Rhubarb comes in many varieties that range from deep red to mostly green.
We prefer the more brightly hued varieties for baking because their beautiful color pops, but the good news is that rhubarb varieties taste very similar.
Just make sure to remove any leaves from the stalks before cooking, as they are poisonous.
An upside-down cake is a great way to highlight just about any fruit, but this version is especially nice. The cake batter is light, fluffy, and speckled with just enough rye flour to make it interesting. As the cake bakes, the tart rhubarb juices caramelize into a delicious sauce that soaks into the cake as it cooks. This is perfect with a little vanilla ice cream on the side.
MAKES ONE 9-INCH CAKE
1 pound rhubarb, leaves removed, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 vanilla bean
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup rye flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1⁄2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
Lightly sweetened whipped cream or ice cream, to serve (optional)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 ºF. Butter a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan, 3 inches tall, line it with parchment paper, and butter that too. Dust the pan and paper with flour.
To make the rhubarb topping
Use the tip of a knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; reserve the pod for another use. Combine the sugar, butter, vanilla seeds, lemon zest, and salt in a skillet and set over medium low heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and butter begin to melt together, then add the rhubarb. Cook the rhubarb, turning it occasionally in the pan, until it is juicy, tender, and slightly caramelized but not falling apart, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour the rhubarb and its juices into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Set aside while you prepare the cake batter.
To make the cake
In a medium bowl, whisk the all purpose and rye flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together at medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix for 30 seconds. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk in three additions and mix until just combined. Carefully pour the batter over the rhubarb in the pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan gently on the counter to remove any air bubbles. If using a springform pan, set it on a baking sheet to catch any potential leakage.
Bake the cake until the top is golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then carefully invert onto a serving platter. Remove the parchment paper and reposition any rhubarb that has stuck to the paper. Cut into wedges and serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, if you like. This cake is best served the day that it’s made.
As featured in the Spring issue of Beekman 1802 Almanac Magazine. For more check out SWEETER OFF THE VINE, by Yossy Arefi, copyright © 2016, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.