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Museumand recipe contribution: Sweet Potato Pudding

There is a Caribbean riddle that asks what is “hell a tap, hell a battam and hallelujah in the middle?” The answer is this favourite weekend dessert – sweet potato pudding. The riddle refers to the way the dessert was cooked. Placed on a coal fire (the hell a battam), in a tin covered with a metal sheet, hot coals were then added onto the top of the metal (the hell a tap). The (Hallelujah) in the middle is the delicious sweet potato pudding. Traditionally, sweet potato pudding is made by grating sweet potato, but this isn’t easy and can be painful if you catch your knuckles on the grater! Many modern cooks choose to boil and blend the sweet potato instead. There is even a quick, easy-bake mix available, but nothing beats the taste you get from using real sweet potato.



  • 2 lbs of Jamaican sweet potato
  • ½ lb of hard yam
  • ½ lb of Jamaican coco
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  •  1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  •  1 and ½ tablespoons of vanilla essence
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 lb of unsalted butter
  •  ½ pint of coconut milk
  • ½ - 1lb of plain flour
  • ½ pint of water or just under
  • Cup of raisins (optional)

Some of the families consulted in the collecting of recipes said they added one or more of the ingredients listed below:
1 ½ cups cornmeal
lime juice and rum – sprinkle over top at or before serving
raisins soaked in Jamaican rum  
freshly grated coconut
coarsely grated sweet potato
dark sugar
lime juice
gravy browning


  • Peel and grate the sweet potato, yam and coco. Slowly put the ingredients into the mixing bowl one at a time.
  • Mix the ingredients until it is thick but smooth and without lumps.
  • Grease a medium-sized cake tin.

To bake the Sweet Potato Pudding the traditional Caribbean method 

  • Use 3 bricks to create the base for a coal fire in the backyard away from the house at a safe distance
  • Make up a coal fire
  • Warm the cake tin on the coal fire. 
  • Pour in the mixture from the mixing bowl.
  • Warm a piece of zinc or metal and put on top of the cake tin.
  • Add hot coals from the fire to the top of the tin,
  • Observe the pudding well to make sure it is not burning. 
  • Remove the cake tin from the heat when the cake is done.
  • Let it cool.
  • Turn the cake out of the tin onto a plate

To bake the Sweet Potato Pudding in a modern UK oven 

  • Bake in a pre-heated oven 350 degrees F/180 degrees C for 1 ½ - 1 ¾ hrs.

Recipe provided by museumand as part of their ongoing research into Caribbean cooking and traditions.

Carmen Baltelo

Carmen recalls that desserts in her home as a child was mostly a choice of the many fruits grown in her village. There was such a variety of fruits on offer and they were free –there for anyone to take what they fancied. However, there were people in the village who were great at baking and they supplied others with baked desserts particularly families that worked long hours and didn’t always have time to bake or those who wanted treats for special events.  Carmen loved collecting the family orders on these occasions, and recalls the smells that emanated from the packages she was carrying - ginger, spices, and rum, but it wasn’t until she arrived in the UK that she took up baking as a regular activity herself. Her favourite dessert, sweet potato pudding, is still prepared by her but less often, she jokingly comments “I have to watch the calories''.