Name almost any fruit, followed by the words “upside down cake”, and my ears perk up. Imagine my thrill when I saw a recipe in a 1962 edition Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for rhubarb upside down cake. It is a spectacular idea. Rhubarb is a personal favorite–I love its tangy bite when raw (never eat the leaves-they are toxic) and its unctuous mouthfeel when cooked. It seems a perfect fruit for an upside down cake because it has a nice snappy tartness that would contrast well with a rich cake. Unfortunately, the Better Homes and Gardens recipe from the 1960s called for, among other things, strawberry jello, red food coloring and cake mix. I don’t have anything against the idea of cake mix, but in reality they usually contain lots of unidentifiable and non-food ingredients. Jello and red food coloring….yes, I do have something against those things. More unidentifiable and non-food substances. The recipe needed updating.
I started with the rhubarb. Instead of the 1/2 cup fruit, jello and food coloring I used 2 generous cups fruit, brown sugar and the juice of an orange. Tossed them all together and laid into a well buttered 9″ cake pan. I tried to be creative and cut the rhubarb into batons, but honestly just simple slices would work just as well. It cooks down to a soft fruit, so cut any which way you would like. For the cake batter, I adapted the recipe from the Chez Panisse Cafe cookbook, which calls for a final step of folding whipped egg whites into the batter. I wanted to see if there was a way to skip that step, so I added an extra egg and whipped the butter, sugar and egg on high for a full 6 minutes before adding the other ingredients. The batter is then poured over the fruit, the whole thing gets popped in the oven and….success! This is a fantastic cake and perfect served warm with a nice dollop of whipped cream.
|Rhubarb Upside Down Cake|
- 2 generous cups rhubarb
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- juice of 1 orange
- 1 stick butter, softened, plus 2 TBLS for buttering the cake pan
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup AP flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Butter the cake pan with 2 TBLS butter.
- Slice the rhubarb. If it is very old and tough, you can peel it. If not, just slice it into 1/2 thick slices.
- Toss rhubarb, orange juice and brown sugar until everything is mixed and well coated.
- Pour the fruit mixture into the cake pan.
- In the bowl of a mixer, mix the butter and sugar for 2 minutes on high.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on medium high for 6 minutes, until very light and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients.
- Slowly and gently mix 1/2 of the dry ingredients, then 1/2 of the milk. Repeat and mix until just blended.
- Pour the cake batter over the fruit in the cake pan.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- If the cake is getting too dark on top, place a piece of foil over the top for the remaining cooking time.
- Let cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a plate.