Embracing Butter

Last week’s cake: Rhubarb Streusel

Rhubarb cake edited


Despite the fact that I’ve been baking for the better part of thirty years (yes, I am that old!), there a few things baking related that intimidate me. These include, but aren’t limited to, because I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, the following: Italian buttercream, meringue (made it successfully but avoid it like the plague), choux pastry, and anything with rhubarb in it. Yes, rhubarb has, up until a few days ago, always been an ingredient I feared.

In my mind, rhubarb has always been something of an exotic ingredient, only used by the most seasoned of bakers and therefore not something I should dare mess with. Silly thinking of course, but hey, we all have our quirks.

Since I grew up primarily in the South, I’ve always been most comfortable baking with ingrients, recipes, and techniques used in the South. Think lots of sugar, butter, the occassional bottle of red food color, pecans, cream cheese, sweet potaotes, etc., etc. Basically, if one of my grandmothers or friends made it, I was certain I could too. But that rhubarb neighbor was part of another baking world (I’d seen it baked with by a neighbor during our family’s short sting in Seattle when I was a kid) so I just wasn’t comfortable with it.

But all that changed last week, when I decided it was time to face the fear of the ingredient that looks like pink celery.  And it was high time, as rhubard grows in abundance in Germany. It’s easy to find, fresh, local, and cheap. Yet it still took me nearly seven years of living in Berlin to make the jump! Again – silly, but oh well.

Germans make great rhubarb cakes, and this time of year you see plenty of them at bakeries, cafés, and any sort of school potluck or social outing. So that was always my excuse actually – the Berliners have rhubarb baking down pat, so why bother using it myself? Well, this year enough was enough so I found a great recipe on Pinterest from The Busy Baker.

As it turns out (see photo above for proof!), the rhubarb is super simple to bake with, and the cake turned out delicious. Moist, sweet, tangy, and nicely browned because I baked it in my cast iron skillet rather than the cake pan the recipe calls for. So if you aren’t afraid of rhubarb, or if you are and you’re ready to get past it, I’ve coped the recipe for you below.

Try it out and let me know how it goes!


Rhubarb Stresuel Cake

You’ll need:

For the cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream (full fat is best)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp unsalted butter (for greasing the cake pan)
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb

For the streusel topping:

2/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
4 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 175 Celsus)

Wash 3-4 stalks of rhubarb and chop them into bite sized pieces (you’ll need about 2 and a half cups of chopped rhubarb to cover the cake.). Set them aside in a bowl while you prepare the cake batter.

Add the butter and the sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer and beat them together until the mixture is fluffy and becomes a pale colour (about 4-5 minutes). It’s important that the butter is at room temperature before you begin. This will allow it to integrate properly with the other wet ingredients.
Feel free to use a hand mixer if you prefer.

Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat them in on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. It’s a good idea to scrape down the bowl periodically to make sure everything is incorporated evenly.

Add the milk and sour cream and beat in these ingredients on low speed until they’re combined.

To a separate bowl add the flour, the baking powder and the salt and mix these ingredients together with a fork or a wire whisk. Once they’re all incorporated, dump the flour mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer with the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and watch the batter come together. As soon as you see the batter form with streaks of flour throughout, turn off the mixer and remove the bowl.

Over-mixing at this stage can cause an overly dense and dry cake with large air bubbles, which
you definitely don’t want. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides
of the bowl by hand and gently fold in the remaining flour. Be sure to
stop folding as soon as everything is combined.

Grease a 9×13 rectangular cake pan with some butter and pour the batter into the pan, using the spatula to push the batter into the corners and even out the surface. Don’t worry, the batter will seem thick but it’s supposed to be like that. You can also use an iron skillet. I sprinkled sugar on top of the butter instead of flower for some extra sweetness.

Spread the rhubarb over the top of the batter.

In a clean bowl mix together the flour, sugar and cinnamon for the streusel topping.  Add in the melted butter and mix everything together with a fork until the mixture becomes crumbly.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 47-50 minutes. When it’s finished baking the topping will be slightly browned on top, the rhubarb will be bubbly, and when you insert a toothpick into the centre of the cake it will come out clean.

Let cake stand for at least 20 minutes before cutting, and ENJOY!

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