When I was small, we had rhubarb growing in the back garden. Whatever variety it was – we had sourced the crown from some friend or relative so there were no labels – it grew gigantic stems, as thick as a baby’s wrist, topped by enormous leaves that we thought looked like child-sized umbrellas. I was never a fan: it was so stringy that it had to be peeled before cooking and I was always extremely dubious about any fruit or vegetable that did such a good job of shining the inside of the saucepan in which it was cooked.
Now, all grown up, I just can’t get enough of rhubarb. When in season, this Irish vegetable – yes, it’s a stem vegetable rather than a fruit – is easily found at the market or supermarket if you don’t have enough in your garden and it is always reasonably priced. Over the years, the stringiness that so offended me as a child seems to have disappeared. I grab it each time I see it on sale (the crowns in our garden are still unproductive) and make sure to stash enough in the freezer to keep us going even when it’s not available. I love Rhubarb Jam, Rhubarb Crumble is a great favourite around here, my mother makes a great Rhubarb Tart, sometimes with added apple, and it’s a great fruit to use in cakes.
This cake I put together for a bring-your-own-pudding dinner at the Writer‘s house recently. It’s quick, easy and ever so gently scented with rosewater. Do not use too much – you don’t want your cake tasting of soap! If you don’t have rosewater, and it is easily found in delis or Middle Eastern shops, then you could always substitute a teaspoon of dried ginger or the rind of an orange.
Rhubarb and Rosewater Cake
Butter – 50g
Dark Muscovado sugar – 125g
Rhubarb – 350g, topped, tailed and cut into 2cm chunks
Natural yoghurt – 250ml
Eggs – 2
Light Muscovado sugar – 225g
Vegetable oil – 125ml
Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
Rosewater – 2 teaspoons
Plain flour – 300g
Baking powder – 2½ teaspoons
Salt – ½ teaspoons
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, 170°C fanbake). Grease the base and sides of a 25cm (10-inch) round tin.
Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the dark Muscovado sugar and allow to melt. When dissolved, remove from the heat, add the rhubarb and pour immediatly into your prepared tin.
Place the yogurt, eggs, light Muscovado sugar, oil, vanilla and rosewater into a large mixing bowl and combine gently. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt on top and mix together quickly but thoroughly. Take care not to overwork the mixture.
Pour the batter on top of the rhubarb mixture in the prepared tin. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is firm, golden brown and well risen.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before turning out. Place a serving plate on top of the tin. Quickly – but very carefully because of the hot caramel mixture – turn upside down and gently lift the tin off. Remove any stubborn pieces of rhubarb from the base of the tin and set them in place on top of the cake. Serve warm with dollops of natural yoghurt.