Remember when my backyard rhubarb was barely poking its head up through the ground? I was happy to see the first signs of spring, sure, and new life unfurling is always inspiring, yada yada, but really? I was excited because I was already thinking about this cake.
It’s sweet and light, with barely-tart shards of rhubarb nestled in every bite. It’s topped with a crystallized ginger crumb that gives it a bit of a coffee cake appearance, which lets you get away with serving it for breakfast. (I’ve never understood why topping a sugary cake with MORE sugar makes it into breakfast fare, but I’m not complaining.) It’s a family favorite.
This recipe comes from Rustic Fruit Desserts, a book by Portland baker Julie Richardson and chef Cory Schreiber. If you don’t have it already, you might want to run out and get it right now. I know I’ll be using my copy all summer.Rhubarb Cake with Crystalized Ginger Crumb: Make the crumb first by mixing 1/3 c. sugar, 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, 1/4 c. finely chopped candied ginger, and 2 Tb. melted butter. Place in the freezer while you make the rest of the cake. Thinly slice 1 lb. rhubarb and set aside. Cream 3/4 c. room-temperature butter with 1 c. sugar on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and creamy, then add 2 room-temperature eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each. Meanwhile, whisk 1 3/4 c. flour with 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. dried ginger, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add these dry ingredients and 3/4 c. room-temperature buttermilk to the butter/sugar/eggs as follows: mix on low speed while alternating additions of the dry ingredients in three parts and the buttermilk in two parts (so you start and end with the dry ingredients). Fold in the sliced rhubarb. Scoop into a buttered pan (I usually use a 7×11″ rectangular pan, but this photo shows a cake made in a 9″ springform pan), top with ginger crumb, and bake at 350 until the cake is lightly golden and firm on top. This takes 45-50 minutes in my 7×11 pan, but nearly an hour in the 9″ round pan (and in the round pan I had to cover the edges with tinfoil to keep them from darkening too much for the last 10 minutes).