Friday, May 05, 2017

Simple Rhubarb Cake (and winners, which we all are)

So, yes, I am busy designing a "My pussy is a pre-existing condition" shirt. And yes, I am busy ruing the future moment when the lilacs tip away from this heady pinnacle of perfection towards the gloomy inevitability of their own browning deadness. And yes, also, I am busy making boutonnieres (thank you, internet tutorial!) for Ben and his friends, who seem all to taking each other to the prom tonight, after which I will just be waving to the back of his shirt as he leaves, leaves, leaves us incrementally and then all at once. Melancholy alert! (Oh, I guess that should have come first.)

But that doesn't mean I don't have time to announce the winners of the Catastrophic Happiness give-away: Laura with the six-month-old, Malia, and Raquelita, please email me your address! (And thank you all so much for playing, and for your ongoing love and encouragement.)

Or that I don't have time to share this wonderful cake recipe, below, which is my brand-new citrus-scented rhubarby springtime version of the famous plum cake. Oh, man. It is so good.

Simple Rhubarb Cake

This is a variation on Plum Cake, which is itself a variation on the NYT's very famous Plum Torte, which has been a favorite of everybody’s for forever. The spelt addition is mine (you’re welcome!) as is, here, the substitution of rhubarb for plums. Because it is May! I don’t have plums! But I do have rhubarb, and you don’t even need much of it for this. The rhubarb dimples the cake and turns into silky sweet-tart nuggets of red and green. It’s delicious, and I do love the flavor of the orange zest with it, although this is not a crucial ingredient. Feel free to leave it out.

1 ½ cups rhubarb (about 3 stalks), cut into ¾-inch pieces
¼ + ¾ cup sugar
1 stick butter (I use salted), softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
The finely grated zest of 1 scrubbed orange or tangerine (around 1 teaspoon)
2/3 cup white flour
1/3 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 350.

Stir together the rhubarb and ¼ cup of sugar and set aside.

Use an electric mixer (if you have one) to cream together the butter and ¾ cup sugar—or do this all by hand, which is fine. Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, and add the extract and orange zest. Beat in the flours, which you’ve either sifted or whisked together with the baking powder and salt, and mix just until the batter is well combined.

Now scrape the very stiff batter into your pan: I use a spring form pan that seems to be 9 ½ inches across, but you could butter and flour a regular cake pan and use that, need be. Use a rubber spatula to even it out; it will make a shallow layer, and that’s fine.

Arrange the rhubarb evenly over the top of the cake, along with any of the sugar left in the bowl, and press it all down lightly with your hand. Now pop the cake into the oven to bake until it looks nice and brown and doesn’t jiggle anywhere when you, uh, jiggle it—the recipe says an hour, but mine is always done after 40 or 45 minutes; if your pan is smaller (and your batter therefore deeper) it may take a bit longer.

Cool on a rack 5 minutes, then remove the ring and cool further before serving.


  1. Hello hello! I didn't want to add my comment to your giveaway, but did notice a call to bloggers who will gladly post re: your new books (once released). That would be me.

    And otherwise... so much to sigh over in your post. Angry sighs over the current situation where one would put the words "pussy" & "pre-existing condition" in the same sentence. Melancholy sighs over boys who grow so tall that we need ladders to kiss their foreheads. And happy cake sighs, of course.

    1. Ah, thank you, dear m. bloom. xoxo

  2. Yeah, I think it's written so that anyone with two X chromosomes has a pre-existing condition. :( Anyway, many feels about the prom thing. Ben is four years older than my guy (he's kinda Birdy's age) and I've loved to get a glimpse of what's to come from you. But not this. Not the leaving part. I guess I know it's coming, but how does one even prepare for it? Sighs. And more It's Wednesday Cake! Cake, I guess ...

  3. I made this rhubarb cake with rhubarb ice cream today and wrote about it on my own blog. It's a lovely dessert.

  4. alison12:38 PM

    Looks wonderful!
    Question - what is the tree that you're standing by in the previous post?

    1. alison12:17 PM

      No it wasn't, there's a lilac in this post, I'm wondering about the previous post.

    2. Alison, I think it's a redbud tree!

  5. Allyson6:29 AM

    If I wanted to make this cake, but really didn't want to go out and buy spelt flour, could I use whole wheat, or just another 1/3 cup of white flour? Or do I not make the cake at all?

    Also, I so hear you about the lilacs. I wait for them for weeks, starting in March when I am just about sick to death of snow, and then they finally start to bloom, and I'm sad about how quickly they'll be gone. The less said about how quickly my H.S. Junior daughter will be gone, the better. *sobs quietly into plate of cake*

    1. Make the cake with the flour you have on hand. You will thanks yourself later.

    2. Allyson7:14 PM

      Thanks, Rachel_K!

    3. Yes! Thank you, you guys. I totally agree. All white flour is delish too.

  6. Anonymous9:09 PM

    Just wanted to say I make the same exact cake with a drained/rinsed jar of sour cherries (in winter when there are no plums), with the cinnamon from the original NY Times cake too. I'm pretty sure you could gently press just about any fruit in there and it would be stellar. How many months til peaches?!