‘So what are you doing this weekend?’ ‘Well…um…I’m going on a hunt for rhubarb?’ Insert quizzical coworker face here.
That’s right. I spent much of my weekend scouring the city for one of my favorite Spring ingredients: gorgeous, sweet and tart, brilliant reddish-pink, rhubarb. If Mother Nature was going to refuse to cooperate (hello, late March snowstorm), then I was going to make my own Spring. I was going to put it on a gosh darn plate, I tell ya.
One thing I did not anticipate on my jaunt around the city: a surprising number of New Yorkers had never heard of rhubarb. ‘Did you say radicchio? Rutabaga?’ ‘No, ma’am. Rhubarb. R-H-U-B-A-R-B.’ Insert quizzical grocery store clerk face here. I was beginning to lose hope after it was a no show at the green market (too early) and at Trader Joe’s (too fancy), but then! There it was at Whole Foods, tucked away in a little corner next to stalks of aloe and free trade, organic shiitake mushrooms. Because Whole Foods.
Hooray! I shouted (Not really). Let us get to bakin’.
And while rhubarb is most commonly found in pie form, I’m breaking from tradition and making a rhubarb upside-down cake. Not just for pineapple anymore, folks. This cake is basically a sour cream coffee cake flipped on its head and combined with caramelized rhubarb. It’s rich and bright and not too sweet; the fluffy, light cake pairs well with the syrupy rhubarb, and the crumb topping, which ends up on the bottom, gives it a nice crunch. I could use a thousand words to describe this cake, but all in all, it’s just really, really good.
You ready? OK, let’s do this.
Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
You will need:
For the Crumb Topping
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
For the Cake
1 ½ stick unsalted butter, plus more for buttering pan (butter should be room temperature)
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 2” pieces on the diagonal
½ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest (I used meyer lemons)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
Kitchen equipment: 1 9” cake or springform pan, mixer, tin foil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter the bottom and sides of your cake or springform pan. If you’re using a springform pan, cover the outside of the pan tightly with tin foil (I used two sheets). This will prevent any juices leaking out during the baking process.
In a medium bowl, toss rhubarb with 1/2 cup sugar. In another bowl, make the crumb topping by combining the melted butter, flour, sugar and salt and mix until crumbly. Set both aside.
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl (flour, baking powder, salt). In your mixer, beat remaining butter (1 stick) and sugar (1 cup) on medium speed until fluffy. Add in lemon zest and juice and mix to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add dry ingredients in 1/2 cup increments, alternating with the sour cream. Mix until smooth.
In a small saucepan, melt brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter over medium heat until bubbling; this should take about two minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
Now, to the cake pan! Pour the brown sugar mixture into the buttered pan and spread evenly. Take your rhubarb and toss again lightly in the sugar, then place in the pan. Since this will be the top of your cake, you may want to arrange the rhubarb in a fun pattern — I’m a big believer that food should be delicious and pretty, so here’s your chance.
Once the rhubarb is organized and covers the entire bottom of the pan, pour batter over the top and spread evenly. Finally, sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter.
Bake for approximately one hour (you may need up to one hour, 15 minutes depending on your oven), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then invert the cake onto a wire rack or cake plate to cool completely. You may want to run a knife around the sides of the cake before removing from pan to make this easier. Don’t wait longer than 10-15 minutes to remove cake from pan, as the rhubarb will begin to stick as it cools.
Serve when cool with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
This is a ‘holy shit, you made this?!’ dessert. This is an absolutely gorgeous, invite your friends over and impress the pants off of them dessert. This is a crazy delicious, never had anything better dessert. Is it a labor of love? Sure. Is it worth getting your kitchen a little dirty for? Absolutely.