Picnic cakes, those one-layer cakes that Americans typically carry along in their baking tins to an outdoor meal, are an excellent, and tasty, means of using up "goods on hand."

These traveling cakes are made from a combination of simple ingredients, including pantry staples (chocolate, sugar, nuts, flavorings, oatmeal, spices), dairy items (milk, cream, butter, eggs) and fruits or vegetables.

They are usually richly spiced and generously flavored, and may be served plain or frosted. Picnic cakes are cut into squares or triangular wedges directly from the baking pan, which is usually a standard 8- or 9-inch square or round pan at least 2 inches deep, or a 9-by-13-by-2-inch rectangular baking tin.

Following are recipes for five picnic cakes -- oatmeal, applesauce, spicy carrot, chocolate rocky road and blueberry.

OATMEAL PICNIC CAKE (Makes one 9-by-13-by-2-inch cake, serving 12)

This is a light and tender cake covered with a chunky frosting made of brown sugar, coconut, walnuts, butter and evaporated milk. "Quick-cooking" oatmeal is softened in boiling water before it is added to the batter; the mush of oatmeal virtually dissolves in the batter, giving the cake a very moist crumb. Oatmeal Picnic Cake is a good keeper; the candy-like topping stays fresh and buttery-tasting, too.

1 cup "quick-cooking" (not instant) oatmeal

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) solid shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

FOR THE COCONUT-WALNUT TOPPING:

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Lightly butter and flour the inside of a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan; set aside.

Dump the oatmeal in a small mixing bowl, pour over the boiling water and let stand for 20 minutes. Resift the flour with the baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg onto a sheet of waxed paper. Cream the shortening with both the granulated and brown sugars in the large bowl of an electric mixer for 3 minutes on moderate speed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and oatmeal mixture. Add the sifted flour mixture on low speed, beating slowly until the particles of flour have disappeared into the batter.

Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake on the lower-third level of a 350-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until the cake begins to pull away from the edges of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake emerges clean and dry.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack while you make the topping. Combine the brown sugar, coconut, walnuts, butter, evaporated milk and vanilla in a large saucepan. Place over moderate heat to melt down the butter and sugar. Increase the heat to moderately high and bring to the boil. Boil 15 seconds, remove from the heat, and cool for 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon the topping over the top of the cooled cake, then spread it out to the edge of the cake with a flexible palette knife.

Let the cake stand for 1 hour to firm up the topping. To transport the cake, cover the top with a sheet of aluminum foil. For serving, cut the cake into squares with a sharp knife.

APPLESAUCE PICNIC CAKE (Makes one 9-inch square cake, serving 6 to 8)

This applesauce cake is sweet, moist and mildly spiced; it is quickly assembled in a large mixing bowl. The baked cake is covered with a light frosting that combines confectioners' sugar, butter and cream; brown sugar frosting, another traditional icing for this cake, could be substituted for the vanilla cream kind below.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup applesauce

1 extra-large or jumbo egg, at room temperature

1/2 cup plain, flavorless vegetable oil

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

FOR THE SOFT VANILLA CREAM FROSTING:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

2 tablespoons whipping cream, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar, or more as needed

Lightly butter and flour the inside of a 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan; set aside.

Sift together three times the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Combine raisins and walnuts in a small bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the sifted flour-sugar-spice mixture.

Beat together the applesauce, egg, oil and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Slowly beat in the sifted flour mixture in three additions. Stir in the floured raisins and walnuts.

Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake the cake on the lower-third level of a 350-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake withdraws clean (the baked cake will shrink away from the sides of the pan slightly).

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack until it reaches room temperature. While the cake is cooling, make the vanilla cream frosting. Place the butter, whipping cream, vanilla and confectioners' sugar in the small bowl of an electric mixer. Beat slowly to combine all of the ingredients, then increase the speed to moderately high and continue beating for 2 minutes longer, or until the frosting is lighter and spreadable. If the frosting seems too thin, beat in additional sifted confectioners' sugar by tablespoons to achieve a spreadable frosting that can be scooped up with a knife.

When the cake has cooled completely, frost the top with the vanilla cream frosting, swirling it on decoratively.

To transport the cake, place the cake pan in a larger, deeper container or cake box and cover with the lid. To serve, cut the cake into squares with a sharp knife.

