Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Mom's Rhubarb Cake

The first birthday cake I vividly remember is the one I helped bake. It was my 7th birthday and even then my Mom knew that I was not the kind of kid you give a birthday cake to; I was the kind that would only be happy if she was allowed to participate in the making of it. I remember whisking the eggs with the sugar -- that was fun. And then mixing it the flour -- that was hard because the batter got stiff. But my Mom said it couldn't have any lumps so I kept on mixing, and mixing, and mixing... Then my Mom showed me how to cut the apples and make a huge pile of them in a pan. When we poured the batter over them, I was really skeptical that this strange looking thing could turn into a cake. The pile of apples seemed huge and it didn't look like we had enough batter to even cover the top layer of them. "You'll see," said my Mom. "I promise, it will turn into a cake." And sure enough, she was right. When we pulled the pan out of the oven about an hour later, we had a cake! This wasn't the kind of cake you put icing on, so my Mom made a stencil with the number "7" out of parchment paper and sprinkled it with powdered sugar. It was the best cake ever and to this day it's my favorite.

If you close your eyes, you'll probably remember your first adventure in the kitchen. Whether it was chocolate chip cookies or a grilled cheese sandwich, it will always have a special place in your heart. And if you keep your eyes closed and try to reconstruct the details of that first kitchen experience, I am sure that most of you will see your Mom standing next to you, guiding your little hand. I'd like to dedicate this post to my Mommy who helped me discover who I was and always told me to trust myself. Over the years, we had to learn to share a kitchen, which is one of the hardest things two women can do. It took a lot of talking, yelling, and crying, but oh -- the food and the memories that came out of that kitchen...

Happy Mother's day to all the Moms reading this blog!

My Mom's Rhubarb Cake

To be honest it's not really a rhubarb cake. This is my family's all-purpose cake. None of us are traditional cake eaters (layers, icing, and all), but we absolutely love this cake with whatever fruit is currently in season. Apples in the fall and winter; plums, apricots, and peaches in the summer; and rhubarb in the spring.

Serves 8
(but Jason and I can finish the whole thing between the two of us in one sitting :)

3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour (4.5 oz)
1/2 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 orange
1 Lb rhubarb, diced
Butter for greasing the pan
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt with a wire whisk until frothy. Add the flour, baking powder, and orange zest and continue to mix just until combined. Stop mixing as soon as the flour streaks disappear.
  3. Butter an 8x8x2 pyrex dish or a baking dish of about that size. Spread the rhubarb in the bottom of the dish and pour the batter evenly on top. It will look like you have way more fruit than batter. Don't worry -- it will puff up in the oven.
  4. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean (just make sure you are piercing the batter and not a piece of rhubarb).
  5. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Can be served warm or cold.


Pyatachok said...

Hi my Sweet Heart,

Here you did it again - brought up another great memory from your childhood cooking experiences. I am so glad I was there with you. Because now, starting to forget things, it's such a pleasure to be reminded of the happy moments of your life. If you ask me, nothing can be more important then real relationships and comunication. Thank you so much for such a Mother's Day present.
Stay cool and keep cooking :).


Terry B said...

I didn't learn much cooking from my mom, but I remember that she baked a lot when I was little--four, five, six. One distinct memory was when she would bake pies, there would always be leftover pie crust. She would sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar, then roll it up and slice and bake it. Kids would hang out in our yard waiting for her cinnamon rolls.

BipolarLawyerCook said...

This sounds a lot like the ever-variable "Cottage Pudding" from the original Fanny Farmer's cookbook that we ate growing up. Thanks for the reminder!

bill said...

I'm not a fish eater -- I mean, a seriously not a fish eater-- so I was just going to click right through this page.

And then I read your apple cake story, and I just really, really liked it.

But the fish...sorry, no.

Helen said...

Hi guys,

Thanks so much for posting your childhood memories.

Terry, I know exactly the rolls you are talking about. That's what I do with my pie dough leftovers too :)

Bipolarlawercook, the cottage pudding sounds intriguing. Would you mind sharing the details?

Bill, you are welcome on Beyond Salmon any time, even though you are not a fish eater :)

And Mommy, can't wait to see you in a week!


Anonymous said...

This recipe inspired me to go into the background and harvest some rhubarb stems. The cake is wonderful and so easy to make.

Thank you for sharing!

Helen said...

Hi Anonymous,

You have rhubarb growing in your backyard? Lucky you :)


BipolarLawyerCook said...

Cottage Pudding

cream 1/4 c butter w 1/2 c sugar, add 1 egg. Sift 2 c flour, 3 tsps baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, add to butter/sugar in alternation w 1 c. whole milk.

Stir in 1 scant cup fruit of your choice into the batter, which goes into a buttered ceramic or glass dish (we use a 6 inch glass souffle pan) and bake 35 min at 350F. We microwave apples or pears with a little butter, cinnamon & brown sugar before mixing in the batter.

Serve w Vanilla (or Lemon) Sauce-- 1/2 c powdered sugar, 1 c boiling water, 1 tbsp. cornstarch, 2 tbsp. butter, 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice or 1 tsp vanilla, grated nutmeg-- mix sugar & cornstarch, add H2O, stirring, boil 5 min. add butter, flavoring, nutmeg, serve.

I like the Vanilla sauce w the apple cake, and the lemon with pears (candied ginger is good w the pears, too) as well as with rhubarb.


Helen said...

Hi Lawyercook,

Thanks for the recipe. When you said "cottage pudding," I thought it had cottage cheese in it. Now I know what it is :) You are right -- there seem to be infinite variations on this cake and what's amazing it's not all that different from Russia to Italy to US. Some recipes use milk and less eggs. Others use butter and some use both. The bottom like it's fruit baked in batter and it's just so terribly yummy!


tammy said...

Looks like I'm going to be eating a lot of rhubarb this Spring. And there's nothing wrong with that!

tammy said...

I just made this yesterday with my CSA rhubarb and it's gone. All gone. Thanks for posting this. It's a keeper.

Helen said...

Hi Tammy,

I think "It's gone" is the best compliment a cook can receive. I'll pass it along to my Mom :)


Karen said...

awww.. sweet. i learned to cook from my mom too..

Julia said...

This is just like my mom's apple cake that I had on my birthday for many years--except without the vanilla. I'm going to try making it with vanilla and see how it works. When you use apples, what variety do you use? My mom claims that granny smith are the only onew that work, but I have fuji apples that I bought at the Farmer's market and I'm wondering if there's a reason why I shouldn't use them.

Helen said...

Unlike an apply pie where the type of apple is very important, this recipe is extremely flexible, so use whatever apples you have. I personally prefer the tarter ones, like granny smith, but others work fine too.

Anonymous said...

DELICIOUS! I googled rhubarb recipe and I saw this one, I tried it and my husband and I loved it. I used half whole wheat flour and it's very good. THANKS!

Ann said...

Just saw this over at Food on the Food... it looks wonderful! I have a recipe for Cottage Pudding cake with apples that is very similar. Never thought of it with rhubarb, though!

Melissa said...

Wow, I am glad I found your blog (via food on the food) - I made this cake and used a failed plum jam for the was awesome!

Julia said...


I know I am so late on commenting, but I just made this cake, with apples instead of rhubarb, and it was a huge hit! Thanks for the great recipe!

Anna said...

I love this recipe. It's simple and light. I usually use an apple and some kind of berries. I like the apple blackberry combination the best. Strangely I have never used rhubarb. It reminds me of celery and I am afraid it will make a vegetable cake. However every time I see rhubarb in the store I think of this cake.