For about half the year rhubarb is the only native ‘fruit’ being harvested in the UK. We start with the delicate pink-stemmed early forced rhubarb from Yorkshire just before Christmas and then by May anyone with a rhubarb plant will be wondering what triffid-like size it will have grown to by tomorrow. As we can tell by its form, rhubarb is not really a fruit but a vegetable. But it’s lengthy availability means that one of the many food quests of my life is to find the ultimate rhubarb cake recipe which we can then use in my cafes for a large part of the year. I think this may be it. It’s moist, rich and rhubarby. The clever bit about its construction is that the base is partially cooked before the rhubarb is added which stops it becoming claggy. At its best served when still warm, but also very fine at room temperature – I’ve just had a slice for breakfast.
It’s very slightly adapted from ‘Seasonal Secrets’, the outpouring of several decades cooking experience from Victoria O’Neil, Australian/Herefordian extraordinaire whose ‘Cooking with Class’ cookery school has delighted and engaged Herefordian cooks for many years.
18cm loose-bottomed cake tin, greased
for the middle
500g rhubarb – chopped into 1cm pieces
75g light muscovado sugar
for the base
75g ground almonds
75g self-raising flour
40g light muscovado sugar
125g butter – diced
1 egg, lightly beaten
for the streusel topping
100g light muscovado sugar (or a mix of whateve brown sugars you have to hand)
75g plain flour
75g cold butter, diced
40g flaked almonds
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C
2. Mix the chopped rhubarb with the sugar and spread on to a baking tray and put in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes until if feels tender but not disintegrated. Leave the rhubarb in the tray until you need it.
3. Prepare the base. Mix the all the base ingredients except the egg either in a food mixer of food processor until they look like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix again to make a dough. Spread the dough into the base of the greased cake tin and bake in the same oven that you’ve got the rhubarb in for 15 minutes. It will have begun to firm up but won’t look quite cooked.
4. Make the topping. Whizz the topping ingredients together – again either a food mixer or a food processor will do the job. If you want the flaked almonds to stay in large pieces then add them right at the end.
5. Assemble and bake the cake. Take the rhubarb out of the baking tray with a slotted spoon, leaving any liquid behind (which you can keep and use as a sauce) and spoon the rhubarb on to the partially cooked base. Spoon the topping evenly on top of the rhubarb. Cook the whole thing at 180C for 30 to 40 minutes until the topping is beginning to brown.
Try to leave it to cool a little before devouring.