Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Rhubarb buttermilk pound cake

Back home people are off to celebrate Vappu (Walpurgis Night). In Finland Vappu is one of the major holidays. People gather on the 30th of April and first of May for picnics in the parks and drink oodles of champagne (or any other alcoholic beverage, at least later in the evening). Particularly students tend to party hardy on Vappu. It's also pretty much tradition that the weather is very unpredictable during this outdoor event. I have distinct memories of icy wind and sleet and of trying to grab a bottle with fingers numb from the pain. When I was a child the family Vappu tradition was to go and see the huge bonfire in one of the villages close to where I lived. We would get balloons (you know those nice foil balloons, not the boring regular ones) and we would eat sausages and potato salad and a special donut type Vappu pastry called Tippaleipä (funnel cake). Which I will make some day. But not today. Today I will settle for a nice rhubarb bundt cake and think of all my friends who are partying and enjoying the day off tomorrow. I will, however, be enjoying a morning without a hangover, which might be the envy of some. But unfortunately I will still have to go to work.

This cake is not my fault. This cake is what happens when your best friend moves to another country, and donates the contents of her fridge and freezer to you. And I have a very small freezer, so I had to use up most of the things she gave me. I threw a mixed lot of pork, tomato passata, beans, sugarsnaps, dried mushrooms, barley and chickpeas in a slow cooker. I love my slow cooker, you can throw anything in there, and it comes out an undefined mushy consistency and you just eat it without asking too many questions. All sorts of sins have been hidden in a slow cooked tomato passata based stew. As I will also be moving in exactly one month, I really have to work hard to empty out my kitchen. Especially as I'm moving into a house with a kitchen even more stocked to the brim than mine. And that kitchen also needs to be emptied before the upcoming Big Move. But more about that later.

What this rant is really about is a bag of frozen rhubarb. When I was growing up, we had a rhubarb plant growing in our garden. And I wasn't too appreciative of rhubarb in those days. It was quite a substantial plant, and produced more rhubarb than we consumed, so my mum was happy to give some away to anybody who asked. These days, I would be so happy to have that rhubarb plant at hand. But for now I have to stick to store bought rhubarb, and it tends to be quite expensive except in high season, so any rhubarb outside of that short timespan is precious. So of course I had to use it right up. The other day I picked up a jar of buttermilk from the grocery store with no specific plan in mind. Seems like there was a bigger plan in action that day, as that buttermilk turned out to be a perfect companion with my gift of rhubarb. And the spoils from my friend's freezer also contained lemons (who knew you could freeze lemons, but apparently you can!) So I threw rhubarb and buttermilk into google, and out came this. I didn't make any big alterations to the recipe, except I only made 2/3 of the original recipe, hence the somewhat whacky measures for some things and I didn't change the amounts of some ingredients like the lemon zest, baking powder or lemon oil (yes, I'm inconsistent and you should not do what I did but use the original recipe instead unless you are a crazy kitchen rebel). The amount of ingredients listed below are what I used, for the full sized cake, see the original recipe.
Rhubarb buttermilk bundt cake:
150 g butter at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
zest of one lemon (somewhat increased from the original recipe, but hey, I like lemon)
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 cup all purpose and 3/4 cups brown because that's what I had on hand)
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon oil (like the original recipe, I didn't have any so I used lemon extract)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups rhubarb cut into small pieces

juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp very soft butter
1.5-2 cups icing sugar

The howto:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (original recipe says 175 degrees C/350 degrees F) and butter a bundt cake tin. Using an electric whisk, cream the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and keep whisking. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon oil to the butter and sugar cream, and then the buttermilk and flour in small, alternating, batches. Don't over mix. Finally, gently fold in the rhubarb (which according to the original recipe should first be tossed with a few tbsp flour). Transfer batter into the bundt pan and bake for about 30 minutes, then rotate your tin in the oven and bake for another approximately 20-25 minutes. Let cool for about 30 minutes. While the cake is cooling, mix the ingredients for the glaze. After cooling the cake, remove from tin and drizzle the glaze on top.

The verdict:
I'm not traditionally a big fan of bundt cakes. But this one has both rhubarb and buttermilk, so I thought there is probably not too much risk that it would turn out dry. And I was indeed right! This is the most decadently moist bundt cake I have ever had. It was absolute perfection. I hate recipes that say the cake was even better the next day, because who has time to wait. But I have to be blunt, this cake really was even better the next day when the moisture had seeped all through the cake and it had cooled completely. Not saying it was bad right after baking either, but it was just somehow more balanced the next day. So this is definitely something you can make ahead of time. 

I had one little technical difficulty with this cake. I had a really hard time removing the cake from the pan, as you can see from the pictures. But this was completely my own fault as I couldn't be bothered to butter the cake tin. I thought the non-stick coating would be enough to prevent it from sticking. Well, it wasn't. But that just gave me an excuse to drizzle the glaze on extra thickly. And everyone knows the glaze is always the best part anyways. I was actually going to add white chocolate drops into the cake as well, and I think they would have complemented the rhubarb really nicely, but at the same time, I like it that the cake wasn't too sweet and the rhubarb flavour came through really strongly. But I might try it some other time with the chocolate added in. And this cake batter would probably work really well for any sort of berry or fruit cake. I can imagine strawberries would be great, or maybe peaches or even pineapple. 

Card of the day:
As Vappu is the start of spring, I thought today's card should be something spring-y. Flowers, butterflies and pretty colours. I used Tim Holtz Distess inks Spun Sugar, Broken China and Bundled sage to stamp flowers and swirly patterns onto cream cardstock. I then embossed with a swirly embossing folder (using the rolling pin method, as I don't think I can buy my much awaited Big Shot until I have a craft room where I can actually put said thing). I cut out the scalloped ovals using scissors (I have this smart system where I have printed different shapes onto paper, and then using a permanent marker, traced the shapes onto a transparent sheet, cut that out and then used a pencil to trace the outline onto cardstock and then cut that out. Easy and convenient, right?). I stamped parts of the swirly stamp onto my scalloped ovals, embossed using clear embossing powder and then used ink blending foam to ink the edges of the scalloped ovals. I used Antique Linen distress ink to stamp the Hero Arts Flourish Background onto an oval of cream cardstock, and then Vintage Photo or Chipped Sapphire distress ink to stamp the butterfly. I used the foam to blend some distress inks around the edges of the butterfly ovals as well as the background. Finished with ribbons and bows, and matted with coloured cardstock before attaching to white cardstock. If these cards don't epitomise spring, I don't know what will.

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