This kind of hearty oatmeal cake has been around for decades, long before any discussion of the nutritional benefits of oats. Its nubbly texture is a pleasure, and since oatmeal shows up mostly at breakfast, you’re allowed to take along a piece of oatmeal cake on a busy morning when you need something good to go. The popular modern version of this classic cake is baked in a 13-by-9-inch pan and frosted with a pecan-coconut frosting, using coconut toasted in the oven to make it fragrant and crunchy. I still love it as an everyday layer cake, frosted on top and between layers with a simple buttery white icing studded with coconut and pecans, its sides left plain to show off its handsome hue.–Nancie McDermott

A slice of oatmeal cake on a plate with a fork
Two slices of oatmeal cake on plates

Oatmeal Cake

5 / 4 votes
This oatmeal cake is a dense cake that’s layered with a boiled coconut-pecan frosting. It’s magnificent any time of the day, but since there’s oatmeal in it, it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy for breakfast.
David Leite
Servings8 to 10 slices
Calories789 kcal
Prep Time50 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 50 minutes


For the oatmeal cake

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal, (not quick-cooking)
  • 1 stick (4 oz) butter, cut into 6 chunks, plus more for the pan(s)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten well
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the boiled frosting

  • 1 stick (4 oz) butter
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted if desired
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut


Make the oatmeal cake

  • In a medium bowl, combine the oatmeal, butter, and boiling water, and stir to mix them together a bit. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and generously butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or one 13-by-9-inch pan.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg, and stir with a fork to mix everything well. In a large bowl, combine the granulated and brown sugars, eggs, and vanilla and beat with a mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until thick and light colored, stopping to scrape down the bowl when neccessary.
  • Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture in 2 batches, beating just long enough to make the flour disappear after each addition. Mix in the oatmeal, stirring and folding to combine everything into a nubbly but well-mixed batter.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, springs back when touched lightly in the center, and begins pulling away from the sides of the pans.
  • Cool the cake in the pan(s) on wire racks or folded kitchen towels for 10 minutes.
    If using a couple round cake pans, carefully turn the cakes onto wire racks, turn them over again so they are top side up, and let cool completely.
    If using a rectangular pan, let the cake cool completely in the pan.

Make the boiled frosting

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, evaporated milk, and sugar, and place the pan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring now and then. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Beat well with a wooden spoon, a whisk, or a mixer on low speed until you have a thick, cool frosting.

Assemble the cake

  • If frosting a couple round cakes, place one of the cakes on a cake stand or plate and spread half the frosting on top. Carefully place the second cake on top of the first and spread the remaining frosting on top. Slice into wedges and serve.
    If frosting a single rectangular cake, leave the cake in the pan and spread the frosting over the top. Slice it into squares and serve it straight from the pan.
    A whole oatmeal cake on a white platter
Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

Adapted From

Southern Cakes

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Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 789 kcalCarbohydrates: 107 gProtein: 7 gFat: 39 gSaturated Fat: 20 gMonounsaturated Fat: 12 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 110 mgSodium: 498 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 83 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2007 Nancie McDermott. Photos © 2020 Cenk Sönmezsoy. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Oh my, this cake made my mouth sing! I don’t think I’ve ever had oatmeal cake before, so I have nothing to compare this to, but this cake was so moist and so delicately flavored. I was nervous about the nutmeg overpowering the rest of the cake, but it gave off a slight spice that is very nice. This frosting is very similar to the frosting on a traditional German chocolate cake, and it pairs very well with the oatmeal.

My only complaint is that I wish there was more of it! Next time—and there will be a next time—I will double the frosting. My tester took one bite of this cake and said, “Oh no, this is the kind of cake I could eat in one sitting.” I didn’t let him!

The title of this recipe makes it sound like it’s healthful, but with the frosting, it becomes decadent. This recipe is easy to make. I made it in a 13-by-9-inch pan and that made it even easier. The only thing I would be tempted to add would be some cinnamon, otherwise it’s delicious. The frosting is great, too. It’s a classic boiled frosting. I toasted the pecans.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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5 from 4 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    The cake part of this was really good! It reminds me so much of my oatmeal wedding cake. I will admit that I am not a big nutmeg fan so I only used half the nutmeg and added a teaspoon of cinnamon and then used a Swiss meringue. I don’t usually like to leave comments if I alter the recipe but I made it for Easter and the cake texture was so moist and delicious I had to comment. Thank you!

    1. So nice to hear, Karin! Love it. Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know! Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

  2. Debbie, your comment makes my day, and since it has been a 100+ degree day heatwise, my day was ripe for something refreshing and uplifting. I’m so pleased that you made it and liked it and saw it disappear. I love that cake and the icing, too. Homespun and simple enough to just up and make, without a lot of planning or fuss. Thank you and happy baking!