Skip to main content

Moravian Sugar Cake

This was a great cake that my daughter Kelly brought in for everyone here at the shop. It was an incredible dessert - everyone loved it. She has agreed to share the recipe. DTS
A great recipe passed down from the early Moravians who first arrived in Savannah, Georgia in 1735, proceeded to Nazareth in 1740, then went on to establish a settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1741. The Moravians were Protestants and missionaries who created closed, self sufficient communities that grew their own crops and made their own wares. Though their religion itself embraces discipline and austerity, this sugar cake recipe certainly doesn’t reflect those traits. It is a rich and decadent sugar cake that contains practically everything good and fattening from your pantry. Traditionally a Christmas treat, you will want to make this beautiful and easy cake all year round. It is easily frozen for up to 4 months – just defrost and gently reheat as directed in the following recipe.

2 medium potatoes
1/3 cup sweet butter
1/3 cup lard
1/3 cup honey
1 ½ tsp. salt
¼ cup warm water
1 ½ Tbsp. dry yeast
½ tsp. sugar or honey
2 large eggs
6 ½ cups un-bleached white bread or all purpose flour, approximately

Sweet butter
Brown Sugar
Heavy Cream
Cook the 2 potatoes in 1½ cups water until soft. Reserve 1 cup of the potato water. Mash potatoes and set aside. In a large saucepan, heat the potato water with the butter and lard until the two are melted. Add the honey, mashed potatoes, and salt. Mix well with a whisk or fork. Cool to lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine the ¼ cup warm water, yeast, and ½ teaspoon sugar or honey. Let sit until bubbly. Add the eggs and the potato water mixture (make sure it is no longer hot). Beat to mix. Add 2 ½ cups of the flour and beat 3 minutes with an electric mixer or stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Gradually add more flour, up to 3 ½ cups additional, until the dough clings together and leaves the sides of the bowl, it will still stick to the bottom. If using a hand mixer turn it out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. If using your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, leave the dough in the bowl and continue mixing until smooth and elastic. Add a little more flour if the dough remains too sticky. It is important to maintain a soft dough.

Put the dough in a buttered bowl, turn to coat all sides. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Punch the dough down, turn out onto a lightly floured board, and knead a few times. Cover and let rise about 10 minutes. Pat or roll the dough out to fit a large, shallow cookie sheet. I use 2 sheets measuring 10 x 17 and the dough perfectly fills out this pan. If you wish you can use several smaller pans. Make sure you have a pan with at least a 1” rim so that the cake does not spill over. The dough should not be more than ½ inch thick. Butter the pans and place the flattened dough in them. Brush the tops with melted butter. Cover with towels and let rise until not quite doubled. With your thumb or a spoon, punch craters all over the surface of the dough and fill them with bits of sweet butter. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and liberally with brown sugar. Dribble heavy cream over all.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted between the craters comes out clean. Serve warm from the pan.

Makes 2 large or 3 to 4 medium sugar cakes