Photo by Max Straeten on Morguefile
Maybe you're bored by cooking and eating the same stuff repeatedly. Or, you're hankering for an exciting new recipe to try. Here's one that can be applied to either situation. And, it's just in time for celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. (And by the way, Earth Day can actually be whenever you feel like it, not just on the traditional April 22 date.)
This recipe is so easy that even a youngster could probably whip through it. You'll have to scrape together a few items which you may not have laying around, such as rum and brandy flavoring, sesame seeds, and nuts. But for this recipe, these are as essential as the flour; don't leave them out. Given the current social-distancing constraints, perhaps a family member or friend can drop these extras off on your doorstep — don't be afraid to ask!
Now, the Earth Cake isn't a gentle cake; it's rough and rugged, hearty and brown. Even if you're a fumbling, know-nothing klutz in the kitchen, you'll be able to follow these directions with results guaranteed to please. If you're an experienced cook with years of culinary triumphs under your apron, this cake will excite your friends after the first bite and make them shamelessly demand that you share the recipe.
A mixer isn't necessary for this cake. A wooden spoon, a big bowl, and a strong arm will work just great. If you set out everything beforehand, it can become a family effort, with each person adding an ingredient as you go and watching it develop.
- 1-1/2 cups boiling water or apple juice
- 1 cup oats (the kind used for regular oatmeal)
- 1/2 cup margarine or butter
- 1-1/2 cups flour (whatever kind you prefer)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup each white and brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 to 1 cup raisins
- 1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger (ground or freshly chopped root)
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon each vanilla, rum, and brandy flavorings
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds*
- a few poppy seeds*
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (325 if you have a very hot oven).
2. Place the oats in a smaller bowl, boil the water or juice, and pour it over the oats. Let it stand while you cream together the margarine or butter with the sugars. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the flavorings. Dump in the flour, salt, soda, and spices, and beat with vigor until smooth. (I never sift the dry ingredients first; it isn't necessary.)
3. By now, your oats should look like oatmeal. Plop it into the main batter and stir it around. At the end, mix in the seeds, raisins, and nuts. By now, the batter should look thick and busy.
4. The Earth Cake seems to bake best in a single pan. I use either a Bundt pan or a spring-form pan. An angel-food cake pan with the center tube also works as long as the batter depth doesn't exceed 2 inches or so. Depending on your oven, this cake will take from 35-45 minutes to bake. Start checking it after 30 minutes. If the cake pulls away from the pan sides and/or if a knife or stout toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, this concoction is done! Do make sure it is "done" — it's not good if not cooked through.
* Just as you put the cake in the oven, sprinkle the top all over with generous portions of sesame and poppy seeds if you have an extra supply.
Enjoy Earth Cake with Variations
The aroma of this cake is delightful — downright intoxicating. It's standard practice to let the cake cool for 20 to 30 minutes before turning it onto a plate or cutting board. But, if you just cannot wait, grab a knife, cut out a chunk, spread a little butter or cream cheese on it, and eat it right up. Yummy!
There are dozens of undiscovered variations on the Earth Cake. I've tried some of these and they all work:
• Add one cup of applesauce to the batter for extra moistness.
• Use real brandy or rum (tablespoon measures!)
• Soak raisins in very hot water or hot wine before adding to batter (drain them before adding).
• Substitute honey for some or all of the sugars.
Peace to you, and good eating.
Mary Moss-Sprague is a certified Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver in Corvallis, Ore., and author of Stand Up and Garden: The No-digging, No-tilling, No-stooping Approach to Growing Vegetables and Herbs. Read all of Mary’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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