Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another seasonally appropriate cake

I'm sorry that I haven't written about this cake yet! You deserve this cake, especially right now, during the crisp late autumn when your bones feel chilly and your belly is growly.

This is my favorite cool-weather cake. It's wholesome, gooey, spicy, and pairs well with a good 1% milk. It's my grandmother's recipe, and when I go home, I ask for this cake. Honestly, I can't really express how good this cake is. Just make it, ok? Then leave me a comment or send me a thank-you gift card for Sephora or Williams-Sonoma to say how right I was and how good the cake was, and everyone will be so happy!

My grandmother died more than a decade ago, so the exact recipe is somewhat of a mystery, although I've seen similar recipes in the big cookbooks. We think that the recipe for the cake came from a Home Comfort Cookbook that my grandmother started housekeeping with. The icing recipe is even more mysterious! It seems to be a modified prune cake icing recipe. Oatmeal cake tastes better the next day, after it gets gooey-er, so plan ahead.

A few notes, as usual: 
  • If you don't have quick-cooking oats, process about 1.5 cups rolled oats in a food processor--just pulse them barely a few times to break them down a little, not grind them to a powder--and then measure your cup from that. 
  • If you don't have White Lily flour (shame on you!), adjust by replacing one tablespoon of flour with one tablespoon of cornstarch. If you lack self-rising flour, adjust by adding 1.5 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (If you have regular all-purpose flour, you can make all of the adjustments. If that's too fussy for you, just add the leavening ingredients.) 
  • If you don't have the 9" by 13" pan that this recipe calls for, don't fret. For this recipe, the best bets are two 9-inch round cake pans, or three 8-inch cake pans. (This handy table is a great reference for figuring out what pans to use if you don't happen to have the pan called for.)
  • Seriously, y'all: MAKE THIS CAKE THIS WEEK. And the next day, warm a slice up in the microwave for 25 seconds. Pour yourself a glass of milk (except you, Kay Marie) and eat this cake in the gray afternoon, in the dark (here in Seattle, that's 4:30), and for breakfast. It's OATMEAL, people. 

Mawmaw Grizzle's Oatmeal Cake
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup fine-cut/quick-cook oatmeal (I use Crystal Wedding Oats)
1 1/3 cups White Lily self-rising flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine water and oatmeal; cover and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter, vanilla, and eggs, and add to the flour mixture. When the mixture is moistened, add the oatmeal mixture and mix well. Bake in 9x13 greased baking dish (or equivalent) for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean. The edges should pull slightly away from the pan (see below). Poke holes or slits in the warm cake using a skewer or a serrated knife, and top with the hot glaze below. It will puddle and look like too much, but trust me, it is not too much.

Oatmeal Cake Glaze
In a saucepan combine:
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon white Karo syrup
½ cup butter
½ cup buttermilk
Mix well and stir constantly over medium heat. When mixture comes to a rolling boil, boil 1 minute and pour over cake while warm. 

Don't be scared of the puddles. They're just pools of deliciousness.

So go ahead. Make this cake. I'll be waiting for your gift card. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's the perfect time

It's one of those days in Seattle. 

One day it was this:

and now it's this: 

This city was made for coffee, naps, knee socks, Counting Crows, and flannel pajamas. It's hard to get up early when you can hear the willow tree in the back tossing around and the puddle under the pear tree growing as the gutter gives up. It's too cold and wet even for my favorite crow, who usually sits in the top of this tree.

No crows to count

Last year, when I spent more time cooking and washing dishes, I would see him up there and think, "That crow is always in that tree!" I hope he thinks about me just as often, "That girl is always at that kitchen sink!"

With no sunny skies or dry sidewalks to tempt me, it's the perfect time for me to get a jump on Thanksgiving dinner. When I host gatherings, I tend to get really high-strung and freak out easily, so I try to do as much work as I can in advance. It's best for everyone involved--I am less likely to throw spatulas or cry when I once again confuse the "EJECT BEATERS" button with the "POWER BOOST!!!!" button. 

Hi there! I'm going to ruin your dress AND your holiday! Ha ha!

This year we are hosting transplant friends who are staying in town. I'm very excited--they're such great people, and we all love a good root vegetable. Plus, we have a new couch on which to nurture our subsequent food babies. 

I made this cranberry sauce last year. It was delicious, but too heavy on the cloves. I tweaked it some this year, and I think it's just right. Cranberry sauce is a good make-ahead dish; you can make this anytime between now and an hour before you eat. My favorite thing about making this--besides eating it--is watching the sauce as the cranberries begin to burst open. They pop and spew a little juice, and it's just fun, like more colorful popcorn.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes about two cups

12-ounce bag of cranberries, washed and picked over
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 to 3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar, or to taste
two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1/4 ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
3/4 cup water

In a saucepan combine the cranberries, the honey, the brown sugar, the cinnamon sticks, the cloves, the nutmeg, and the water and simmer the mixture, covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is thickened. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and let it cool. The sauce may be made 2 days in advance and kept covered and chilled. Serve the sauce at room temperature.

Oh yeah. I also made this cake. It does indeed freeze beautifully. ("This was in the 'freezes beautifully' section of my cookbook, and I wanted to take something that freezes beautifully!") One of our guests is gluten-free, so I just omitted the tablespoon of flour in the original recipe. It's hidden away in the freezer--this cake actually improves with freezing--and now I can make buttermilk creme brulee on Thursday. That's right. Buttermilk Creme Brulee. I should get a torch!! Well, maybe probably has dangerous buttons I'd get confused too.