There are times when you want a light, fluffy cake and there are times when you want a dessert that is hearty and satisfying. This Old Fashioned Oatmeal Pecan Cake is the latter style of cake. It’s moist, dense and loaded with the flavors of oatmeal, cinnamon and vanilla. It’s not quite as hearty as a big bowl full of cooked oatmeal, but it is an excellent cake that captures the same flavors and can be served either for breakfast or dessert.
The cake can be made in a single saucepan and actually starts out with partially cooked oatmeal. The reason for cooking the oatmeal is to tenderize and hydrate the oats. Oatmeal absorbs a lot of liquid and can actually cause some baked goods to dry out (imagine the difference between a stale cookie and a fresh one) through absorption. By partially cooking the oats, they are full hydrated when going into the cake batter, which yields a much moister cake.
Once the oatmeal has been cooked and cooled slightly, the rest of the ingredients can be added directly to the saucepan. This means that this is a one bowl/one pan recipe. That being said, you can absolutely transfer your oatmeal to a secondary bowl if you feel your saucepan is too small to easily mix up the rest of the batter in or if you simply want to cool your oatmeal more quickly. If you don’t want to use a saucepan, you can boil the water and butter in the microwave and pour it over the oats in a large mixing bowl to start things off.
I baked this cake in a tube pan, the same style of pan that I use for angel food cakes and some coffee cakes. The cake batter will not rise enough to fill the whole pan (so don’t be surprised), but it will dome up into an attractive looking cake that is easy to pop out of the pan. While you could bake this in a bundt pan if you don’t have a tube pan, it definitely will only fill the pan about half way, so I would actually recommend baking it in a 9×13-inch pan as a sheet cake instead. The baking time for a tube pan versus a sheet cake pan will be about the same for this recipe.
I typically serve this as a breakfast cake and do not add any frosting – though a bit of confectioners’ sugar is an easy way to dress it up – because I like my brunch guests to feel like the can simply grab a slice and eat it out of hand. If you do want to dress it up a bit more, a simple vanilla buttercream or cream cheese frosting is a great choice. Frosted or unfrosted, the cake keeps very well for a couple of days if stored in an airtight container.
Old Fashioned Oatmeal Pecan Cake
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 10-inch round tube pan and set aside (flour, if desired).
In a large saucepan, combine water and butter and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add in rolled oats. Allow mixture to sit for 20 minutes to cook the oats and cool. After 20 minutes, stir in the sugar, brown sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Add in flour and baking soda, then stir until completely combined. Mix in chopped pecans, then pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and reinvert onto a cake plate to serve. Top with frosting or confectioners’ sugar, if desired.