If you read this even sporadically, a few things about me will start to become clear. I am obsessed with the weather, my cats take up an embarrassing amount of brain space, and I freaking love to make things in cast iron skillets.
Today is no different from yesterday – well unless you abide by generally accepted science, and so actually everything is different from how it was yesterday, but this is not a blog about science so I digress. ANYWAY… I’m mostly the same and that includes a penchant for whipping up stuff in my beloved cast iron skillet.
Today it’s a cake. However a cast iron skillet’s great for pizza, breads, frittatas, fried chicken, steaks, breakfast hash, and pretty much all the other things that are fit to be cooked – minus fish and tomatoes (more on that later). So why isn’t everyone using cast iron all the time then? My personal theory is that there are a lot of questions about it, and people would rather go with what they know than have to buy a new piece of cookware and figure that shit out. But cast iron is so worth the research, so let’s get educated!
Cast iron skillets – some useful stuff to know:
- Most cast iron is going to be heavy. There are some lightweight models out there, but I’ve heard from round the way that they all kind of suck. This makes sense as the heft of the pan directly relates to its magical heat-holding-on capabilities, which makes for crunchy pizza crusts and beautifully seared steaks – ie: important.
- Cast iron is inexpensive – mostly. My 10.5 inch lodge cast iron pan was 14 US dollars. I know that expensive cast iron does exist, but you don’t need it – trust me.
- Washing: You CAN wash your cast iron pan. You may even use a little *gasp* soap if it’s really dire (stuck on scrambled eggs – I’m looking at you). My normal plan of attack is to rinse in hot water, scrubbing with a mildly abrasive brush or sponge (think plastic, not steel wool). If you need to use a drop of dish soap that’s fine, but make sure to rinse thoroughly. Dry it up real nice and then onto seasoning.
- Seasoning: something you do to your pan, not your food. This is confusing. I honestly think a more appropriate term would be ‘conditioning’. It’s a short process you go through each and every time you cook with cast iron. After you’ve washed and dried your skillet – pop it over medium heat for two or three minutes. It needs to get hot, but not smoking. Then, using a paper towel, rub a teaspoon or two of any neutral oil (canola, veg, etc.) directly into the surface, sides, and edges of the pan. Then kill the heat, wait for the pan to cool down and store. Some science: The oil reacts with the heat of the pan and changes from a fat to a polymer which sits on the pan’s surface, making it shiny and virtually non-stick. This coating becomes stronger and slicker the more you season, so the longer you use and maintain your skillet the better it will be! It could literally be passed down through generations.
- Initial Seasoning (or what I would like to call pre-conditioning): When you get a brand spankin’ new skillet, or if you find an old one with a little rust or other such detritus, you’ll need to do an initial seasoning. This is different from the one I described above which is purely for maintenance. This is because it’s a more time consuming (but still easy) process that you should only have to perform the one time. Here is a handy video detailing the simple steps.
- The thing about fish and tomatoes. So this is a little tricky. You certainly CAN cook fish or tomatoes in a cast iron skillet. Buuuuuuut I wouldn’t recommend it. Firstly, the acid of a tomato can react badly with the pan. It’s fine for a short time, but if you’re simmering a sauce for hours then I’d switch up the game plan. And fish, while it won’t technically damage anything, will impart a fishy flavor that’s kind of hard to shake. So if you’re going to cook fish in cast iron, have a pan dedicated solely* to that, because cake that’s reminiscent of last night’s trout is going to be a hard pass for me.
Knowledge dropped. And if you abide by note #6 then you can also make this super festive cranberry cornmeal cake in your beautifully seasoned, forever lasting, ridiculously versatile, cast iron beauty, too!
Some deets about dat cake:
Cake is delicious, duh. You knew that. But this cake is just a little bit different. It looks a bit unassuming (no frosting, only one layer) but just picture it. Take a golden-brown cake that’s over the top buttery, tender as can be, and scented with brown sugar. Then stud it with more cranberries than any sane person would dare shove into one confection. Oh, and then there’s the edges…oh man the edges! That cast iron skillet imparts a beautifully caramelized, crispy-chewy-sugary hybrid of an outer crust that I would totally fight you for – like seriously.
So now that you’re armed with a properly seasoned pan and a killer recipe, can you invite me over? K, thanks.
And while I’m asking for stuff…I’d super, crazy, appreciate it if you hopped on over to Instagram for a second and gave me a quick follow. Also be sure to snap a pic and tag me if you make this or any of my other recipes because duh, I love seeing that stuff. Happy Friday!
*haha sole-ly – I amuse myself.
Cranberry Cornmeal Skillet Cake
This cake is festive and so, so easy. I mean I love any dessert that’s baked and served in the same pan! It’s nutty, buttery, tart, and not too sweet. Best enjoyed alongside a hot cup of tea
- Prep Time: 15 Minutes
- Cook Time: 50 Minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 8 Servings
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
⅔ C all-purpose flour
½ C cornmeal (I use stone ground Indian Head brand – which is relatively fine in consistency)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
½ C granulated sugar
⅓ C brown sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
⅔ C buttermilk
1 ½ C cranberries
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet with non-stick spray or softened butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large bowl beat together the butter and both sugars, until light and fluffy, using a stand or handheld mixer.
Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined.
On low speed, add half of the flour mixture and mix until no dry spots remain. Then add half of the buttermilk and mix until combined. Then repeat with the remaining flour mixture and the rest of the buttermilk. Do not overmix.
Fold the cranberries evenly into the batter using a rubber spatula.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared skillet and bake on the middle rack for 50-55 minutes. Or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Let cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Keywords: cornmeal cake, easy dessert, holiday dessert