Monday, March 18, 2013

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

I saw this recipe a couple of years a go in Martha Stewart Living (and yes, I know I just posted a MSL rant, but I still make her cakes and really, still like her) and kept it.  Get the recipe here.  I save all the recipes that look really good to in my recipe binder to remind myself make them.

I actually tried to make this recipe a couple of years ago, but had terrible results.  I'm not sure what I did, but the cake never rose, and came out to be a wet, soggy mess.

I read somewhere that upside-down cakes were very popular at one time, and they were made with all different fruits.  In our day, we are most familiar with the pineapple upside-down cake, but this cake only became popular in the 1950s because it was so easy to get pineapple in cans.  I made a plumb upside-down cake once and it was good too.  Wow, the possibilities are endless.

Because rhubarb is such a seasonal ingredient I can only make this cake when I see the rhubarb stalks in the grocery store.

Well, I saw them just a couple of weeks ago and decided to try the recipe again.

This cake is really special.  It has the soft, wet rhubarb and butter at the bottom, then a nice cake layer, and finally a crumble layer on top.  When it is baked you then flip the cake over (just like any upside-down cake) and you get them all in reverse.  At first, I was not convinced that the crumb layer was important.  It seemed excessive and unnecessary.  I was wrong.  The crumb layer adds a nice little bit of texture to the cake. I lost quite a bit of the crumb layer transferring the cake from the wire rack, to cool, to the cake stand, but it was still good.

Tips for Making the Cake

As far as the instructions go, I have a few tips.

First, be sure to use a stand-mixer.  I know I'm always talking about how much I love my stand-mixer, but I really want you to understand that the mixer helps me to actually enjoy making this cake.  There are a lot of different ingredients that need to be added at different times and it is nice not to have to hold a mixer and try to add wet or dry ingredients alternatively   

Next, be sure to put an old cookie tray on the rack under the cake to catch drippings.  My cake was so full that when it cooked the filling overflowed and dripped all over the bottom of my oven, thus rendering the oven unusable until I could clean it.  It is a messy process.  I had a couple of days when every time I tried to cook something in the oven, my smoke alarms would get set off.  I have no idea why it took me so long to realize I needed to clean my oven!

Also, when you bake the cake, the recipe gives a very vague description of how long to bake it: "about one hour."  I found that the cake needed one hour and fifteen minutes to be absolutely done.  The best way to know is to put a toothpick in it, and check for spring-y-ness (you know what I mean right?) as the recipe indicates 

Finally, when you cool that cake on a wire rack, be careful how you transfer the cooled cake to a plate or cake stand.  As I said, I lost a lot of the crumb topping in the process.

This cake is best when totally cooled.  We couldn't wait, and had some while still a little warm and the rhubarb was very hot.  After the cake cooled completely it was even better.  The flavors had a chance to settle and really find their "happy place" (because that's how flavors work.  hehe jk).

This cake was so good that I'm very sad we only get rhubarb for such a short time.  There are so many good things to make with rhubarb, this cake, pie, ummm  and other things too.  I'm actually contemplating planting some rhubarb in my garden (I'm not much of a gardener), so I have my own.  I don't want to be dependent on the grocery stores.  A friend told me you can only pick rhubarb on "R" months like March and February (?).  Guess if I do grow my own I will have to figure all that out.  I don't want to poison myself.

So go...make this cake (if you can find the rhubarb) and enjoy a great cake.

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