I had a slice of delicious rhubarb & almond cake from Your Bakery in Whitton last week and thought I really must try making some myself. So when I saw an assistant carrying a tray of packs of fresh rhubarb in Waitrose yesterday, I couldn’t resist following and claiming a pack for my basket.
My ‘forced’ rhubarb came from Yorkshire – just as it should. The forced rhubarb from Yorkshire is so famous and respected that it was even awarded an EC Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in 2010. This means it must be grown within the 9 square mile Rhubarb Triangle in West Yorkshire. Rhubarb is actually a vegetable although we tend to think of it as a fruit. It originates, rather surprisingly, from Siberia in Russia, so obviously likes a cold climate. Its leaves are poisonous and it is the stalks we eat. As a child, we had the outdoor variety growing in our garden and I have vivid memories of having fun pulling the stalks from the ground and my mother would make a rhubarb crumble. The stalks of the outdoor variety become quite thick, tough and stringy as they get bigger; the stems more acidic than the forced variety.
We generally think of ‘forced’ as not good when it comes to food and usually (unless you’re a fan of foie gras!) that is true and forced fruit and vegetables tend to have less flavour. However, with rhubarb it’s completely different. The forcing – growing the rhubarb in the dark – results in a much more delicate and pleasant flavour. The method was developed in the early 1800s. Rather than the greenish stems of the outdoor variety, forced rhubarb has wonderful bright, rose-pink-red stalks. However, even this more delicate variety still needs to be cooked before eating and because it’s very sour it also needs to be sweetened.
- 400g rhubarb cut into 2cm slices
- 150g butter
- 150g golden caster sugar + extra 2 tablespoons
- 2 eggs
- zest of 1 orange
- 200g ground almonds
- 100g plain (I used spelt for extra taste) flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- about 2 tablespoons flaked almonds
First of all, wash and trim the rhubarb and then cut into 2cm slices. Put in a bowl with the extra 2 tablespoons sugar, mix to coat all the rhubarb, and then leave for 30 minutes for the rhubarb to macerate.
Preheat the oven to 180C/160 Fan/Gas 4. Now make the cake base. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until light, pale and fluffy. Now add the eggs one at a time – with a little flour if it looks as if the mixture is separating – and also add the orange zest.
Next add the flour, sifted with the baking powder, and the ground almonds. Beat until everything is blended in nicely. Then stir in the rhubarb, scraping in any juices.
Transfer to a greased and lined 22cm springform cake tin. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
Bake for 1hr 15 mins until nicely browned and firm to touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin before transferring to a rack.
This is very much a dessert cake and you can serve it warm, though I left it until cold to eat at suppertime. Once cold, I transferred it to a cake stand and sifted over some icing sugar.
Come suppertime, it made a fabulous dessert with a generous spoonful of Greek yoghurt on the side.
Wow! It was fantastic. Very moist, full of flavour; a simply gorgeous cake. It was a lovely way to use rhubarb, which is still a fruit/vegetable not available all year, so you need to make the most of it when it’s available. I’d combined a couple of recipes I found on the internet and it had come out really well. And it was very easy to make. It would be a great dessert for entertaining to make in advance. I’m all for easy entertaining and making as much as possible ahead of guests arriving.