Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rhubarb Cake

Seeing as I found out only recently that people besides my parents and grandparents (and a few loyal exceptions) read this, I thought this would actually be relevant.

I've recently had some amazing cakes at dissertation defenses.  Granted, they were made by the significant others of the defenders and not the brand new doctors themselves, but it inspired me: by the time I defend, I want to be able to make a beautiful and impressive cake, not just at one of the well received but somewhat ordinary desserts I usually stick to.  But you can't make cake for one.  I suppose my birthday is coming up, but I will spend that day collecting all the free food I can.

So I decided to give the cake making a first attempt while I was home and the perfect opportunity presented itself when my grandparents came over for lunch.  My mom was planning on making rhubarb cobbler (we have lots of rhubarb), but disappeared for a few hours and came home to two layer cakes in the oven.  My original vision was a lemon cake with strawberry filling, but I figured with rhubarb filling I should tone back the lemon a little.  So I basically made yellow cake with a hint of lemon, rhubarb filling and a whipped cream frosting.  The frosting would be better with lemon yogurt or curd beat into it, but it sufficed.  So here is the recipe, picture leaves the inside of the cake up to the imagination, but I thought I decorated it well.

For the cake:

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon zest


  1. For a Yellow Cake: Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in shortening until fine crumbs are formed. Add eggs, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest. Beat at low speed for 1 minute, then high for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl frequently.
  2. Pour batter into two greased and floured (or lined with parchment paper is definitely the easiest way to get a layer cake out evenly) 8" round cake pans. Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Let the cakes cool for about ten minutes then carefully remove from the pans, this is where you'll wish you used parchment paper because if you didn't they will probably break.  I like to use a spatula to cut around the edges immediately after removing them from the oven.

For the filling
1 1/2 cup rhubarb
juice of one lemon
1/2 c+ sugar to taste
cornstarch if needed.

Slice the rhubarb, put in a saucepan with lemon and sugar, cook until soft and rhubarb loses its shape.  Taste it and adjust the sugar if necessary.  If it's too watery, add some corn starch and cook for two minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

For frosting: I just beat a pint of whipped cream with a teaspoon of lemon zest.  It could have used more lemon flavor, I think lemon yogurt or lemon pudding mix would be a good addition.  Or even just a lot more zest and maybe a little sugar.  I garnished with about 8 strawberries cut in half.

Assemble the cake: spread filling on one layer of cake (the more broken one, if either), place the other cake on top and frost top and sides with frosting.  Whipped cream frosting is easy to work with but I recently learned the trick to frosting cakes is to frost in two layers: a crumb layer and the part you see that looks pretty.  And let it sit in between.  In most layer cakes you are supposed to shave the top of the bottom cake so it is flat across, but this cake raised pretty evenly (and I tried really hard to spread it evenly and even a little thicker on the edges) so it wasn't really necessary.

Note this cake had no chocolate but it was still pretty good.  The reason: I couldn't see rhubarb going with chocolate but the point was to use rhubarb.  As a chocolate preferer, I'd approve off this cake more fully if the outer frosting was richer.

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