Saturday, December 22, 2018


Are you finished forever with pumpkin-pie spiced everything? Here’s a festive holiday dessert with a different palette of spices. You can lose the pumpkin too.

A luscious parfait of sweet potatoes sweetened with molasses, spiced with aniseed. A festive holiday dessert that's easy to prepare for a crowd.

It’s a sweet potato parfait, sweetened with molasses, spiced with aniseed and cinnamon. The festive dessert is based on a very traditional Málaga recipe for sweet potatoes cooked in molasses syrup.

A compote of sweet potatoes cooked in molasses syrup is a traditional Málaga recipe.

Originally, the sweet potatoes (batatas or boniatos) were cooked with an equal weight of molasses and sweet potatoes, making a conserve with keeping power. I’ve reduced the quantity of molasses, creating a compote that’s good served on its own or as an accompaniment to sponge cake, with a side of vanilla ice cream or topped with a dollop of whipped cream or Greek yogurt.

To turn the compote into a festive holiday parfait, I pureed the sweet potatoes and folded in whipped cream. Luscious. Molasses, both intensely sweet and subtly bitter, complements the sweet potatoes.

The creamy sweet potatoes, spooned into dessert cups, have a layer of crunchy nougat on the bottom and top. 

The compote keeps, refrigerated, up to 5 days, so it can be prepared in advance of finishing the dessert. And, the parfait can be made in advance of serving and frozen. (Be sure you have space in the freezer for the individual dessert cups.)

Sweet Potato-Molasses Compote
Batatas con Miel de Caña

Lightly oil the measuring cup before adding molasses so that the molasses pours without sticking. 

Makes 8 (½-cup) servings. 

Sweet potatoes or batatas.
2 pounds sweet potatoes (6 cups cubed)
Drop of olive oil
1 ½ cups molasses (not blackstrap)
1 ½ cups hot water
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon aniseed
3 cardamom pods
2 cloves
3-inch strip of lemon zest

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into ¾-inch cubes. (You should have approximately 6 cups of cubed sweet potatoes.) Place in a pan.

Molasses sweetens the compote.

Use your finger to grease a measuring cup with oil. Measure the molasses and add to the pan. Add the hot water to the measuring cup to dissolve any remaining molasses. Add the water to the pan.

Aniseed, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom.

Break the cinnamon stick into thirds. Wrap the cinnamon in a strip of cheesecloth with the aniseeds, cardamom and cloves. Add to the pan with the strip of lemon zest.

Bring to a boil, Simmer uncovered until the sweet potato is tender, about 20 minutes. Discard lemon zest and bundle of spices. 

Cool the sweet potatoes. The compote keeps, covered and refrigerated, up to 5 days. Serve the sweet potato compote cold or room temperature. 

Sweet Potato-Molasses Parfait
Parfait de Batatas con Miel de Caña

Use the preceding sweet potatoes in syrup to make this dessert. Spoon it into individual cups over a layer of crocanti—almond turrón crushed with cookie crumbs. Use turrón duro, hard almond nougat candy. It is white studded with whole almonds.   For the cookie crumbs, use galletas marías or graham crackers, crushed. 

The parfait can be served chilled or frozen. Remove frozen desserts from the freezer 20 to 30 minutes before you intend to serve them to allow them to soften.

Chill the bowl and beaters before whipping the cream.

Makes 10 (¾ -cup) servings.

4 ounces (125 g) almond nougat (turrón duro)
¼ cup crushed cookie crumbs
Sweet potato compote with molasses syrup (recipe above)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups whipping cream, chilled

Almond nougat (turron duro), ground in food processor, makes a crunchy layer for the parfait.

Grind the almond nougat and cookie crumbs together in a food processor. Spoon it into 10 dessert cups. (Save a little for sprinkling on the tops, if you wish.)

Put the sweet potatoes and syrup in the food processor with the cinnamon, cardamom, zest and juice. Process until fairly smooth. Place the puree in a mixing bowl.

In a chilled bowl, whip the cream until stiff. Fold a third of the whipped cream into the spiced sweet potato puree, mixing it well. Fold in the remaining cream. It’s fine to leave streaks of cream through the puree. 

Divide the sweet potato-cream mixture between the dessert cups. Chill the parfaits at least 5 hours before serving. They can also be placed in the freezer for up to one week. Remove the desserts from the freezer 20-30 minutes before serving.

More recipes with molasses:

More recipes with sweet potatoes:

More festive desserts:


  1. Incredible! Happy New Year! from
    Sweet Basil, in Marbella !

    1. SweetBasil: Glad you like the sweet potato parfait. My guests did not! Maybe it was the color. Or, too sweet. Happy New Year to you.