Picnic Cake is one of the most unexpected cakes you will ever make! It's a lightly spiced cake with cinnamon, chocolate chips, a pecan and brown sugar topping, and raisins...Wait, come baaaack! I hate raisins in my baked goods and I LOVE this cake. Trust me, a change of heart can happen for you too!
Prepare a 9x13 inch cake pan with nonstick spray, or rub the inside with a bit of butter or oil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Prep the raisins: Add 1 packed cup of raisins to a small saucepan. Add 1 and 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, remove from the heat.
Add 1 teaspoon baking soda. It will fizz up at you! Stir it all together to distribute the soda. This helps soften the skins of the raisins, and the boiling water makes them nice and plump. Set this mixture aside and let soak for at least 10 minutes.
Wet ingredients: Meanwhile, beat 1/2 cup butter in a large bowl or stand mixer until it is soft and creamy. Add 1 cup sugar and beat well, at least 1 minute, until light and fluffy, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple times.
Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil to the butter and beat well.
Add 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla to the mixture and beat well, scraping the edges of the bowl until fully incorporated.
Dry ingredients: Add 1 and 3/4 cup flour on top of the butter mixture, but do not stir yet. Add 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt on top of the flour and gently stir it into the flour with a small spoon.
Once all the dry ingredients are adding, beat once again, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture has just barely come together. You want to make sure the flour has been fully incorporated (no white steaks) but once you’ve achieved this, stop beating.
Add the raisins. Once the flour is incorporated, and your raisins have had a nice good soak in the spa, add the raisin and water mixture to the flour mixture. Add all of the liquid. Gently beat the raisins and water into the cake batter, just until combined.
Pour the cake batter into the greased 9x13 inch pan. Spread to the edges and make sure it’s even. Distribute the raisins as necessary to make sure every slice of cake will have plenty.
Add the toppings. Chop 3/4 cup pecans, or walnuts are great too. There is no need to toast them first since they sit on top of the cake and will get toasty enough while the cake is baking. Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the cake.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup packed brown sugar over the walnuts.
Sprinkle 1 cup chocolate chips over the top of the cake.
Bake the cake at 350 degrees F, on the center rack, for about 30-35 minutes, until the edges look set and a toothpick comes out of the center with no wet batter on it. This can be tricky because of the chocolate chips. Make sure you are not mistaking melted chocolate for wet batter. You can also gently wiggle the pan: it’s ok if the cake jiggles a little bit, as long as it’s doing so evenly across the whole top of the cake. If the center of the cake (which will finish baking last) looks at all sloshy or moves a lot more than the inner edges, then bake a couple minutes longer.
When the cake is about 5 minutes out from finishing, make the Buttermilk Syrup. Tap for the recipe. Technically you can skip this; the cake is good on its own. But come now. Don’t leave this on the table! It’s SO good with the buttermilk glaze on top.
Once your syrup has bubbled and fizzed after adding the baking soda, and you’ve added the vanilla, you can pour it right on top of the cake. I usually add most of it, but not all of it (maybe 1 and 3/4 cup or so), that way there is a little leftover to pass around so that guests can drizzle more if they like. The syrup will pool on top of the cake and you will think you have royally messed up. But you haven’t! Eventually the glaze will seep down into the cake, making it incredibly moist.
Wait at least 15-20 minutes for the Buttermilk Glaze to settle in, then serve the cake warm with whipped cream or ice cream! I love this cake any way you give it to me, but warm is definitely my favorite. Heat up leftover individual slices and top with the little bit of the Buttermilk glaze you kept out. Amazing, even on day two!
How to store: Store this cake covered on the counter for up to 3 days. After that I would move it to the fridge.
*Walnuts or pecans work great in this cake. Make sure to chop them first. Don't toast them ahead of time. They sit right on top of the cake and will toast in the oven. Nutrition info: The calories calculated do not include the Buttermilk Syrup. You can see the syrup nutrition facts on that post.