Recipe: Sunrise Biscuits (Mbatata)

Valentine’s Day is for lazy mornings. For PJ’s all day. Breakfast in bed with your favorite cup of tea. Sunny smiles.

And then there’s real life.

Husbands go to work. Your cat uses your favorite chair as a scratching post. And, over the course of 45 seconds, your child has the following conversation with you, in regards to said cat:

“I want to sit there”

“It’s my turn to play with that toy”

“He poked me with his paw”


The main difference between this and having two kids?

I can put one of them outside to play. Unsupervised.

Life as a mom might not be filled with roses on my bedspread and chocolates under my pillow, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And, if I really am honest with myself, I can conjure up a few sunny smiles on Valentine’s Day… especially if I make these Sunrise Biscuits.

This sweet potato biscuit from Malawi looks exactly like the cheery glow of a romantic sunrise. The vivid orange tuber, so popular and easy to grow in Malawi, adds a moist crumb and a slightly sweet kick, while the pinch of ginger gives a nearly undetectable bit of “yum” that will leave your loved ones wondering what is that?!

Given my tendency to happily eat nothing but sweet potatoes for dinner, and my husband’s tendency to inhale all things biscuit, I knew that this recipe was a must-make – the perfect fusion of both our tastes. What I didn’t know was how on earth this harmony already existed, halfway around the world, in the big cities of Malawi.

There’s nothing new in the world, it would seem.

P.S. You can make them any shape you want, but puffy hearts are grand. After all, love does make the world go round.

Recipe adapted from The World Cookbook for Students.

Makes 8 biscuits (using 3″ heart cutters)


4 Tbsp salted butter
1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup baked, mashed sweet potato
pinch ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup  flour
2 tsp baking powder


First, find a beautiful spot in Malawi to make your biscuits. I’d like to build a kitchen overlooking Lake Malawi’s lapping waves – a place continually filled with the hollow wooden sound of the traditional mangolongondo.

Speaking of which, I have a Pinterest board called Views from My Kitchen Window for daydreams like this.

Senga Bay, photo by Brian Dell. Traditional 'mangolongondo,' photo by Steve Evans.

Now, preheat your oven to 375F and roast your sweet potatoes until soft (be sure to slit them with a knife so they don’t burst). This can take up to an hour. When they’re done, they’ll ooze glorious golden juices so be sure to line your baking pan. Reduce the heat to 350F, for the biscuits.

While the sweet potatoes are still very hot, add 3/4 cup to a bowl with the cubed butter. Let the heat of the sweet potatoes melt the butter into happy puddles.

Note: if you’re making this with cold, leftover sweet potatoes, simply melt the butter before combining the two ingredients.

Splash on the milk..

And sprinkle on a pinch of ginger and a smattering of salt.

Next comes the snowfall: 1 1/3 cups flour and 2 tsp baking powder.

Hum a little tune and mix well. The salmon colored dough will be very moist. That’s okay.

On a heavily floured board, with heavily floured hands, press the dough flat – about 1 inch thick.

Dip your cookie cutter into flour to keep the biscuit dough from sticking. Afterall, you don’t want to rip your heart apart. Lay the hearts 2″ apart, on a lined baking sheet.
Bake for 15-2o minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Okay…. bake until neon gold.

Just like the glimmer of the perfect sunrise.

Enjoy on a dreamy boat ride along the shimmering waters of Lake Malawi as you nibble these treats… preferably with a softened pat of butter. Or two.

Enjoy today, tomorrow, or on Valentine’s Day.

Wishing you love, love, love, so much love. Always.

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  1. That looks so yummy, might have to go and hunt for some sweet potatoes )not that easily available here)

  2. What would fresh ginger or tiny bits of crystalized sugared ginger do to these do ya think?

  3. Looks great! How many sweet potatoes will make 3/4 cup mashed?

  4. Looks wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. I’ve never seen a measuring spoon that was marked “pinch”! Does the one under it say “smattering”?!

  6. These sound yummy! Don´t really cook with sweet potato much but these are very tempting!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yay! It’s always good to try not-so-favorite ingredients in new recipes, you might just find you love it, after all. :)

  7. I have just taken those out of my owen. Three out of ten biscuits are gone:) My three year old said he loved the “cookie”, one year old kept his mouth open all the time for more, and I thought it had simple and quite interesting taste. I will definitely make those more often, as my three year old doesn’t like sweet potatoes, and here we go, he doesn’t mind it at all:) I didn’t have hearts, so I made the penguins:) Happy Valentine’s Day! :)

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Epic! So glad the kiddos (and you) loved them… especially since you can now get sweet potatoes into the three year-old – yay :) Happy Valentine’s Day to you, as well.

  8. I tried these with gluten free flour, excellent…the potato gives it the needed moisture and chew…

  9. LOVE these! They will be on my Thanksgiving table this year! Awesomeness!

  10. I made these biscuits for Evan this morning (9 month old who loves sweet potato) and they came out perfect! He couldn’t get enough of them. The texture was also easy for him to handle. Thanks! It has been hard finding new breakfast recipes that aren’t full of sugar for him.

  11. We make these in Australia often – I grew up with them with pumpkin mostly instead of sweet potatoes, and we called them pumpkin scones. I used to love these for school lunches, or in winter we’d come home to them as afternoon tea :-)


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