This post has to be a little tribute to my parents, who swear by cast iron cooking. My mother passed down to me two of her family's cast iron pans, one of which is now probably 100 years old! My dad taught me how to cook pancakes on a cast iron griddle, and like any modern home cook, I totally disregarded his "old-timey" advice for years. But finally I saw the error of my ways. Cooking a pancake (or anything, for that matter) on modern non-stick cookware literally pales in comparison. Now I am a firm believer in cast iron cooking, and I have been pleased to learn that cast iron is great for baking as well!
Skillet Cake (recipe in the recipe section)
Although you can cook and bake just about anything with cast iron, there is a sacred list of three things that absolutely MUST be cooked in cast iron, or they simply won't achieve their wonderful potential. Those three things are CORNBREAD, IRISH BREAD, and PANCAKES.
For cornbread, I like to heat the cast iron skillet while preheating the oven. Then I take it out, grease it, add the cornbread batter, and put it back in the oven. That gives the crust a little extra color and crispness, which I love in cornbread:
For Irish Bread, on the other hand, I do not preheat the skillet, I just lay the round bread dough in the room temperature skillet and bake it (see my recipe in the recipe section):
Granny Mahoney's Irish Bread
For pancakes, it is best to heat your griddle or skillet over low-medium heat for a good 15 minutes or so before dropping the pancakes on. This ensures nice and even heating. For my recipe and my Dad's fantastic pancake tips, see the recipe section.
For cakes and pies, follow the baking instructions on your recipe. You'll want to watch your time more closely, because things tend to bake a little more quickly in cast iron. I do not reduce the heat when baking in cast iron, although I have heard some bakers do. But I choose to bake cakes and pies in cast iron that are not as delicate. Hearty chocolate cakes and country-style fruit cobblers are great choices.
The great thing about Cast Iron Cookware is that it is pretty inexpensive and, if well-cared for, it can last a lifetime (or in the case of my pans, several generations!) The Lodge company has been making cast iron here in the U.S. since 1896, and they are the experts on cooking with and caring for your cast iron cookware. See the Lodge website for more info: Care for Cast Iron