Monday, April 6, 2009
Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
I've probably said this before, but I am a sucker for pretty cookbooks. I like clear instructions, glossy photographs, and appetizing recipes with minimal anecdotal padding.
There is, however, a point when cookbooks make me suspicious. I question how good the recipes are when every other page is a closeup of carrots covered in dirt or bodiless hands shelling peas, picking berries, or slicing potatoes. Many new cookbooks tout the author's credentials so frequently that I feel wary when the only author information is in a teeny paragraph on the last page.
The lure of visual appeal and celebrity makes it easy to overlook excellent titles. I have to remind myself that the modern cookbook is a luxury. We're lucky to have step-by-step instructions, let alone any photographs. I've read recipes from the 1800s that assume you know how to skin and bone a lamb. In many cases, I think the only way to know a cookbook is to start cooking from it. Repeatedly.
I almost returned Sarah Raven's In Season to the library. The recipes looked too simple. They're column-length, like the recipes in Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery (I wonder if both books were designed by the same person).
I tried the "Rhubarb upside-down cake" on a whim, and was pleasantly surprised when the cake turned out perfectly. If other recipes turn out this well, I might buy the book. The content is well balanced and conveniently organized by season and ingredient.
I halved this recipe and baked it in a 6-inch souffle dish. Instead of halving 3 eggs, I used one extremely large fresh egg. I prefer to bake upsidedown cakes in pans lined with parchment, as the fruit gets less mangled on unmolding. I highly recommend this cake. The rhubarb came out perfectly cooked and just sweet enough to mellow the tartness. The cake batter is dense- similar to a cobbler topping.
Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
adapted from Sarah Raven's In Season
1 pound rhubarb
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp milk
sliced almonds, toasted
confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Creme fraiche and demerara or raw sugar, to serve
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Cut the rhubarb at an angle into 2-inch slices. Melt the brown sugar and butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Add the orange zest and remove from the heat. Cover the base of the pan with the rhubarb. (Alternately, you can melt the butter/sugar in a pot and pour the mixture into a parchment lined cake pan).
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt, and fold into the mixture. Add the milk and mix well. Spread the batter over the rhubarb with a spatula.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the cake is firm to the touch. Leave to cool for about 20 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.
Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm with creme fraiche or whipped cream. To reheat, put on a large baking sheet, sprinkle with the demerara sugar, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350F.
at 8:41 AM