Sunday, 25 May 2008

Rhubarb cornmeal cake

Rhubarb seems to be one of those things you have to mature into like comfy slippers, brussel sprouts and thinking policemen look young. All I know is that I was never mad about rhubarb then – bang – love the stuff!

The CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) seems to be having a bumper rhubarb season so I scoured my books for a rhubarb cake. This recipe – from Nigella – attracted my attention as it used two ingredients I have never used in baking before namely cornmeal and yoghurt. The cornmeal not only adds a nice texture to the cake but also soaks up some of the juices that rhubarb releases meaning that you retain all the flavour without the cake being soggy.

For some reason (probably that I’m weird) I thought the little rhubarb chunks looked cute:

Don’t get me wrong, I love all cake but this is the type of cake that excites me most; the sort of cake you’d expect to see waiting for you in a farmhouse kitchen. It’s a cake that knows it’s great and doesn’t need any flashy tricks.

Isn’t she a beauty? You can see, even before the cake is cut how juicy it looks and it had a lovely squidgy-to-the-touch texture:

This cake can be served at teatime with some cream or warm with custard or ice cream for dessert. Wanting the best of all worlds, I decided to make custard cream to serve with it – basically just whipping up some double cream and spooning good quality vanilla custard into it until I got the taste and texture that pleased me. Of course, it requires a lot of tasting along the way until you get it just right....... (hopefully, after all this arduous tasting, there will be some left for others to eat!)

It was a nice surprise that the red and green chunks of rhubarb remained red and green after cooking. This slice shows the lovely colours:

Was there ever a more perfect double act?

For the cake:
500g rhubarb
300g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
155g fine cornmeal (polenta)
250g natural yoghurt

For the custard cream (optional):
300ml double cream
500g good quality vanilla custard
Vanilla extract

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Butter and line a 23cm springform cake tin.
- Wash and dry the rhubarb then cut into small chunks (about 0.5cm). Place in a bowl and sprinkle 100g of the sugar over the top. Put to one side while you make the cake. Only do this when you’re going to actually make the cake – if it’s sitting around for too long a lot of liquid will come out of the rhubarb.
- Cream the butter with the remaining 200g of sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.
- In a bowl, beat together the eggs and vanilla then gradually beat into the butter mix. If your beater is powerful enough, the mixture shouldn’t curdle. If it does curdle it will correct itself on adding the flour so don’t panic.
- Weigh out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and cornmeal and combine until they are well mixed. Put to one side.
- Add the flour mix to the cake batter alternately with the yoghurt. I did this in three lots i.e. flour, yoghurt, flour, yoghurt, flour, yoghurt.
- Lastly, tip in the rhubarb and juices. Fold the rhubarb carefully into the cake batter then spoon into the cake tin. You will notice that there is a lot of mix! This is a big cake.
- Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took exactly one hour. It’s worth checking the cake after 40 minutes in case your oven is browning it too quickly – if it is, cover with foil for the remaining baking time.
- Keep the cake in its tin and place on a wire rack to cool.
- Serve either hot or cold with custard, cream or ice cream. If you’re making custard cream lightly whip the cream and add vanilla extract. Then, a spoon at a time whisk in the custard. Keep beating until it’s just at the soft peak stage – I like it soft and know it’s ready when it very slowly drops from the whisk.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.


Mike of Mike's Table said...

This is a really interesting sounding cake. I've never had a cornmeal based cake before, so that alone would be new for me, but I really like how rhubarb was worked into it. I'll be keeping this one in mind.

Dee said...

There's a lemon polenta cake recipe that I was thinking of trying; you've just inspired me to give it a go :)

Your cake looks scrumptious but rhubarb is sooo expensive where I live *sigh*

Rosie said...

This is one interesting cake and I bet it really tastes SO wonderful. My hubby has just started growing rhubarb in our garden so fingers crossed in the next few years we'll be having bumper crops too :)

Rosie x

Cakespy said...

Oh my. Cake. Custard. Rhubarb. It's a triple threat! I too love how you can see the little green and pinkish bits of rhubarb. It looks simply fantastic. Hope you're recovering nicely from all of that oh so difficult tasting!

Holler said...

I am loving rhubarb just now too! Your cake looks gorgeous, I can taste it by looking at it and it tastes good :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, made this cake with very limited tools - no hand mixer, no springform cake pan, no butter or marg (used Crisco) and it worked like a charm. Soooooo delicious.