The last time I baked rhubarb, I should have told you that I bought almost three pounds of it and that a cake (this cake) was coming. I raided the grocery store like it was the end of a (rhubarb) era, and that blushed stalks were my captive.
I packed my desire to keep late spring, into a bag that was already almost full of humid summer air. I barely made away without busting the bag and then I rifled through recipes like a rhubarb rogue.
This cake, thickly moist, is top-heavy with that same bag of busting, end-of-season rhubarb, that caramelizes loudly on its surface in fragrant bright color and butter and brown sugar; this cake made way to preserve the taste of a quickly collapsing spring season.
Sure, I baked other things with that three pound eagerness, things that I was determined to commit to taste-memory: I saved some rhubarb scones for freezing, to be enjoyed at some later time, when the hankering for something bright and tart strikes, but the season is no longer right. But this cake, with its caramelly scent that deepens after it’s left to its own devices, to cool and soak up its own juices, was the stuff to top off a prolonged spring send-off.
You see we’ve been hinged for weeks on the precipice of an early June, that kept looking like summer sun before it gave way to rain. I talked about Memorial Day as a definitive harbinger of summer in the way that most of us do, unknowing that the real herald in anticipation of a summer bursting with berries and nectarines, was a cake that turned spring upside-down, shaking it of it’s last best rhubarb.
Adapted from NYTimes.com.
My Notes: You can use a standard 9″ pan for this cake (I did), but you will only need about 3/4 of the batter for this cake because a standard pan is not as deep as a springform pan and holds less volume. Remaining batter can be used to make a couple of rhubarb muffins or mini-cakes (my route). Be sure to generously grease your pan and line well with parchment paper. For a standard pan you may also reduce cooking time to about 1 hour.
- 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
- 4 cups rhubarb chopped into 1/2″ pieces
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease a 9″ springform pan and line its base with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, stir together rhubarb, lemon zest and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Set aside to macerate.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup granulated sugar with lemon zest, gently massaging zest into sugar until color and texture is uniform. Add softened butter and cream together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add vanilla and then eggs, individually, beating well after each addition. Blend in sour cream and lemon juice. With mixer at low speed, beat in the flour mixture in small batches (about 1/4 cup portions until it is completely incorporated), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, to ensure that no flour pockets remain and then batter is fully mixed throughout.
In a small saucepan, melt remaining 1/2 stick of butter with brown sugar and stir to combine until mixture is thick and bubbly, about two minutes. Remove from heat.
Pour brown sugar mixture into the prepared pan, and then cover with rhubarb mixture in an even layer. Gently pour batter over rhubarb mixture, smoothing the top evenly. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and dry when pierced with a toothpick.
Allow cake to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before running a knife around its rim and flipping it over onto a plate to finish cooling. It’s important to promptly remove the cake from its pan while rhubarb topping is soft, so that it does not stick.