Oatmeal Cake


The name of this recipe is actually “Cousin Alice’s Oatmeal Cake.”

I have no idea who cousin Alice is, but I’m very glad that she shared her cake recipe with Jackie Ray, who was the executive secretary at Dallas Ballet when I worked there oh-so-briefly in the 1980s doing public relations.

Seventysomething Jackie Ray wore smart, dark-colored suits and a neat swirl of gray cotton candy hair. Small in stature and with a sing-songy lilt to her voice, she was always kind and welcoming, but like all good Southern women, her insides were tough as steel. She was the mamma bear of the office. People knew not to mess with Jackie Ray.

One day, for a staff birthday party, she brought this cake. I asked her for the recipe the next day and she xeroxed her copy and gave it to me. I’ve made it a few times over the years, and lately I’ve been in the mood for something spice cake-like, so I decided to make this cake again.

I love its dense, non-fluffy texture, which seems more like a quick bread, but in any case, making this cake is quick, and it couldn’t be easier to put together. It’s a great weeknight cake. It’s also a great breakfast cake – I’m eating a piece right now with my coffee as I write this.


I remember she put a cream cheese icing on top, which I loved, but I decided to make my mom’s brown sugar broiled icing instead. The crunch of the brown sugar is a great textural contrast to the moist, substantial cake – plus, I figure that since I cut the cake’s sugar by half, I’d just add it back in the icing and we’d be even steven.

My mom always liked to say that oatmeal cookies were good for us because they had oatmeal in them. I agree. So for my health, I think that I’ll go have another piece of cake right now — before X wakes up and sees that it’s already almost gone.


Oatmeal Cake

Adapted from cousin Alice

1 ¼ cups boiling water
1 cup quick oatmeal
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 F and butter and flour an 8″ X 8″ pan.

1. Pour 1 1/4 cups boiling water over the oatmeal and the stick of butter, and let stand for 20 minutes, covered.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

3. Put the oatmeal mixture in a large bowl or stand mixer and add the brown sugar and the eggs and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Pour into the 8″ x 8″ pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

4. You don’t need to wait for the cake to cool to make the brown sugar glaze. Turn the oven to broil, and on the stovetop, in a skillet, melt the 1 cup of brown sugar with the 1/4 cup butter and cook until it’s smooth and the color begins to darken a little. Whisk in the cream and pour on top of the cake. Slide it into the oven and let the sugar bubble and caramelize. You can serve this warm, right out of the oven, or wait until it cools. It’s also great the next day.