Monday 23 May 2016

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

Reading about rhubarb (well, to be honest mainly just looking at pretty Pinterest images ) got me thinking about how much I love these stalky vegetables and it turns out - way more than I thought I already did ( yes! They're vegetables posing as fruit!! Sneaky eh?) 

I've had my trusty Victoria crop planted for just a few years now, and it never fails to stay strong and hardy through its season - in thick and then (no pun intended there) no matter how much I yank off in need of a big batch of soon springs back with gusto, albeit producing more than I could ever need (and EAT!) 

Cooked into a variety of sweets from pies to fools to crumbles, rhubarb is soooo versatile and I believe it's underrated. It also makes an excellent condominent for savoury dishes, a more vibrant use. I'm thinking a piquant chutney alongside roasted pork, the characterful sourness makes an amazing partner for a whole host of other flavours. 

Although with this particular blog recipe you could argue I've not been adventurous in the slightest here, sticking to the default that many other cooks crumble to timelessly (my pun was most definitely intended there...) However, my secret weapon beneath it all is that I've cardamom on my side. 

This moist, lightly cardamom infused sponge with a hint of vanilla for good measure as it's quite simply 'tradish', is topped with both red and green thin rhubarb stalks. I've also added custard powder and real custard within the cake batter itself and dotted on top in little clusters as well, this was in substitution of milk in a usual cake mix and it made for a more lovely light creamy texture. 

Be sure if you can't get hold of thinner rhubarb stalks to slice them in half (or even quarters as I had to do with a few of mine) or else they will sink to the bottom of the cake and you won't get to see that beautiful iridescent, pink circular pattern once baked (it would still taste damn good though!)
What I'd seen a lot of  Pinterest users do with their rhubarb cake was to sprinkle the top with some crushed sugar cubes. This adds a perfect crunch texture and harks back to a quintessentially British childhood, yet also helping to sweeten the rhubarb's piquancy. This is just a matter of personal preference and although I'd definitely recommend on adding some sugar on top, the amount is really up to you and really all depends on how tart you can take it. Also, if you're trying to cut down on your sugar intake altogether then of course the sprinkle on top can be left out.
A perfect accompaniment to this cake would be a dollop of lightly whipped cream (chantilly if you're going all out) and is equally amazing served hot or cold. Oh and one more've probably noticed that I used a tart/pie pan instead of the usual cake tin, this isn't because I forgot what I was making but just rather because I like the fluted edge it gives - those tins have more than one baked possibility you know! But if you don't have one then a regular cake tin will do. 

My recipe is inspired by this Call Me Cupcake recipe

Rhubarb  and  Custard  Cake


180g plain flour
15g custard powder ( I used Bird's brand)
1 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp cardamon seeds, finely ground
100 g softened butter + extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
130g thick homemade or ready store-bought custard

For the top:
170g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into 7 cm pieces
4-5 tbsp custard 
4 crushed sugar cubes

To serve:
icing sugar
whipped cream if desired


Heat oven to 180°C / 350°F/ gas 4. Grease and line the base of a loose bottomed pie/tart pan or springform cake tin (22-25 cm / 8-10 inches).

Mix the flour, custard powder,  baking powder and cardamom in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Fold in the flour mixture and custard in additions, and stir with a spatula until combined. Pour the batter in the prepared pan.

Dot blobs of custard in equal distribution on top of the cake batter, then place the pieces of sliced rhubarb in a circular pattern. Sprinkle with crushed sugar cubes on top.

Bake the cake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 150°C/ 300°F/ gas 2 and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes or until cake is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean inserted (where there's not a blob of custard mixture). 

If not planning to serve straight away, leave to cool on a wire rack and keep in an air-tight container. Dust with icing sugar when ready to serve. 

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