cardamom & orange rhubarb cake

Every spring I get a sudden hankering for rhubarb, get excited when I spot some in a shop or market, buy one or two bunches of pretty pink stems, eagerly bring them home… and then proceed to wonder what exactly to do with them. The answer is often cake – and this year was no different.

 

You don’t have to be über-precise when it comes to home baking (the same cannot be easily said for pastry-making), but I do find it useful to follow a well-tested recipe when trying something new. On this particular day, I not only had rhubarb, but also a pretty big tub of yogurt sitting in the fridge and begging to be used. After some Googling, I came across a recipe that looked good enough to emulate. Here’s a written attempt at describing what I did (but you can also watch me in action right over here):

 

tools you’ll need

    • a 13-by-10-inch oven dish, 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan, or equivalent baking tin
    • 1 large mixing bowl — for combining all the ingredients together
    • 2 medium bowls — for combining subsets of ingredients together
    • 1 measuring cup — for measuring dry and wet ingredients
    • 1 whisk or fork — for thorough mixing
    • a box grater or other zester with fine holes — for the orange zest and/or fresh ginger
    • 1 sharp knife and cutting board — for the rhubarb
    • 1 rubber spatula — for scraping
    • some regular or measuring spoons — for portioning out ingredients

 

ingredients (in order of use)

butter just enough for greasing your pan or tin
flour* 1½ CUPS and 1 Tablespoon
(plus a bit extra for dusting)
fresh rhubarb 2 long stalks
baking powder 2 teaspoons
ground cardamom 1 teaspoon
fresh, frozen or powdered ginger 1 teaspoon
salt ½ teaspoon
plain Greek yogurt**  1 CUP
white granulated sugar between ¾ and 1 CUP
(plus a bit extra for sprinkling)
eggs 3 large ones
olive oil ½ CUP
fresh or frozen orange zest 1 teaspoon
vanilla extract or vanilla sugar 1 teaspoon

*You can sub up to half of a cup of flour for something other than wheat. I did 1 cup wheat flour and 1/2 cup chickpea (gram) flour.
**
I used dairy-free “oatgurt”; it worked great and tasted pretty darn close to the real thing too

 

 

let’s bake a rhubarb cake!

  1. Place a rack in the middle of your oven, and set the temperature to 180°C / 350°F  (160°C Fan or Gas 4).
  2. Prepare your baking tin by smearing butter onto its bottom and sides. Feel free to use your fingers to get good coverage. Add a dusting of flour, and shake and rotate the tin so the flour can cling to the butter evenly. Discard the excess flour into your measuring cup.
  3. Cut your 2 rhubarb stalks in half across the middle, so as to produce 4 shorter stalks in total.
    1. Take the greenest halves, and cut into ½ inch or 1.5cm-wide wedges. Put the pieces in a medium bowl, toss them with your 1 Tablespoon of flour, and set aside.
    2. Take the pinkest halves, and cut down the middle lengthwise, so as to make a thinner stem. Repeat once more to arrive at 8 narrow stems in total. Set aside.
  4. Measure out 1½ CUPs of flour using the measuring cup that already has some leftover flour in it and add it to your large mixing bowl. Add in the 2 teaspoons of baking powder, the ground cardamom and ginger (only if using powdered). Whisk everything together to get a homogeneous mix.
  5. Measure out 1 CUP of sugar (or as little as ¾ CUP, if you like things less sweet) and transfer it to your remaining bowl. Then add in the CUP of yogurt, the 3 eggs, the ½ CUP of olive oil, the orange zest, grated ginger (if using fresh or frozen) and vanilla. Whisk the ingredients together to make sure everything is well mixed and combined.
  6. Using the spatula, scooch the flour mixture to the outsides of its bowl to create a well in the centre your dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and slowly whisk everything through until just combined. Add in your rhubarb pieces and gently mix again, this time using the spatula.
  7. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula so that the surface is level. Use the rhubarb stems you sliced earlier to decorate the top to your liking (you could slice them again into smaller sticks, if you fancied it) — I chose to line mine up evenly across the top of the cake. Finish with a sprinkling of sugar to help the top get nice and golden.
  8. Set the cake in the oven and bake it until the top is golden and a knife inserted into its centre of the cake comes out clean. This should take 50 minutes to 1 hour.

 

thoughts on substitutions

For the spices, you could probably double or halve (or even omit) the quantities of cardamom, orange zest and ginger according to what you want or have. If you’re looking to give the aromatics a twist (or don’t have all the ingredients), why not try lemon zest in place of the orange, or give finely ground chai a whirl instead of the ginger?

This cake would probably work well later in the year with stone fruit instead of rhubarb (think peaches, plums or apricots) in summer, and with apples and pears in the fall (cinnamon and nutmeg would be interesting spices to use with these fruit). I also have a hunch that swapping out a bit of the flour for almond or other nut flours such as hazelnut would turn out nicely, too. Definitely go for it if you’re feeling adventurous!

 

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