Rhubarb is a funny thing, at least that is what my mother thinks. For a couple of years we had a rhubarb plant in the corner of the back garden. My brother-in-law Chris had planted it together with other herbs and vegetables before he had established his fruit and vegetable garden at his seaside home. Mamma would look at the plant suspiciously calling it “quella roba de Chris” (that thing belonging to Chris), but continued to water it none-the-less when she was watering the rest of the back garden. It sprouted thick green leafy stalks and thrived in spite of my mother’s disdain for it.
Chris would come over and cut a few stalks, as did I occasionally and I usually stewed it with spices and sugar, but I never really took to it. It was green you see and call me a rhubarb snob but I liked the look of red stalks. They say the taste is the same but to me it was wrong – stewed green fruit on yoghurt for breakfast just seemed a bit weird. So I mostly ignored the plant, which died after a few years, many years before it should have (I have read that can last for a decade). Maybe its time had just come or maybe it was our elderly old ginger cat Minna, who has a touch of dementia (her current thing is to jump into the front-loader washing machine…) and she did something to the plant. By then Chris had his own seaside garden anyway and the rhubarb plant was quite neglected. A few weeks ago my mother-in-law said she had some rhubarb for me which had been organically grown by her friends. She presented me with a bag of green stalks – I thanked her profusely but looked at them in dismay – I had been expecting red stalks. They stayed in my fridge for over a week before I mustered up the courage to deal with them. They had been a gift, and I had to do something fabulous with them. So I planned a cake, a green cake.
I looked online and found Emma Dean’s fabulous recipe for rhubarb cake, which she says is the “best most delicious cake ever-seriously”. Her rhubarb is red and the cake is made with cinnamon, so I took the liberty of making some substitutions – ginger for cinnamon, and yoghurt for sour cream. And YES it was absolutely delicious! What I love about it is how moist it remains – it has freshly squeezed orange juice poured over as soon as it come out of the oven and orange zest throughout. And though it was delicious warm with a side of double cream, it was amazing the next day cold from the fridge. And I kind of like the fact that it had stripes of green rhubarb stalks throughout.
My mother loved it when I took her a piece. She recognised it immediately – it looked very much like “quella roba” that Chris used to grow in the garden, but once she got over the appearance well, it tasted just like red rhubarb would have. My mother-in-law also got a quarter of the cake and she passed it on to her friends who grew the rhubarb – I heard along the grapevine they loved the cake and I am sure you will too.
rhubarb and ginger cake
500g rhubarb (red or green), cut into 1 cm pieces
2 cups raw sugar
50g butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons powdered ginger
zest of one orange
250g Greek yoghurt
50g dark brown sugar
juice of one orange
Preheat the oven to 180C and line and grease the base and sides of a 22cm cake tin with a removable base.
Place the sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla bean paste into the bowl of your mixer and mix at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Place the four, baking powder, ginger and salt in a separate bowl and whisk lightly to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined. Fold in the orange zest, the yoghurt and lastly the rhubarb pieces.
Pour the batter into your prepared tin and flatten with a spatula. Sprinkle on the brown sugar and bake for one hour or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and pour on the orange juice. Remove from the tin after 80 minutes and serve warm or cold from the fridge, with or without a dollop of double cream. Store covered in the fridge for up to two days.