Friday, May 27, 2016

Long Weekend Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

A short time ago, I asked on Facebook if people wanted to have a rhubarb or cherry recipe in the June newsletter.

And the answer came back - yes. More specifically, that there were good reasons for both. Cherries - so summery! Rhubarb - so southern! And my uncle in particular reminded me of my family's southern roots (my father's family hailing from Dallas, as they do).

Two recipes would make the newsletter very long - I aim for it to be pleasant and breezy - so this is the compromise - rhubarb on the blog, cherries for the newsletter.

The origins of the upside-down cake are very much European, but became particularly popular at the beginning of the 20th century on both sides of the Atlantic. In early American cooking, home cooks would use cast-iron skillets with feet, called spider skillets. The fruit and sugar would go into the bottom, and batter would be poured over the top, with the skillet being placed over the fire to cook.

In France, there's the tarte tatin, an inverted apple tart with pastry over the top. Either way, the basics are the same - fruit on the bottom and cake on the top, so that when the cake is inverted the fruit adorns the top and the juices cover the sides.

With this cake, the lemon-scented batter is thick but cooks up into a dense but moist crumb. The rhubarb goes into the pan raw and comes out perfectly cooked and gleaming in sugared juices, which will cover the sides of the cake as well.

And if you're anxious for a cherries? Be sure you're signed up for the newsletter!

~ Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake ~

2 sticks butter, at room temperature, divided, plus more to grease the pan
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (two cups white flour is fine, if that's what you have)
1 1/2 lbs rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup white sugar, divided
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk strained yogurt (I used Siggis - one container works perfectly)
2 tsps lemon juice.

1. Place the oven rack at the lower third of the oven. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, one with 3-inch sides. You'll need the height. To fit it best, trace the bottom of the pan onto the paper and cut it out, and then cut out strips to go along the sides. Butter the pan, and place the paper on top.You can notch the tops of paper sides to help them lay flatter against the pan. Butter the tops of the parchment paper as well. 

2. Mix the flours, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

3. Stir together the rhubarb, cornstarch, and 1/2 cup of the white sugar (it's okay to eyeball this). Set aside.

4. Stir the remaining half of the white sugar together with the lemon zest, and use your fingers to mix the zest in evenly. And then, yes, set that aside too. 

5. With the paddle attachment fitted to your stand mixer, whip 1 1/2 sticks of butter for two minutes on medium speed. 

6. While the mixer is running, melt the remaining 1/2 stick of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir together, and allow to cook while stirring until the mixture is smooth and beginning to bubble. Remove the pan from the heat and (say it with me) set aside.

7. Now things start to come together! Take a moment to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl (the one with the butter), and return it to medium speed. Add the lemon sugar, and allow to beat for another four minutes - it'll start to look pale and airy. 

8. While the mixer is beating the butter and lemon-y sugar to a froth, pour the brown sugar mixture into the cake pan, and use a slotted spoon to layer the rhubarb over the top. 

9. Add the vanilla to the butter and sugar, and then shift the mixer speed to low. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each one to fully incorporate before adding the next. Add the sour cream, followed by the lemon juice. At this point, the batter will look weird and curdled. It's okay. Carry on. 

9. Pause to scrape down the bowl again, and then turn the speed back to medium. Add the flour mixture a spoonful at a time, letting it begin to blend before adding the next, stopping just once fully mixed.

10. Pour the batter over the top of the rhubarb, and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake for an hour and fifteen minutes, or until the cake looks nicely browned on top and a tester comes out clean.

11. After baking, allow the cake to cool for about 30 minutes. then place your plate beneath the cake pan (you'll likely want to be using oven mitts for this) and giver 'er a flip. Wiggle the pan a bit to loosen it, and then lift straight up. If you use the parchment paper (which you did, right??) it should separate beautifully.

12. Serve warm, with whipped cream or ice cream - though it's plenty nice on its own. Makes about 8 servings (but if you aim for 6, I won't judge). Enjoy!

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