Today is Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day. Too bad it has to fall in the thick of winter in the unsavory company of colds, flu and drizzles. (Right now if you tried to nuzzle up to three out of five persons, you would risk contracting the whooping nightsweats or the Victorian vapors.)
Despite all this, we are still a shameless, inveterate sentimentalist and today our Valentine’s gift for the Aware Ones is our favorite cake in the whole cosmos which we immodestly call the Troubleshooter Earth Cake. Now don’t rush off to the movie listings in disgust. This recipe is so easy, a 4th grader with braces could whip right through it in no time. However, we forewarn that you’ll have to scrape together a few spare cents to pick up items which you may not have lying around like brandy flavoring, sesame seeds and walnuts, but the apocalypse isn’t here just yet, so splurge; treat yourself and your Valentine. So, here we go.
The Earth Cake is not a gentle cake. It is rough and rugged. It is so hearty and brown, so rich and spicy that it will practically bite you back. Even the clumsiest, fumblingest know nothing in the kitchen can follow these directions and no matter what, barring tidal floods and earth tremors, the results are unconditionally guaranteed to pleasure your palate. On the other hand, if you are an experienced cook with years of culinary triumphs under your apron, this cake will excite your friends after the first bite and send them scrambling into your files in search of the recipe.
Do not eliminate such special features as the brandy and rum flavorings or the seeds and nuts. These items are as essential as the flour.
It is not really necessary to use a mixer for this cake. A wooden spoon, a big bowl and a strong arm will work just great.
First get the water (or juice) boiling and pour it over the oats and let it stand for a while. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (Set it for 325 if your oven is hot stuff.) In the meantime, cream together the oleo with the sugars; beat in the eggs one at a time; then stir in flavorings. Dump in the flour, salt, soda and spices and beat with vigor until smooth.
By this time, your oat mixture 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.
Earth Cake seems to bake best in a single pan; I use my trusty old beatup angelfood cake pan with the center tube, but any pan I’m sure will serve the purpose as long as the batter does not exceed 2 inches or so in depth. Depending upon the temperament of my dinky 3-burner stove’s oven, Earth Cake will take from 35 to 45 minutes to bake. After 30 minutes in your own oven, just keep checking it periodically for doneness. If the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan an-or if a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean it’s ready to leave the oven.
Let the cake cool for a while before turning it onto a plate or cutting board. But if you just cannot wait, and the aroma is just too intoxicating to bear, forget about removing it from the pan – just grab a knife and cut out a hunk of it with a little butter or cream cheese and eat it right up. Oooooohhhhhhhh. So good.
There are dozens of undiscovered variations on Earth Cake. These have worked well for me in the past:
Add 1 cup applesauce to the batter for extra moistness.
Use real brandy and or rum (tablespoon measures!) instead of flavorings.
Soak raisins in very hot water (or hot wine) before adding to batter. Be sure to drain them before dumping them in.
Just as you put the cake in the oven, sprinkle the top all over with generous portions of sesame and poppy seeds.
Use real butter instead of oleo. I have not yet experimented with substituting honey for sugar or using other flours, but should you try these variations,
Peace to you and good eating.
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