A couple of years ago we met a lovely couple – Neville and Janet – while out walking Monty-the-Labradoodle. Turned out that they are great dog lovers and sometimes look after Monty for us which makes us all happy! Neville is also a keen gardener and has an allotment where he grows a lot of fruit. About two weeks ago he came round with the first of this year’s crop of beautiful rhubarb. I couldn’t wait to try out a few baking ideas. The first experiment was this cake. Combining the rhubarb with ginger was a bit of a ‘no-brainer’ as they say.
- 150g (5½oz) butter
- 150g (5½oz) caster sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 200g plain flour, sifted
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder, sifted
- 65ml (2fl oz) full-fat milk
- 100g crystallised ginger – finely chopped
- ½ jar of apricot preserve to glaze top of cake that rhubarb will adhere to
- 3 tbls of runny honey
- Preheat oven to 180ᵒc/350F/Gas4, and place rack in middle.
- 1 square baking tin x 23cm/9” – greased.
- 1 rectangular baking tray or equivalent, say 40m x 30m/16” x 12” for cooking rhubarb in syrup.
Method for cake
Using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy in a medium-sized bowl– 4 mins on medium-speed -, then add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition (add a couple of tablespoons of flour if the mixture starts to curdle. This shouldn’t happen if the eggs are at room temperature, but the flour will restore the mixture).
Add the vanilla, then the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, until everything is incorporated. Stir in the chopped ginger with a wooden spoon or spatula. Bake in preheated oven for about 35 – 40 minutes – check it is done at 35 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.
1 kilo rhubarb cooked in :
Sugar syrup = 250g caster sugar mixed with 250ml water + *1 cupful of Ribena. Bring to boil in the rectangular metal dish that can be put on medium high heat.
*(Ribena will give some pinkness to the rhubarb as it can be colourless once spring has passed. For special occasions and for a lesser quantity of rhubarb, you could use ½ wineglass of Cassis liqueur instead of Ribena to achieve same effect).
Cut off ends and cut each stalk in half. With a long, sharp knife, slice each half into 3 long lengths – or two if the stalk is slim. Simmer for 5 minutes until just cooked but still firm and holding its shape. Turn off heat and leave to rest in syrup for 3-4 minutes. Remove carefully e.g. using a fish slice, without breaking up the lengths and place them on to drain on a wire cooling rack resting on a tray to catch drips.
To assemble cake
Heat apricot jam with 1 tsp water until liquid – 45 seconds – sieve out the fruit pieces. Brush top of cake with the sieved apricot jam so that rhubarb will adhere. Cut into 9, equal squares but keep squares in their place. (It is much easier to decorate each serving with rhubarb pieces than cover the whole cake and then try to slice it as the fibrous rhubarb will not cut neatly. But, if needed, a sharp scissors does the job).
Place first layer of rhubarb diagonally across each slice and cut off to fit each square with sharp scissors. Then place another 2 pieces in the opposite direction and trim those too with scissors (see photo). No need to add chopped pistachios for colour – seemed a good idea at the time, but they are unnecessary! Place each portion back in its place until all portions are covered. Finally brush rhubarb with some warmed honey to give a shine to the top.