of using a recipe - for instance, there's one recipe where you add blue cheese and walnuts, but there are other options for different tastes and what's in your kitchen. This is such a cool book - Haedrich tells us how he uses things, or how his family likes this or that (e.g., peanut butter and apple crumb muffins!). I like the personal touch, because I, too, can see food stories and how recipes will fit into our lives.

The Harvest Baker: the Cookbook You Really Need In Your Life & Recipe for Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze

I guarantee that if you pick up this book and start reading it, you're going to stop and make something right away, as we did this summer (and ever since). You might not even make it to the end of the book for months, because the recipes are so distracting - and delicious. 

Ken Haedrich is the author of more than a dozen cookbooks, including Maple Syrup Cookbook and Home for the Holidays, a winner of the Julia Child Cookbook Award. His articles have appeared in many publications, including Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Light, and Bon Appétit. He can be found online at

We were lucky enough to catch up with Haedrich, and ask about his book, inspiration, seasonal cooking, and more. Here's what he had to say...

Ken Haedrich. From The Harvest Baker: the Cookbook You Really Need In Your Life & Recipe for Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze

Please tell us about your new book, The Harvest Baker...
The Harvest Baker sits squarely at the intersection of two thing I enjoy doing most in the kitchen: baking, and using fresh produce. I've never been a fancy baker; I don't do pretty decorated cakes or French pastries. But I adore the rustic, homey appeal of berry pies and muffins, cornbread made with fresh corn, tomato pies, and pizzas topped with fresh veggies. These are the sorts of baked goods I celebrate in The Harvest Baker. The Harvest Baker is carrot cake and zucchini bread on steroids. 

What inspired you to create this book?
Besides my love of baking and fresh produce, I've always loved spending time in the garden. I used to garden with my dad when I was a boy, I've had my own gardens, and when I cooked professionally early in my career we had a full-time gardener who supplied me with lots of fresh produce every day. All of these things contributed to my interest in what I call harvest baking. Today, with all the interest in farmer's markets, farm-to-table cooking, wholesome eating, and gardening, home cooks want more ideas and options for baking with produce. So The Harvest Baker fits this need nicely.

Grilled flatbread. From The Harvest Baker: the Cookbook You Really Need In Your Life & Recipe for Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze

Grilled flatbread

How can readers learn to utilize fruits, herbs, and vegetables in their baking more regularly (besides devouring your cookbook!)?
Keep an eye on the seasons and anticipate what's coming up, produce-wise. I like to plan ahead as baking season arrives, make sure I schedule special pound cakes, dinner pies, or whatever it is I'd like to make. That might sound funny - scheduling your baking - but it helps plant the idea in your head that harvest baking is a priority and something worth your efforts. 

What might readers be surprised to learn, about this book?
Probably the great number of options open to harvest bakers. When we think of harvest baking - like I mentioned earlier - we tend to see limited choices, like zucchini bread and carrot cake. But the field is so much bigger than that and there are recipes we never considered, made with produce we hadn't thought of in regards to baking, like dinner rolls made with Delicata squash puree.

What were the joys challenges of researching recipes and trends for this cookbook?
It was all joy, not so much challenging for someone who first wrote about harvest baking more than 25 years ago. If there was any challenge at all, it was trying to decide what recipes I didn't have enough room for in the book.

Everything biscuits. From The Harvest Baker: the Cookbook You Really Need In Your Life & Recipe for Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze

Everything Biscuits

What's up next for you?
A gentleman never tells, but there are things in the wind that will please my followers and readers greatly. If you'd really like to know, sign up for my website - - where I'll drop hints from time to time.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze

Tender, sweet potato–moist, and faintly spiced, this pound cake is pretty enough to grace your most elegant cake plate and down-home enough to serve at a wood-cutting party or tailgate event. There’s a bit of autumn (the sweet potatoes) and a bit of springtime (the maple syrup) in every bite. And don’t forget that maple syrup is a harvested food, so it’s right in tune with your harvest baking. Turning on the oven just to bake the potatoes is a bit of a pain, so plan ahead and put them in the oven earlier in the week at a time when you’re already using it. (More photos here.)

Recipe for Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Maple Syrup Glaze from Ken Haedrich's Harvest Baker

Makes 16 servings

Butter for the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup sweet potato purée (page 246, see below)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
Maple Syrup Glaze (page 289, see below)

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Adjust your oven rack so it’s one position below the middle. Butter a 12- to 14-cup one-piece tube pan and dust it with flour. 

2 Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg into a large bowl. Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter, and oil in a separate large bowl. Using an electric mixer — a stand mixer, if you have one — beat on medium-high speed until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sweet potato purée. Continue to beat until evenly blended.

3 Beat half of the dry ingredients into the liquid on low speed, until thoroughly mixed. Beat in the buttermilk on low speed. Add the remaining dry ingredients and blend them in on low speed, until the batter is evenly mixed. Stir in the pecans.

4 Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spoon. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a tester inserted deep into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool in the pan for a good hour, until the cake is barely warm. Invert the cake out of the pan (see De-panning a Tube Cake, page 243) and onto a serving platter.

5 Spoon the Maple Syrup Glaze over the cake and allow to cool.

NOTE: To make the sweet potato puree, preheat the oven to 400°. Scrub 3 good-size sweet potatoes under running water. Pierce each one several times with a paring knife. Place them on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until tender through and through when pierced with a knife. Split open, cool thoroughly, and transfer the flesh to a food processor. Process to a very smooth puree.

MAPLE SYRUP GLAZE: Gently warm 3 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1/3 cup pure maple syrup in a small saucepan until the butter melts. Transfer to a mixing bowl and whisk in 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (sifted) until smooth. Use right away.


Lake photos courtesy and copyright Wandering Educators. All other photos and recipe excerpted from The Harvest Baker (c) by Ken Haedrich. Photos (c) Johnny Autry. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.