Confession time: I love skillets.
I love cooking in skillets.
I love baking in skillets.
I love broiling in skillets.
I love wearing skillets as dangly earrings on date nights.
Really? No. Maybe? Only every third one.
The truth is that even before I got serious about cooking, I was always intrigued by meals that can be assembled and prepared using just one pan. Specifically, cast iron skillets, because they are so inexpensive, so versatile, and such efficient conductors of heat; they are the very best multi-tasking kitchen tool I’ve personally ever encountered.
And since my cast iron skillet has been such a solid player in my kitchen happenings over the years, I’m returning the favor with a week-long skilletpalooza in the form of recipes and posts each day featuring dishes, both savory and sweet, that can be cooked in just one skillet.
Today’s skillet-tastic recipe is one that is truly near and dear: sweet skillet cakes are, in my opinion, the eighth wonder of the modern world, and this one is no exception.
I should back up and talk just a bit about how I care for my cast iron skillet.
We all probably know that cast iron should be seasoned, not scrubbed, right? I season early and often, and actually subscribe to a rule similar to that on cooking with wine: I only season my cast iron skillet with high quality oil with which I would cook or bake. Why? Because it has been my experience that cast iron absorbs the flavor of seasoning oil, which is why I wouldn’t want to season and ‘flavor’ my favorite skillet with the taste of an oil or fat that is, for lack of a better word, gross. Once I have seasoned my skillet, I will let it dry and set it aside in a cool, dry area for the next time I’m ready to use it.
I should also note that seasoning is not the same thing as greasing or preparing your skillet, as is called for in this recipe. When I make this cake or one like it, I may choose to season my pan with oil first, but I will then take the additional step of greasing my pan with whatever fat works best with my recipe, in this case butter.
Onwards to the cake.
I make this cake when I’m in the mood for butter: I’m just not going to pull any punches about it.
1. Prior to baking, I grease my skillet liberally with sweet cream butter, which absorbs into the cake as it is baking.
2. I then line the inside of this cake with a butter-based streusel that is sweet and packed with crisp oats.
3. I give the final KO to my butter craving with some toasted pinyon nuts (pine or pignoli nuts may easily be substituted), which are the nut-embodiment of butter as far as I’m concerned.
It’s just a butter-lovin’, skillet-huggin’ dream…
So bust out your cast iron skillets, friends, because they’re going to get a workout this week.
Best get your salivary glands some sweat socks as well, because they’ll be pretty busy too. I’ll bet my beloved skillet on it…
Pinyon Streusel Skillet Cake
For the cake:
1 tbsp. unsalted butter for greasing the pan
1 c. white sugar, granulated
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. canela, ground (ground cinnamon may be substituted)
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. buttermilk
For the streusel:
1/2 c. pinyon nuts (pine or pignoli nuts may be substituted)
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 c. unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
1/4 c. rolled oats
Preheat oven to 350°.
Prepare a 10″ ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, by greasing the bottom and sides liberally with butter. Set aside.
Spread the nuts in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and golden brown, just 3-5 minutes. Note that pinyon and pine nuts are notoriously quick toasters – I recommend watching yours like a hawk and agitating often. The nuts should not take more than 5 minutes to toast in a preheated oven. Remove toasted nuts and, once cool enough to handle, roughly chop and set aside.
To prepare the cake batter, beat the sugar and oil together. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the flour, baking powder, canela, salt, and the buttermilk. Set the batter aside to rest.
To prepare the streusel, place the flour, brown sugar, butter, oats and nut pieces into a large bowl and work together using a fork or clean hands into a coarse, chunky meal.
To assemble your cake, spread approximately half of the batter over the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with the streusel spread in an even layer, and finish with the remainder of the batter poured over top. Note that in order to cover the bottom of your skillet evenly in batter you may need to use more than half of the batter, which will leave you with less to top the cake – this isn’t a problem. You can simply pour the remainder of the batter over top in the bullseye center of the cake leaving an outer ring of exposed streusel. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Finished cake will be golden brown at the edges, which will be pulling away from the sides of your skillet. Remove and set aside to cool slightly before slicing and serving.
YIELD: approximately 6-8 servings