the evolution of a notebook – oatmeal rum-raisin cake

the evolution of a notebook – oatmeal rum-raisin cake

Back in my early days as an architecture student, I’d carry a 5″x7″ notebook and fountain pen everywhere I went. A word, phrase, idea, mindless doodle, full sketches, and anything else that struck me I’d put it in the notebook. This habit of having a notebook is a very common among architecture and art students. Writers do something similar by keeping journals. It not only helps you organize your thoughts, it helps organize your life.

I kept dozens these notebooks lined up on shelves like a set of encyclopedias of my life. A new notebook was particularly handy when I planned a trip–it would become my abridged guidebook, reference sources, and collection device for travel memorabilia such as tickets to museums and business cards from restaurants.

I believe I used four entire notebooks during my summer architecture program in Rome. Between the photography and sketches of cathedrals, markets, and local sites, I had Italy’s architecture and urban planning fairly well documented.

After many years of relying on the comfort of a paper notebook, the evolution of technology made me rethink my method of collecting and storing. The notebook gradually got smaller and the lack of time to indulge in my artistic expression made this companion more of a to-do list and reminders.

By 2011, everyone owned a mobile phone and/or computer, and the days of organizing by Filofax and Palm Pilot seemed as distant as a Sony Walkman. Last year, I was introduced to the Evernote app, which let’s you save notes, articles, photos, and just about anything else you’d want to keep. This amazing utility automatically syncs to all your devices, so you can access your gems from anywhere.

The evolution of my notebook got me thinking about how desserts can morph to suit your needs. Ever since I posted Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies in the beginning of 2011, the intrigue of turning this classic into a cake has been scribbled into my notebook–here’s my rendition on the classic with a few delightful twists.

Oatmeal Rum-Raisin Cake


Oatmeal Cake
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats, divided
  • 1-1/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) dark rum
  • 1-1/2 cups (7-1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces/1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup malted milk powder
  • 3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Icing
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup (1-1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons malted milk powder
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons reserved rum from soaking raisins
  • 24 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (3 sticks), cut into 24 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract


Oatmeal Cake

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to middle position. Spray two 8-inch-round by 2-inch-high straight-sided cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line bottoms with parchment rounds. Spray paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Set aside.

2. Stir together 3/4 cups boiling water and 1/2 cup oats; let stand 20 minutes. Combine raisins and rum in a small bowl, let soak for 20 minutes. Whisk flour, baking soda and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl, set aside.

3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, malt milk powder, sugars, and salt on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed.

4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, add vanilla and beat until just combine. Beat in oatmeal mixture.

5. Beat in half of flour mixture until just moistened; add sour cream to combine. Add remaining flour mixture until just combined.

6. Drained raisins and reserve rum. Add raisins and remaining 1/2 cup oat to batter, beat until just combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.

7. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25- 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, invert cake onto cooling rack and cool completely, about 45 minutes. (Leave parchment on cakes until cakes are cooled completely)

Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Icing

1. Combine sugars, baking soda, flour, milk powder, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl (sift the ingredients into bowl if brown sugar are too lumpy). Slowly whisk in milk until smooth. Pour mixture through fine-mesh strainer into medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture boils and is very thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Add rum, stir to combine and cook for another minute. Transfer milk mixture to clean bowl and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

2. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer whipped butter into a medium bowl and return mixing bowl to stand mixer (no need  to clean mixing bowl).

3. Switch to a whisk attachment, add cooled milk mixture, vanilla and almond extract, beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Use immediately for soft-swirl frosting or cover and refrigerate for firmer texture, about 1 hour.


1. Place one layer on the cake stand. Spread about 1/2 cup icing over the top. Place second cake layer on top,  spread remaining icing on top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Serve.

Icing recipe adapted from Cook’s Country