And so begins rhubarb season. For the past few days my dad has come in from the garden every afternoon saying “wait till you see what I have for you!!!” Inevitably it is not a new car, but about a million stalks of freshly-cut rhubarb. Which is great, really, but minus strawberries I am always kinda perplexed about what to do with all that tarty tart tart rhubarb. We already boiled it down and added sugar and ate it like applesauce.
And although I always think of rhubarb as sort of the Art Garfunkel of the strawberry and rhubarb duet, that doesn’t mean that rhubarb can’t shine on its own.
Confession: I just spent about 10 minutes searching for any decent songs by Art Garfunkel. I can’t say I’m familiar with his solo work, but I just checked all the Simon & Garfunkel albums and they all said “Songs by Paul Simon except where noted,” and I gotta tell you….none of the “noted” songs were by Art Garfunkel. I so wanted to find out he wrote, like, Song for the Asking or something. No dice. Did he do anything at all?
Now I’m regretting comparing rhubarb to poor Art, because I feel like rhubarb would’ve made a decent solo album or two. Maybe rhubarb is more like the Sonny to strawberry’s Cher. You know, strawberry’s all in your face and often chemically injected with dye and flashy and red and sweet and inappropriately clothed. And rhubarb’s like, well, whatever dude, I’m just going to become a politician.
I think it’s pretty clear that at this point I’m not going to be making any apt comparisons, so let’s just get back to the cake. It’s simple and sweet and the rhubarb is tart and surprising, and if you are sitting in rhubarb up to your eyes like us, you’re going to want to have an arsenal of recipes at hand to make it disappear–deliciously.
Erma Mabel’s Rhubarb Cake
from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups rhubarb chopped into 3/4 to 1 inch pieces (about 4 stalks)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 7×11″ baking dish and lightly dust it with flour.
With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small bowl or cup. Alternate adding the dry and the wet ingredients to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.
Spread about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle it with all of the rhubarb pieces. Top with the rest of the batter, spreading it as evenly as possible but with a light touch–try not to push the rhubarb pieces into the bottom layer of batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is golden brown.