Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Celebrate Rhubarb!

If only the cake looked this pretty AFTER it was baked.
Rhubarb season is upon us! Thank you, Julia and friends, for opening up a world of possibilities for this jem of a fruit.

The assignment for this week’s Baking with Julia/Tuesdays with Dorie project was rhubarb upside-down baby cakes.

However, there was nothing babyish, nor even attractive, about my cake. Thankfully, after one bite, nobody cared what it looked like – they were too busy swooning over the flavor. Crisped up in a cast iron pan with a luscious pecan/bourbon caramel topping, this cake was a sweet-and-sour buttery delight.
A little confectioners' sugar helped -- a bit.
As with many of the recipes in this collection, the rhubarb cake was a bit time consuming, but not difficult. The trickiest part was the interminable folding that was required to mix the wet and dry ingredients. My folding abilities leave much to be desired. Let’s just say that if the folks at the French Culinary Institute had witnessed my technique, I’d have been guillotined on the spot.
The batter was significantly more dense than it should have been...
...And yet the cake was surprisingly light, despite the heavy ingredients and my pathetic folding skills.
The cake calls for lots of butter and crème fraiche, which makes the batter intensely rich, but packed with flavor. The ingredients also bump up the cost of this project considerably, but I think the investment is worth it. As Dorie says, "this tender, soft-crumbed butter cake" is a "classic of it's genre" and it is "universally appealing." 

My family agreed -- so much so that the Bean requested this cake again, to share with her friends at her birthday party. Who am I to begrudge her?  (I know, I know, who feeds a bunch of 10-year-olds a cake with $11 worth of crème fraiche in it? Suckers like me, that’s who. Details on the rest of the ridiculously over-the-top, spy-themed party coming soon.)

It turns out you can make your own crème fraiche -- who knew it was so easy? Probably a lot cheaper too. (Recipe below.) I’ll have to remember this for next time, when I’m not busy developing secret codes, collecting fingerprints and identifying criminals for the CIA’s wanted posters. Did I mention that our party was a bit over the top?

For the rhubarb cake recipe, visit  Erin’s blog and check out the other TWD folks' versions here.

Just because I’m a sucker for rhubarb and I was afraid I might miss the season, I also revisited the rhubarb jam recipe from last year's Hungarian Shortbread project. Yup—its still amazing. Especially on a cracker or homemade toast with a little hunk of Farmer cheese. (Recipe below.)
But I’m not the only one obsessed with rhubarb. Check out this site for the Annual Rhubarb Festival, which is held in Lancaster County (Intercourse, PA, to be exact. What an unfortunate name). My favorite activity just might be the rhubarb derby
The festival is May 17-18. Who’s up for a road trip? If you can’t make it, will you at least vote for me for rhubarb queen?

Creme fraiche recipe
(from Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan)
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon buttermilk

Put the heavy cream and buttermilk in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid and shake it a couple of times to blend the two liquids.Let the jar sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or until it thickens. Once thickened, chill the creme fraiche for at least one day before using. It will keep for two weeks and become tangier.

Rhubarb jam recipe
(from Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan)
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean

Place the rhubarb, sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean, scrape the soft, pulpy seeds into the pan, and toss in the pod. Bring to a simmer over low heat, and cook, stirring often, until the rhubarb softens and almost seems to melt. The cooking time will depend on the rhubarb, but it probably won't be more than 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, retrieve the vanilla bean, and cool the jam to room temperature.


  1. My baby cake was delicious but not very good looking! It was a fun recipe and it has so many possibilities.

  2. Your rhubarb circles look perfect!

  3. You can totally be rhubarb queen - as long as I get to be a rhubarb princess or at least a rhubarb prime minister....
    The cake part of this was crazy tasty, wasn't it?

  4. wow! What intricate detail with the rhubarb arrangement. I just tossed mine in. Glad too in the end - some of my topping stuck to the pan. This was a delicious, moist, tender, again - delicious cake!


If you're having trouble leaving a comment, send me an email at tammyjkleinman [at] gmail.com to let me know.