A Dutch oven cake is very similar to a standard oven-baked cake except that it is prepared in a heavy, frequently cast iron pot. The recipes are nearly the same except that the heat from a Dutch oven provides a much drier and more even cooking environment. The pot can be taken camping and used over an open fire, so a Dutch oven cake can be prepared nearly anywhere there is a heat source. Certain cakes can be put into the oven at night and left to cook and cool until they are served in the morning.
A Dutch oven is a heavy pot typically made of cast iron, enameled iron or thick aluminum. The construction makes it unique because it is able to hold and distribute heat very well. It can be taken outside when camping or used with a range in the kitchen. When being used outside, coals are usually placed on top to help even out the heat inside the pan.
When cooking a Dutch oven cake, it is important to realize the cake produced will have a browned or crisp bottom and sides. Any sugar in the cake will caramelize and possibly brown a little. This is because the amount of heat in the oven will slowly dissipate over time, presenting a unique cooking experience. Recipes that cannot tolerate this kind of cooking should not be used.
It is important to properly prepare the Dutch oven before making a Dutch oven cake. If the oven is well seasoned and the recipe is a dry cake, such as biscuits or a standard flour cake, then no preparation is necessary; the sides of the cake will naturally pull away once it has finished cooking. For cobblers or cakes with wet and sugary ingredients, some people like to line the sides of the pot with foil. Not everyone likes the foil lining, however, because it can burn to the side of the pot and be difficult to remove. Many people also use a disposable baking pan or pie tin as a liner so the entire cake can be lifted out once ready.
Cooking a Dutch oven cake outdoors requires paying attention to the level of heat. Using charcoal briquettes is traditional. The number of coals under the pot will determine how much heat it receives. To make the heat even inside the oven, one should place twice as many coals on top of the lid as are underneath.
There is a Dutch oven cake for all tastes. Many normal cake recipes can be easily adapted as well. Some classic Dutch oven cakes include peach cobblers, spice cakes, funnel cakes, dump cakes and basic flour cakes, which cook up almost like cornbread.
After the Dutch oven cake has finished, it is important to clean the oven. Dry cakes might require little cleaning. If the cake was sweet and left a sticky mess, it can be boiled out of the pot with water. For cast iron Dutch ovens, it also is important to season the pot after cleaning, if necessary.