Posted January 5th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Christmas, Family, Holidays, Recipes

A beautiful Moravian Star is reflected in the church window.

Photo credit:  Bill Guerrant

Each time I write about baking sugar cakes, I get requests for the recipe.  Here is the one I use.  It came from DH’s grandmother:

Sugar cake ready to bake

Grandmother’s Moravian Sugar Cake

This is from my DH’s grandmother whose family has been Moravian for generations. Grandmother’s home in Old Salem (NC) stood until recently when it caught fire during renovation.

Note: Sugar cake is a sweet, light yeast dough topped with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.  It is not really a cake.

1 C. hot mashed russet potatoes*

1 package yeast

1 C. sugar

1/2 C. shortening

4 T. butter

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs

4 C. flour**


2 C. brown sugar

Butter, about 1/2 C. melted and cooled

Cinnamon to taste***

Mix sugar, butter, shortening, salt and potatoes. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 C. warm water and add to potato mixture. Set this aside and allow to rise until spongy. Add slightly beaten eggs. Add flour to form soft dough. Put dough in clean, greased bowl, cover bowl with saran and allow to rise overnight .  (I let it rise for 12 hours.)  Spread out evenly on flat, greased pans after stirring slightly. When dough is light, make depressions in it for butter and brown sugar. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in 350-375 oven about 20 minutes. Makes three Baker’s Secret pie pans. Note: I use a 360 degree oven.   Do not over bake.  You do not want a dry cake.  To reheat by the slice, use a microwave for 30 seconds at 30%.  You can then heat in oven for a minute or so if desired.

I use a Kitchenaid mixer when making this, with the regular wire beaters for the first step. Switch to the dough paddle when adding the flour.

*I use an old-fashioned potato ricer rather than a masher

**I get a much softer, moister product with a soft flour such as White Lily. Gold Medal is too heavy.

***I like to mix the cinnamon in with the brown sugar before sprinkling it on the dough. Drizzle butter which has been melted and cooled somewhat over the cinnamon/sugar.

Dough during its overnight rise.

Dough sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon. After depressions have been finger pressed

into the dough’s surface, melted butter will be liberally applied.

Moravian Sugar Cake.  There’s nothing like it!


2 responses to “MORAVIAN SUGAR CAKE”

  1. Ellen says:

    Willa – Get busy in the kitchen. Trust me. Sugar cake is very easy to make, but one must plan ahead. Set the dough after dinner, put it in the oven with the light on, bake the next morning. I’ve found a full 12-hour rise makes all the difference in the world.

  2. Willa says:

    Oh, dear, you had to remind me! I wanted that over Christmas but had totally forgotten. So now I have to drive to Winston to buy or get busy in the kitchen!

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