Happy Birthday Cake

I originally wrote this for the one-year anniversary of when I began writing The Boat Galley . . .

Happy Birthday to The Boat Galley!

Just one year ago, I started writing The Boat Galley. So, to celebrate, I wanted to post one of my boat-friendly “birthday cake” recipes today.

As I looked back over the recipes I’ve posted in the past year, I see that I’ve put several “chocoholic” recipes up (Chocolate Upside Down Cake, No-Bake Chocolate-Oatmeal Cookies and Chocolate Truffles) but few other sweets.  Believe it or not, sometimes we want something other than chocolate.

Time and time again, I turned to this recipe for birthdays (ours and friends’), anniversaries, landfalls, holidays and other special occasions such as “it’s Wednesday!”  And since it’s hard to do more traditional cake decorations on a boat, I’ve found that a great alternative is to make an appropriate sign and, with a little tape and toothpicks, stick it into the cake to announce the occasion.

This oatmeal cake is great on a boat for several reasons:

  • Easy to mix by hand if you let the shortening or butter soften;
  • Ingredients are easy to find and store;
  • Frosting that doesn’t require a beater;
  • Stays moist;
  • Can easily make half a recipe for an 8×8 or loaf pan;
  • It takes just over an hour from idea to “ready-to-eat-still-warm-from-the-oven;” and
  • It’s delicious!

This recipe originally came from our friend Betty Macy, who allowed Jan and I to use it in our cookbook, The Boat Galley Cookbook.

Happy Birthday Cake

Total time: 55 mins
A wonderful spice cake, made with oatmeal and a brown sugar-coconut-nut topping. Easy to make by hand — no beater required!


  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup old-fashioned, quick or instant oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup softened shortening OR butter OR margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


  • 1/4 cup butter OR margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cream OR half-and-half OR evaporated milk OR milk OR soy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups flaked or shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans OR walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour boiling water over oatmeal, set aside and let stand while making cake. IMPORTANT: The first time I made this, I put the water and oatmeal in a pan together and then turned the burner on high, thinking I’d cook it like for oatmeal. But there’s a lot less water and the oats scorched — badly — before I realized it. Learn from my mistake: put the oatmeal in a small bowl, then pour the boiling water over them and let it sit. It’ll form a thick glob — that’s fine.
  3. Use the back of a spoon to cream together the shortening, brown sugar, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl. If the shortening/butter/margarine is soft — that is, at room temperature — it’s easy to mix it by hand.
  4. Add eggs and beat so that it’s well mixed together.
  5. Then add oatmeal mixture. It’ll be one big blob, but use your spoon to break it up a bit. Then start mixing and it’ll break up into small pieces — it’s okay if it’s still a little lumpy.
  6. Mix together flour, salt, soda, and cinnamon in a measuring cup or small bowl, then add it to the oatmeal mixture. Stir it until it’s all mixed in, then beat 20 to 30 strokes so that it’s all thoroughly mixed and a little fluffy.
  7. Pour the batter into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. While the cake is baking, mix together the topping ingredients in a small bowl.
  9. If you have a BROILER: When cake is done, quickly spread the topping over the cake, then put it back under the broiler for about 5 minutes until it bubbles.
  10. If you DON’T have a broiler: Let the cake cool somewhat (it doesn’t have to be totally cool). Put the topping mixture into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it just starts to boil, stirring occasionally. Spread over the cake.
  11. Serve warm or cooled.

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  • Jim Almond
    Posted at 17 August 2011 Reply

    Happy Birthday!!!!

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