Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rhubarb cake is the German Word for spring

That's not really true, of course. But it may as well be. Spring is when rhubarb grows, the first 'fruit' to arrive, and rhubarb is best eaten in cake form. Cake is serious business to us Germans, and my favorite mealtime isn't breakfast, lunch or dinner, it's 'coffee'. If someone German asks you 'would you like to come for coffee?' , you've been invited to a sit-down meal with coffee, cake, whipped cream and pleasant conversation. And you should most certainly accept. It takes place at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, so cake is not really considered a dessert.
Now that you're properly educated on the merits of eating cake as a standalone meal, here is a very simple recipe that is utterly delicious with its perfect combination of sweet and tart, soft and crumbly.

....still tiny in my backyard.

You start by getting rhubarb in your backyard, or at your favorite farm stand. May's the month for that around here! Gather some eggs as well... I love how mine have personality.

I like to use half whole wheat flour in most of my baking, including in this recipe. I don't like 100% whole wheat as it changes the texture and taste of cakes and pastries too much, but I find that if you stay under 50%, it's barely noticeable and still healthier!

Ingredients for a sheet cake the size of my deep broiler pan: 

For the batter:

1/2 cup butter (one stick)
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
3 generous tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp rum
1-2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour (up to 50% whole wheat)
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk

1lbs rhubarb (more won't hurt!)

For the streusel topping:

2/3 stick butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour (up to 50% whole wheat)


1. Line the bottom of your deep broiler pan with parchment paper and butter the paper as well as the sides of the pan. Preheat oven to 350F, I like to use the 'speedbake' function which uses convection.

2. Cream the butter, then add eggs and sugar. Beat on high while you get the rhubarb ready.

3. Wash the rhubarb. Cut off tops and bottoms and peel as you see fit. I peel the thicker stalks almost completely and thinner stalks only if they seem woodsy. Then cut the rhubarb into 1/2in slices.

4. Add sour cream, rum, vanilla to the egg and butter mixture. Then turn the mixer down. 
5. Mix baking powder and flour, then add, alternating with the milk, until a thick smooth batter forms. Stop beating. Spread the batter out on the pan, and sprinkle with the rhubarb pieces.


 6. Make streusel topping by cutting together butter, flour and sugar. I begin with a pastry cutter and finish with my hands, until it comes together and can be made into 'crumbles'. Sprinkle over the cake.

7. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

8. Serve as a standalone or with whipped cream.

Bonus anecdote: My 4yo and I went to pick up some pullets (teenage chickens) at a breeder, and as she gets out of the car, she ignores the chicken cages, even the fancy white peacocks, and says to the proprietor: "You have really beautiful rhubarb!". Oh my heart.

I shared this post over at Growing Home!

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