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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Topsy Turvy

I hope you like rhubarb because I'm still on my rhubarb kick.  It's still in season and I'm having a good time taking advantage of a most misunderstood vegetable.  Yes, rhubarb is actually a vegetable although it is eaten and prepared most often like a fruit.  Who knew?

But I digress.  I am happy to report that while I miss my son, I have adjusted to his absence this summer. I am now cooking with rhubarb because I really like it.  And because there have been a zillion recipes showcasing it.  Obviously rhubarb is becoming trendy and I am nothing if not ahead of the curve.

A few weeks ago, this recipe for  rhubarb upside down cake appeared in Melissa Clark's column in The New York Times.  I've had it on the top of my "to make" pile since then and only today got to it.  Why did I wait so long?  "Hello gorgeous" is all I can say.  (Note:  When Barbra Streisand won her Oscar for Funny Girl she looked at it and said "Hello gorgeous".  That is the extent of my knowledge of Barbra Streisand so don't expect any more pithy quotes from me.)

This cake is a real show stopper.  It reminds me a little of a tarte tatin in its presentation, although it's a bit more rustic.  The rhubarb and brown sugar cook together to create a soft, gooey topping for the slightly lemony cake beneath.  Divine.

The only bad news about this cake is that I made it for just the three of us.  It's dinner party worthy.  I better hurry and put together a party before rhubarb goes out of season.

Recipe:  Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
(Melissa Clark, The New York Times, May 20, 2011)


2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, more to grease pans
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice.


1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Wrap two layers of foil under the pan, and place it on a buttered baking sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

3. Mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.

4. Whip 2 sticks butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment for 2 minutes. With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup sugar with lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color. Cream together with the butter at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. (It’s O.K. if the mixture looks curdled.) With the mixer set to low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the mixer bowl in between the additions.

5. Pour the brown-sugar mixture into the cake pan, then spoon in the rhubarb and its juices. Spoon in the batter so it covers all of the rhubarb. Smooth out the top.

6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out without any large, moist crumbs.

7. Place the pan on a wire rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the cake, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it upside-down. Release the cake from the pan while still warm or else it will stick.

Yield: 8 servings.

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