Rhubarb Crumble Cake

April 29, 2013 § 2 Comments

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There are things that everyone tells you about parenthood. You will never sleep again. You will fall deeply, unimaginably in love. You will miss the days when your baby was inside and always with you. Your life will change. You stubbornly protest that it’s easy to stick the child in the car-seat and dine out. Your life will change, they say again.

There are things that no one tells you about parenthood. You will do anything, ANYTHING, to hear your baby laugh. You will frequently lose all perspective, both for the good and for the bad. You will know every pore, follicle and fold of flesh of your child, more intimately than you know your own. Some days you will stand at the top of the stairs, holding the baby, watching the clock and waiting for someone else to come through the door and take him, just for 5 minutes even. Other days you will move and play as if one combined being again, anticipating each other’s moves, laughing at the same things. Those are the fun days.

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Another thing everyone tells you: you will need help. You will need support. You run through the checklist many times in the last weeks of pregnancy: freezer full of dinners for the early months; changing table stocked with diapers, wipes, creams; multiple changes of baby clothes; overnight online shipping primed and ready. You feel pretty organized and confident. That wasn’t what they meant. What you really will need: a group of supportive, smart, non-judgmental ladies, ready to share their own ups and downs, swap advice, lend an ear. You will need a reason to leave the house good enough to change out of sweat pants, corral your wriggling, possibly screaming, bundle into carrier, car-seat, stroller, and make it somewhere within a 3 hour window. Sometimes the reason is good enough that you don’t even have to change out of sweat pants. As the months go by, making it out the house will become difficult for different reasons: naps, teeth, hunger strikes. You will still do it. You will amaze at the changes in other babies you’ve known almost as long as your own, and look forward to future rites of passage: birthday parties, playdates and more.

I am grateful for all the amazing, inspiring mamas in my life. This cake is for you all, with thanks.

Rhubarb Crumble Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I made this cake for my moms’ group this week and was just going to share the link to Deb’s recipe, since her cakes are brilliantly reliable and generally un-improved-upon. But then I realized I had made enough changes that it was worth me setting out my own version as well as her one, which you can access in the link above. If you want to skip the step of making the rhubarb compote, Deb tosses rhubarb with sugar and lemon zest and puts this directly on top of the cake batter. I find, however, that cooking during nap times or however you make it work with infants, is easiest in discrete steps, so for me at least it’s better to make a compote one day, and then have that ready to integrate into another recipe a different day. Plus you can make too much of the compote and then spoon it over Greek yoghurt or waffles, oh yes.

Rhubarb Compote
2lbs rhubarb
1 cup dark brown sugar (you can use muscovado if you have it around)
2 tbsp. sherry (or any kind of wine, or you could use orange juice, or even just a splash of water)

This amount of compote should yield twice as much as you need for the cake below.

Trim the rhubarb and slice it into chunks, splitting the stalks in half lengthwise first unless they are very slender. Set about a quarter of the rhubarb chunks to one side. Combine the rest with the sugar and sherry/cooking liquid in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, and set over medium low heat. Stir over the low heat until the rhubarb starts to release its juices and the sugar melts, then cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Leave to cook on a low simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium. Continue to cook, stirring the rhubarb frequently, for about 10 minutes, during which time the rhubarb chunks should soften and break down. Towards the end of this time, add the remaining rhubarb chunks and then cook for another 5 minutes. You should end up with a thick compote with chunks remaining. If there is still a lot of liquid, continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until the compote is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside and leave to cool. You can keep this in the fridge for about a week.

Rhubarb Crumble Cake
I adapted Deb’s recipe to make an 8×8 square cake. You can use her original measurements for a 9×13 if you are serving a big group (or want leftovers), and still use the compote above instead of the rhubarb tossed in sugar, just increasing the amount of compote you use.

60g/5tbsp butter, softened
70g sugar
1/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 large egg
90g all purpose (plain) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp table salt
1/8 tsp ground ginger
50g sour cream

For the crumble topping
65g all purpose flour
25g light brown sugar (I used coconut sugar which I highly recommend here if you have it or want to try it in baking)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp./30g unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F/170C. Grease an 8×8 square tin and line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper with one continuous sheet, like a sling (which you will later use to remove the cake). Set aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a mixer. Add the egg and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the batter.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and ginger (I like to use a whisk to combine dry ingredients; you can also sift them together if you prefer). With the mixer on slow, add a third of the flour mix, mixing until just combined, then half the sour cream, one more third of flour, the remaining sour cream and finishing with the remaining flour mix.

Spread the batter into the prepared tin. It is likely quite a thick batter so you’ll have to work a bit to get it to spread evenly. On top of this spread the rhubarb compote (about half of the full recipe above). Set aside briefly while you make the topping.

In the bowl you used to combine the flour, make the crumble. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and ginger, then mix in the melted butter. You can use your fingers to bring this into a lumpy crumble mix. Scatter this on top of the rhubarb as evenly as you can.

Put the tin into the oven and bake for about 45-55 minutes, until the top is well browned. I found it difficult to test the doneness of the cake with a skewer because of the rhubarb layer but you want the underlying cake to be set through so that a skewer comes out clean (if rhubarb comes out that’s fine so you might have to use judgement). Cut into 2×2 inch squares. The cake is good warm but also at room temperature. I found it best on the first day but you can wrap it tightly and keep for 2-3 days.

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§ 2 Responses to Rhubarb Crumble Cake

  • Kim says:

    Lovely post. Wish I could have had a piece! About to write you an email…we are back in Sydney now- very tired 🙂 xx

    • cakesnail says:

      Hi Kim,

      Glad you got home safely! It was so lovely to meet you and Maya and Donald in person finally. I owe you an email for sure – H is cutting teeth right now so energy reserves are on the lower side, but soon… xx

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