The plan for my rhubarb was to combine it with muscat grapes in a Linzer tart. I can still do that, but yesterday I was pulled with magnetic force to my favorite rhubarb recipe, Aili Takala’s Rhubarb Cake (Farmhouse Cookbook, Workman). I remember visiting Aili, a retired farm wife in Montana, many years ago, and she served me this cake. I’ve been making it ever since.
Despite its heft, it is a cake that translates well to the French palate as long as the pieces are small. Even though it’s for this evening, I offered a slice to a friend who stopped by this morning for coffee, and he rolled his eyes with pleasure as he ate it up!
I offer you the recipe. If you cannot find rhubarb – and it truly ISN’T rhubarb season except, perhaps here in Normandy where the season is all over the map except where it should be – then use apples or, yes, grapes.
Aili Takala’s Rhubarb Cake
2 cups diced, fresh rhubarb
1-1/2 cups sugar
8 tablespoons butter
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lighlty butter a 7 x 12-inch baking pan.
2. Place the rhubarb and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a small bowl, stir, and set aside while you prepare the cake.
3. In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter with the remaining 1-1/4 cups of sugar until pale yellow and light. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix well.
4. Sift the flour, baking soda and spices together onto a piece of parchment paper.
5. Add the dry ingredients in thirds to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Fold in the rhubarb mixture, and then the coconut. Spoon the batter, which will be thick, into the prepared baking dish.
6. Bake until the cake is golden and puffed, and springs back when pressed gently, 45-50 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool until it is at room temperature. Note: it is most flavorful the day after it is made.