Rhubarb Upside Down Spelt Cake

Shhhhh, I’m pretending it’s spring. The funny thing is that it is spring where a lot of you reading live. But here, it’s autumn. Full on leaves turning colors and littering the ground and if you’re the house a few blocks away, occasionally a fire in the fireplace. Still, there is a lot of rhubarb to be found in the grocery stores so it’s an easy pretense for me to make. Never mind that I have the heat on most mornings (delicious. I do love a crisp morning.) Never mind that the sun sets by 5:30ish and bedtime has been pushed ever earlier (not complaining). Summer will wend its way back around soon enough and we’ll be lamenting the humidity and eating lots of cold salads for dinner. For now I’m sticking with roasted root vegetables and chocolate cake yes, rhubarb. Maybe I’ll get lucky and I’ll be able to find rhubarb year-round. (This would then beg the question: will I get tired of cooking with it? But no matter.)

I made a cherry upside down cake last week from a recipe on Bon Appetit, and to be honest I didn’t like it at all. Perhaps it was me still figuring out the temperatures on my fan forced oven but the cake was a bit bland and almost rubbery. The cherries were fine but overall it wasn’t my best effort. Not even close.

The good that did come out of that rather dismal attempt was that it got me fixed on the idea of an upside down cake with rhubarb, adapting my favorite simple butter cake recipe to include whole grain spelt flour to gently bolster the rhubarb. I cooked down the rhubarb in a bit of honey and butter, then poured it, juices and all, into a cake pan while I (technically “we” — Sierra has a great hand for whisking eggs) made the batter. We’d spent most of the day out of the house doing a circuit of coffee drinks out, library, picnic in the park, gelato, a quick grocery stop to pick up butter and rhubarb. I’m a master at killing time when my husband is away. We came home mid-afternoon and I sorted out the kiddies, stowed the supplies, and got out my two bowls to be ready for mixing. I love that pre-dinner, post- lunch period when you’ve been outside for hours — pleasantly sunned and starting to get tired but still with a few hours to fill before bedtime. Cake-baking is always a perfect way to pass the time.

Honey-infused silky soft rhubarb is obviously the star of this humble cake, but I’d argue in favor of the cake itself, too. Spelt flour, my favorite whole grain flour, gives it a tender crumb and a lovely, rustic shade. I thought about incorporating cornmeal but decided to keep things very simple; I also didn’t feel like having too much extra texture in there. Sierra and I sifted and whisked and it all came together in less than a half hour: a lovely blend of sweet cake and slightly tart rhubarb that, i if done right, caramelizes just the tiniest, crispiest bit along the round edges.

It was so good warm that I had to refrain from eating a larger-than-necessary piece. And of course also wonderful straight from the fridge with your morning cup of coffee or tea. Cheers to spring. Or autumn.

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