Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini.               

Ask Tog, November, 1998

Candied Yams in Orange Cups

Make this either with you own favorite candied yam or sweet potato recipe, or use the quick candied yam recipe that follows. It tastes wonderful and no one will be the wiser. (If you will make your own whipped yams or sweet potatoes, jump down to Preparing the Orange Cups.)

Ingredients for Quick Candied Yams in Orange Cups:

Canned Yams: One pound per every three people
Brown Sugar
Fresh Oranges: One per every two people minimum
Salt to taste
Miniature marshmallows (will be used later)


Figure one pound of yams in the can for every three people. (Yes, canned. No one will ever suspect. Make sure you buy the plain kind, not the kind that is already in a spiced syrup.) Heat the yams in a pot in their own juice. Discard their juice, move them to a mixing bowl, mash, and combine with the orange juice, brown sugar, butter to taste.

By my reckoning, the more brown sugar and butter you add, the better the result. It's really hard to overshoot. Put in enough orange juice to make the consistency soft, but stable. After you've added enough orange juice, butter, and sugar, it is time to add the salt. (Because you will probably be using salted butter, you don't want to pre-salt the potatoes.) The marshmallows are for later

Tip: How to salt anything "to-taste" without going over

Adding salt to taste can be pretty scary. Here's a trick that takes all the pressure out of it. Roughly divide the yams in thirds. (You don't have to take them out of the mixing bowl. Just kind of divide them by eye.) Add salt to that first third only until it tastes just right. If you overdo it, just stir in more of the remaining yams. When you've got the first third (or perhaps half, if you had to add more) just the way you like it, you will have a really good sense for how much more salt will be needed for the whole thing. This way, you can kind of "sidle up" on it, instead of doing all at once and often overshooting.

You can use this technique on everything, including soup. Just stir really gently, so the salt remains only in one local area. And if, in spite of your best efforts, you still over-salt a soup or sauce, slice up some fresh white potatoes and let them simmer in the soup or sauce for around 15 minutes, then remove. The potatoes will have absorbed much of the salt.

Preparing the Orange Cups

You may prepare the cups one or two days in advance.

Ingredients for Orange Cups:

Fresh Oranges: One per every two people minimum
Candied yams or sweet potato mixture (see above)
Miniature marshmallows


Figure one orange for every two people. Add a few extra if this is your first time, as you may "mess up" a few oranges along the way.

Slice the oranges in half and squeeze them for juice, taking care that you don't rip the rinds. Use the juice for your yams or sweet potatoes.

Carefully scoop the pith from the inside of the orange "cups," using a spoon. If you get just underneath the pith layer, you can often draw out all the white stuff in one piece. You may need to take kitchen scissors to the little strings that tie the pith to the bottom of the cups. (Grapefruit spoons are ideal for this, if you happen to have them.)

Using kitchen scissors, cut a series of 1/4 inch slits at an angle, spacing them around 1/4 inch apart, all the way around the orange, as shown above. Then, come back the other direction, and turn them all into little points.

Even fancy restaurants that serve this dish often "cheat," by just serving the cups with a smooth, circular edge. This is perfectly acceptable and will cut down on the work. However, once you've gotten up to speed, you will discover you can knock out a cup every minute and a half, so for six people, it takes less than 10 minutes. And it's really kind of fun.

Final Preparation:

Warm the yams in the microwave. Spoon them into the prepared cups. Dot with miniature marshmallows. Slip them under the broiler and WAIT FOR THEM WHILE THEY BROWN. If they burn, pop their tops off with a spoon, reload, and repeat.

Prepare yourself for an outpouring of praise and affection.

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