Thursday, 7 June 2012

All-Occasion Rhubarb Crumble Cake

SmartCooks here. 

I've been looking for another cake-ish dessert that I would feel comfortable making, serving, taking to potlucks, and, of course, eating.  It will always be something with fruit; I have never been fond of making or eating the double chocolates whatever.  Given a choice, dessert is all about fruit -- on its own, crisped, crumbled, scattered, triple berried .. whatever.  It's all good.  

So, after some research, I have found an all-occasion Rhubarb Crumble Cake, inspired by Smitten Kitchen.  That now makes two cake-ish desserts in my repertoire (Apple Charlotka was previously posted).  Certainly still a long way from the BH cake-making expert level.  Fondant anyone? :)

Smitten Kitchen clearly loves making 'every day cakes', as Deb Perelman calls them. She has posted many delightful recipes and photos for single layer cakes/crumbles ranging from Raspberry Buttermilk cake (blueberries, blackberries, etc work equally well, May 19, 2009) to Blueberry Boy Bait Cake (July 6, 2009), ? not sure genesis of name but it is a very handsome cake indeed).

Memories of Rhubarb

Rhubarb appeals to me because it represents early memories from my childhood.  Our first house was in central London, Ontario, on a small (and it now seems very small) street just off a busy road.  We lived there from pre-school up until senior years of high school, We moved first to the small house pictured left (hey siblings it's for sale!) and then, as the family grew, we moved next door into a larger house (with an apple tree!).

What I remember most about the first house was the rhubarb patch behind the garage, which was on the left side and now seems to be gone).  It was a small hidden area with lots of rhubarb.  

I knew every inch of that patch; voracious reader that I was I would take a stack of books from the local Bookmobile! Library, hide out among the rhubarb away from siblings and housework and read and nibble on raw rhubarb stalks.  When the rhubarb was ready I'd pick a bunch and my mother would make stewed rhubarb or rhubarb pie.  Nothing better.  

Rhubarb was everywhere in the old neighbourhood.  Most impressive was the house behind ours with a very large patch, tended by an elderly couple who grew everything they needed -- vegetables, rhubarb, corn, gorgeous flowers and even some fruit.  Kids being kids.... we'd hit baseballs or whatever into their garden and crawl through the fence to retrieve them.  When that happened, one of them would come flying out the back door or off their back verandah brandishing a broom and screaming at us -- loudly -- to get out.  Terrified we would retreat (but not for long).  Years later as ill-health forced them out of gardening, I apologized to them for our behavior.  They were just trying to protect their investment in their food crop.  

All-Occasion Rhubarb Crumble Cake

I experimented with using different kinds of sugars and flours in an effort to lighten it up calorie- and health-wise.  The end result was both tart and sweet so I think I succeeded.  

For example, instead of using white, refined flour in the cake and topping, I substituted a mix of almond and whole wheat flour.  It worked fine.  I also used a light hand on the sugar, and a heavy hand on lemon zest and juice.  No problem.  

Ingredients for Cake:
(Inspired by many, including Smitten Kitchen, Martha Stewart and Lucy Waverman, adapted by me)

1 1/4 lbs red, ripe rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch lengths on the diagonal
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 T lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups flour (white or whole wheat or experiment)
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup low-fat sour cream

Ingredients for Topping:
1 cup flour (white or whole wheat or experiment)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 T unsalted butter, melted


Make the cake: 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan with Pam cooking spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper, extending the lengths up two sides. 

In a small bowl, stir rhubarb, lemon juice, and 2/3 cup sugar and set aside. 

In another bowl, beat butter, remaining sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at at time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  In a third small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, 3/4 tsp table salt and ground ginger. Add one-third of this flour mixture to the butter/sugar/lemon zest batter, mixing until just combined. Continue, adding half the low-fat sour cream, the second third of the flour mixture, the remaining sour cream, and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing between each addition until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan in an thin layer. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the cake, spreading it into an even layer.

Make the topping:

Stir together the crumb mixture by whisking the flour, brown sugar, table salt and cinnamon together, then stirring in the melted butter.  Scatter evenly over rhubarb layer. 

Bake cake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes until top becomes golden and tester comes out clean.  Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Cut into 2-inch squares.  Cake will keep for a few days at room temperature, or in the fridge, or it can be frozen (I did!).

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