SPICY CARROT PICNIC CAKE (Makes one 9-inch square cake, serving 6)

The batter for this carrot cake is full-flavored and dark -- a lively collection of spices and brown sugar makes it so. Once baked and cooled, this cake is covered with a cloak of cream cheese frosting that is a creamy-soft counterpoint to the earthy texture of the cake. Children (of all ages) seem to find this quite delectable.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup dark seedless raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk, at room temperature

1/4 cup light (table) cream, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups shredded carrots, lightly packed (shred the carrots on the large holes of a hand grater)

1 cup shredded coconut

FOR THE FROSTING:

1/2 pound cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted or more as needed

Lightly butter and flour the inside of an 9-inch square baking pan; set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cloves onto a sheet of waxed paper. Combine the raisins and walnuts in a bowl and stir through 2 teaspoons of the sifted mixture.

Beat the melted butter and both sugars together in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the milk and light cream, blending well. Beat in the shredded carrots and coconut. Stir in the sifted flour mixture in two additions, beating until the flour has been absorbed before the next batch. Fold through the floured raisins and walnuts.

Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake on the lower-third level of a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake emerges clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack until it reaches room temperature. While the cake is cooling, make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese and butter in the small bowl of an electric mixer. Blend in the vanilla. Beat in the confectioners' sugar in thirds, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until the frosting is very smooth. Add extra tablespoons of confectioners' sugar if the frosting does not seem thick enough to spread (it should hold its shape softly when dipped out of the bowl with a knife).

Swirl the frosting on top of the cooled cake. To transport the cake, place the cake in a large, deep container or cake box and cover with a lid. To serve, cut the cake into squares with a sharp knife.

CHOCOLATE ROCKY ROAD PICNIC CAKE (Makes one 8-inch round cake, serving 6 to 8)

Dark, moist and chocolatey -- is this a cake or a confection? It's loaded with walnuts, chocolate chips and marshmallows that sail through a chocolate batter. Serve pie-shaped wedges of this brownie-like cake in small portions -- it's rich!

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

4 squares (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, cut into chunks

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1/8 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup less 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsifted all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 3/4 cups miniature marshmallows

Thoroughly spray the inside of an 8-inch round baking pan (that is at least 2 inches deep) with nonstick cooking spray; then lightly butter the inside of the pan and set aside.

Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat; set aside to cool. Beat the eggs with the salt and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer on high speed for 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute on moderately high speed. Add the melted butter-chocolate and blend it in. On low speed, add the flour and beat only until combined. By hand, stir in the walnuts, chocolate chips and marshmallows.

Pour and scrape the cake mixture into the prepared baking pan. Bake the cake on the lower-third level of a325-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until set.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for a few minutes, then run a thin, round-bladed knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Cool the cake to room temperature. To transport the cake, cover the top with a sheet of aluminum foil. For serving, slice the cake into pie-shaped wedges with a sharp knife.

BLUEBERRY PICNIC CAKE (Makes one 8-inch square cake, serving 6)

This is a lovely butter-rich pan cake; the batter traps fresh, plump blueberries that wind through and through the baked cake. The topping is a rough crumble of butter, nuts, sugar and cinnamon which gives a pebbly, crunchy finish to the surface of this light-textured cake.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

2/3 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup milk, at room temperature

FOR THE CINNAMON-NUT TOPPING:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons granulated sugar blended with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Lightly butter and flour the inside of an 8-inch square baking pan that is at least 2 1/2 inches deep; set aside.

Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice onto a sheet of waxed paper. Put the blueberries in a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of the sifted flour mixture.

Cream the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer for 2 minutes on high speed. Add the sugar and continue beating for 2 minutes longer. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition; scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl frequently with a rubber spatula to keep the mixture even. Blend in the vanilla. On low speed, add the sifted mixture in three additions alternating with the milk in two additions, beginning and ending with the sifted mixture. Fold through the floured blueberries.

Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. For the topping: Place the butter, walnuts and cinnamon-sugar in a mixing bowl. Using 2 round-bladed knives, cut the butter into the nuts and sugar to form a soft crumble-like mixture. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top of the cake batter.

Bake the cake on the lower-third level of a 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until well-risen, firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake emerges clean and dry.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack until it reaches room temperature. To transport the cake, cover the top with a sheet of aluminum foil. For serving, cut the cake into squares with a sharp knife.