Songs in the Key of Rhubarb

Today I’m serving up a simple compote, courtesy of the always-brilliant Smitten Kitchen. It pairs beautifully with some leftover lemon curd, made at a class at one of my favorite local bakeries, Two Tarts. It also helps disguise a rather disappointing cake, which I won’t call out, but it suffices to say that even in the presence of the magic words “Greek yogurt,” I’ll be sticking to butter-based pound cake types, rather than oil. Luckily the curd and the compote are fragrant, because this cake smells a little bit like French fries.

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Rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon…and the finished compote.

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Another fantastic photo from my office kitchen. This cake looks like it would be good, doesn’t it?

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Sunday serving suggestion: store-bought madeleines, compote, curd, blob of fat-free yogurt you accidentally bought that is unsuitable for baking.

PS: Stevie Wonder makes excellent baking music.

And so it begins

Cake

Lousy photo taken in office kitchen. Nice cake plate, though.

Here is Entry Number One. True to the spirit of the challenge, I went to the grocery store for chocolate chips for this fabulous banana bread, when I discovered it: the first rhubarb. Only about 10 stalks to choose from, pale in color, but the rhubarb exists, and therefore it must be baked.

This early specimen would need some help in the flavor and sweetness departments. Inspired by this cake, I decided to sneak in a middle layer of rhubarb and top it with what remains of some nearly-forgotten raspberry freezer jam.

I pre-roasted the rhubarb slices with a tablespoon of orange juice and a sprinkle of sugar until softened and a beautiful bright pink. It’s currently disappearing rapidly in my office kitchen. Apparently, I have won two new rhubarb converts today.

Rhubarb & Jam Tea Cake

Adapted from Sneh Roy of Cook Republic.

1 large stalk rhubarb, sliced
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 inch springform cake pan.

If pre-roasting, toss the rhubarb slices with a teaspoon of sugar, a tablespoon of orange juice, or other desired seasonings, and bake at 325 for about 10 minutes, until softened and bright pink.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat the butter with an electric mixer for a minute or two until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, beating after each addition to incorporate. Add the flour mixture and milk, and beat until smooth.

Spread a thin layer of the batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with rhubarb slices. Carefully spread the remaining batter over the rhubarb and smooth the top.

Drop small spoonfuls of jam on top of the cake and use a wooden skewer to swirl.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool thoroughly before turning out onto a serving dish.

 

Rheum rhabarbarum

I think rhubarb is the finest of the fruits (after tomatoes, peaches and cherries, but it’s only March – let’s not get greedy here). The task is simple: as many rhubarb creations as I can make, from the time stalks first appear in the grocery stores (for me, last night at 8:30pm) until they run out or I can no longer stand it. Whichever comes first.

I welcome joiners, recipe suggestions, constructive feedback, and pre-softened sticks of unsalted butter.

To the ovens!