In April we were swimming in pink. The original owner of this house must have adored that color because she planted raspberry rhododendrons, neon-bright fuchsia azaleas, a cotton candy ornamental cherry tree, and a bubble gum flowering dogwood. (We took down pink drapes when we moved in, and while painting we discovered that the living room walls were once pink. Even the marble around the fireplace is a pinkish purple.)
The hue that I desperately want to see in my garden but keep failing to produce is rhubarb’s deep crimson. My second planting attempt was this February. March rains were excessive and I think the root base might have rotted. For awhile I thought there was hope, as the world’s tiniest rhubarb stalk possibly poked out, but as it grew I realized it was just a sprouting acorn, courtesy of a squirrel. So, maybe it was to blame. Either way, I’m buying rhubarb these days.
If you are lucky enough to have a free supply of rhubarb, this cake should be just your first stop among many (crisps, chutneys, bars, etc..). If your supply is limited, this would be the first sweet treat I’d make. The rhubarb’s tartness combines with the lemon’s brightness to sing of summer’s dawning. The creamy richness of the cake contrasted with the crunchy streusel makes for nice textural balance. Basically, I felt like I was simultaneously eating super moist cake and a shortbread cookie. That is truly enough for me to sing. And dance. (Again.)
Being the recipe tweaker that I am, I took down the sugar content and doubled the streusel in this Martha Stewart cake the first time I made it. I wanted to rework the streusel before sharing here, so I made it again. It’s not that I was disappointed with the first version. In fact, I stuffed my face with several pieces of it in one day and longed for it regularly until round two. I just wanted the streusel to be a little nuttier, a little crunchier. (Similar to the streusel on my favorite carrot bread.) I settled upon Thomas Keller’s almond streusel from The Bouchon Bakery cookbook. This recipe makes enough streusel for two portions. Extras will store it in the fridge or freezer. They make a mean muffin top. After you taste the streusel, you will not be sad about having leftovers, but you could always halve the recipe.
Upside down rhubarb cake with almond streusel
Cake adapted from Martha Stewart, streusel from Thomas Keller. Easily serves 12 (It’s very rich so pieces can be small. Then again, you may also eat two pieces in one day. Leftovers will hold nicely a day or two if your crowd is small.)
- 6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
- 1 pound rhubarb (about 8 thin stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick at sharp diagonal)
- 150 grams (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar, divided
- 6 3/4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, feel free to substitute up to one third with a whole grain flour. Barley worked really nicely for me.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt), full fat
- 120 grams (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
- 120 grams (1 cup + 1 tablespoon) almond flour (also known as almond meal)
- 120 grams (1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
- 0.6 grams (1/4 teaspoon) kosher salt
- 120 grams (4.2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
Preheat oven to 350℉. Let the sliced rhubarb macerate with 50 grams (1/2 cup) sugar for at least a few minutes. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (~2-inches deep) and dot the bottom of the pan with 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter cut into pieces. Place the rhubarb evenly throughout the pan (on top of the pieces of butter).
To make the cake batter, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat the remaining stick of butter (4 ounces) with 100 grams (1 cup) of sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the lemon zest and juice. Beat in one egg at a time until it’s incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Alternate beating in the dry flour mixture and the sour cream, mixing until just incorporated. Spread this evenly over the rhubarb.
Make the streusel by whisking together the almond and all-purpose flours, sugar, and salt. Add the pieces of butter and toss them to coat the pieces. Then, rub/cut them in with your fingertips until the pieces are about pea sized. Work quickly to keep the butter cold, trying not to overwork it. Sprinkle the streusel (half of it unless you halved the recipe) over the cake batter.
Bake for about one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about ten minutes, then run a knife around the edges and quickly and carefully invert it onto a cake platter (or plate) to cool and serve.