~ Nana's Oatmeal-Applesauce-Raisin-Walnut Cake ~
I've always loved oatmeal and anything edible containing oatmeal, and, let me tell you: this recipe "takes the cake" in terms of oatmeal recipes. When I was 19 and still living in Tamaqua, PA, my fiancé's grandmother, Nana, made this for dessert the first time I was invited to their house for dinner. For me, it was genuine "love at first bite". After that, she made it almost every time I visited, just because she knew I liked it so much. Fond memories of a lovely, gentle lady.
For my bridal shower, Nana gave me the identical stainless steel baking pan, spatula, measuring cups and measuring spoons that she used to bake her cake. Instead of a Hallmark card, there was a handwritten copy of the recipe taped to the bottom of the cake pan. Forty-two years later, I still have all of the original hardware she gave me, and, here is a picture to prove it. Alas, the original copy of the recipe no longer exists, but it remains unchanged to this day.
On occasion, I've seen similar versions of this recipe in local Pennsylvania Dutch church-type cookbooks, but none seem to compare with Nana's because: each one seems to be missing at least one of the ingredients that was on her very specific list: oatmeal, applesauce, raisins and walnuts. For example: Some recipes use water in place of applesauce, while others don't include nuts or raisins in the cake. To each his own, but, Nana's cake has "got it all". I've also seen versions refer to it as an Amish recipe, but Nana was Pennsylvania Dutch. The term "Dutch" was the early English slang for the German word "Deutsch". So: When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.
Nana used her own highly-flavored applesauce to make this cake. Joe and I make our own too: Joe picks the apples from one of his trees and I make the applesauce, in batches in the crockpot. You can find my recipe, ~ Please Pass the Homemade Crockpot Applesauce ~, by clicking into Categories 4, 8, 18 19, 20 or 22. Like Nana's, my applesauce is full-flavored too, which adds a lot to this cake's taste. If you're using your favorite store-bought brand, that's fine, just don't be afraid to add a bit of extra spice to it (a pinch or two of ground cinnamon, cloves and/or ginger).
Oatmeal + Homemade Applesauce + Raisins + Walnuts =
1 1/2 cups applesauce, preferably homemade, or your favorite brand
1 generous cup raisins
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly-packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature, very soft
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
no-stick cooking spray, for preparing pan
~Step 1. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the applesauce to a rapid simmer, stirring almost constantly. Stir in and thoroughly combine the oats and raisins. Turn the heat off, cover the saucepan, and, allow to sit on the warm stovetop for 30 minutes. This rest time will give the oats and raisins time to soften and plump. While the mixture is resting:
~Step 2. In a large mixing bowl, place the flour, brown sugar, chopped walnuts, very soft butter, egg, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Using a large rubber spatula, combine the mixture until it resembles large, coarse crumbs. Because the butter is soft, while this might seem like it won't work, trust me, it does, and it takes less than one minute. Add and thoroughly stir the oatmeal, applesauce mixture from the saucepan into the crumb mixture.
~ Step 3. Transfer the cake batter into an 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray. Using the rubber spatula, spread it as evenly as you can into the pan. Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into several places comes out clean. Remove cake from oven, place it on a wire cooling rack, then: change the oven settings to broil, which includes leaving the door open a crack. Do not change the position of the oven rack.
Brown Sugar + Coconut + Walnuts + Creme + Melted Butter =
2/3 cup firmly-packed light or dark brown sugar
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
6 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Ten Minutes before the cake comes out of the oven, prepare the topping as directed below:
~Step 1. In microwave or on stovetop, melt the butter and set it aside to cool about 5 minutes.
~Step 2. In a medium bowl, place the brown sugar, coconut and walnuts, then, using a large spoon, give them a thorough stir. Add the melted and slightly-cooled butter, cream and vanilla extract, then thoroughly stir the mixture again. When the cake comes out of the oven:
~ Step 3. Spoon and spread topping evenly over hot cake. Return cake to the oven, placing it under broiler until topping is bubbly and golden, 3-4 minutes. Remove cake from oven, return it to wire rack and cool, in pan, 2 hours prior to slicing.
Nana's cake, hot out of the oven & cooling for 2 hours:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 2-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; large rubber spatula; 8" x 8" x 2" square baking pan; cake tester or toothpick; wire cooling rack
Cook's Note: My recipe for ~ Old-Fashioned Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cookies ~, can be found by clicking into Categories 7 or 12. This is my grandmother, Baba's, recipe. She knew how much I loved oatmeal too and made these for me "all the time". No secret ingredients either, just ordinary pantry staples.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)