Oatmeal Cake

Last month, my dear friend Anna and her husband Josh came over to my humble abode for dinner. This was a particular treat, because Anna is one of my best friends from college, but I hadn’t seen her since I graduated several years ago. Oh, sure, we keep up to date with each other through Facebook and occasional phone calls, but nothing beats face-to-face conversations. Plus, I hadn’t yet met her husband, which I was very much looking forward to getting to do.

They had been on the road for a while doing the holiday family visitation circuit: they were able to visit because Rochester is conveniently located between Syracuse, where Anna has family, and Pittsburgh, where she and Josh currently reside. Knowing that they had been away from home for a while and had been stuffed to the gills with restaurant food, I offered to make them a homemade meal, an offer which they gratefully accepted.

I made more recipes that I am going to post tonight, but the rundown of the meal was: tomato and fennel soup with vegan “sausage,” potato& rutabega au gratin, garlic bread, and oatmeal cake. Sure, a starch-heavy meal, but sometimes that’s just what sounds good in the dead of winter. It was all wonderfully delicious, and the conversation was lively and laughter-filled. I was delighted to discover that I liked her husband greatly, and that the tenderness between them was immediately obvious. And their dog was absolutely adorable.

I made a specific promise to Anna to send her the recipe for the cake, a promise that has until now gone unfulfilled. Anna sent me a very kind reminder earlier today, and I figured since I’ll be typing it up anyway, I might as well turn it into another post.

The downside of the time that has elapsed since our dinner is that I do not have a picture of the cake. However, this is a recipe I make fairly regularly, and I will be sure to upload a picture the next time I make this moist, flavorful pan of deliciousness.

This is yet another recipe that is adapted from The Joy of Cooking, which as you can tell from this post and the previous one is a book I refer to often. If you don’t have a copy, I strongly suggest picking up this classic cookbook the next time you’re at your neighborhood bookstore.

One gentle reminder: in order for the texture of the cake to turn out as good as possible, it is important that the ingredients be at room temperature (unless otherwise specified: good luck trying to get water to boil at room temperature!).

Also, you will notice that I do not suggest using parchment paper to line the baking pan, despite my previously-expressed fondness for the stuff. The thing is, the frosting for this cake is broiled, and the last thing you want to put under the broiler is paper. So, yeah, just this once, do NOT line the pan with parchment paper.

While many cakes are best the day they are baked, this is one cake that is actually better the next day. By all means, have a piece once the cake has cooled if you must, but I strongly suggest making sure a good amount gets saved for later. This is a trait that actually makes this an ideal dessert when entertaining, because it is optimal to prepare it ahead of time, making the day of the event that much saner and stress-free.

One more thing: there is a huge difference in the quality of flavor from freshly grated nutmeg and the pre-ground stuff you can get in a little plastic bottle. In my opinion, it is totally worth the initial investment to get whole nutmeg and a microplane on which to grate it. Feel free to disregard this suggestion and use the pre-ground nutmeg, but I can promise you it won’t be quite as good. 

Oatmeal Cake

The cake:

  • 1 c old-fashioned oats
  • 1-1/2 c boiling water
  • 1-1/3 c unbleached white whole wheat flour (King Arthur brand is commonly available at most grocery stores)
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 t vanilla

The frosting:

  • 1 c raw turbinado sugar
  • 5 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 T heavy cream or half-and-half (or you can substitute Silk creamer)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 c shredded coconut
  • 1/3 c chopped nuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9″ by 13″ baking pan. 
  2. Combine the oats and the boiling water in a bowl, and let stand for 20 minutes. 
  3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk to combine thoroughly. 
  4. Beat the butter and the sugars in a large mixing bowl on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (really, let it take that long: when you cream the butter and sugar together well, the cake will end up fluffier and happier. And everyone likes a happy cake.). 
  5. Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. On slow speed, beat in the oat mixture. Then, beat in the flour mixture in three parts, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Scrape the batter in to the pan and spread evenly.
  7. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean: begin testing the cake after it has baked for 30 minutes, but it can take almost an hour. Make sure the toothpick comes out clean, but don’t overbake or allow the edges to burn.
  8. Let cool briefly in the pan while you pre-heat the broiler and make the frosting.


  • Combine all the ingredients. Spread on the slightly cooled cake and broil 3″-5″ below the heating element: check it after 3 minutes, and then check it every minute until the icing is bubbly all over the surface. Take care that it does not burn!
  • Cool before serving.

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