Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Nothing like fresh eggs and fresh rhubarb for a delicious cake.

In the middle of suburban Fairfield, not five minutes from Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, Party City, Old Navy, and about seventy-five other stores, is a farm. A real farm, too, with cows, chickens, horses, and organically grown vegetables. The real farmer? Wyatt Whiteman.

Mr. Whiteman knows all there is to know about farming – he has spent his whole life living on this farm, inheriting the home and the land from his parents. He teaches a course on canning at Motherhouse Farm, which also has classes on plucking chickens, making butter, and other skills that promote self-sufficiency. He knows all sorts of tricks to farm efficiently: “Anyone who is seriously thinking about gardening should have some rabbits,” he said. “You can feed them all your scraps and then they’re natural fertilizer for the soil. It’s all a cycle.” Sustaining yourself – that’s what Mr. Whiteman is all about.

Mr. Whiteman has more helpful information on local farming than I could ever gather, because he has experienced farm-to-table living his whole life. He had started a website about his farm that was going to include tips for gardening, cooking, and other valuable farming advice. He said he knows people could benefit from what he has to say, but “really – who has time to sit around and make a website?” Well, me. And other bloggers with CSA memberships. But that’s because we don’t need to spend all of our time farming, we just pick up our food every week. The farmers – the people who really have the best advice – are the ones who don’t have time to peruse the blogosphere. Of course, the enthusiasm of local eaters is essential to the livelihood of the farmers, and the blogosphere has expanded the “community” aspect of CSA to include people from across the country… pretty cool stuff. But talking to Mr. Whiteman reminded me that when it comes down to it, the farmers are the ones who know it all.

I had initially stopped by Mr. Whiteman’s farm to buy some fresh eggs that he was advertising with a sign on the edge of his lawn. But we got to talking and he told me about a rhubarb upside-down cake that he’d made from the rhubarb that is currently thriving in his garden. I decided I had to try that, and asked if I could buy some rhubarb, too.

He grabbed a knife that was stuck in the fence and snipped me some rhubarb on the spot. He cut off the green leaves that sprout from the stalks, because the leaves are poisonous, and handed me the stalks, which have a sweet, tart, and refreshing taste.

So, inspired by Mr. Whiteman, I set out to make rhubarb upside-down cake with fresh eggs and just-picked rhubarb. I got the recipe from this page in The New York Times, but I made some adaptations to the instructions:

What you need:

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, more to grease pans

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 cups cake flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Zest of 1 lemon, grated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1/3 cup sour cream

Lemon juice from half a lemon

Prep the pan:

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 inch circular pan with parchment paper butter it. Wrap a layer of foil around the bottom of the pan, and then set the pan on a baking sheet.

Make the topping (or the bottom, depending how you look at it):

In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch, and ½ cup of granulated sugar. Set the bowl aside. Then, mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Then set the stove on low heat and leave the pan until later.

Make the batter:

Whip two sticks of butter with a mixer. Then add in the remaining 1 cup of granulated sugar and the lemon zest. Cream together at high speed. (Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally) Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. It’s ok if the mixture has a weird consistency at this point. Slowly add the flour, about ¼ cup at a time, until well combined.

Assemble the cake:

Pour the brown sugar mixture into the cake pan, the spoon in the rhubarb and its yummy juices. Pour in the batter so that it covers all the rhubarb. It’s ok if the batter is a little thick.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top is firm to the touch and you can stick in a tooth pick and it comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before flipping it onto a plate. Don’t wait any longer or it will stick.

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2 Responses to “Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake”


  1. 1 Tammy May 2, 2012 at 2:12 am

    Gorgeous! Rhubarb is my go-to summer flavor!

  2. 2 Lady Locavore May 8, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Can’t wait to make this on the weekend! Yumm, Lady Locavore


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