Did you know rhubarb has a second harvest in the late summer? It was news to me, but very happy news, as I’d missed the early spring crop in the busyness of starting a new job. Every time I saw rhubarb at the store, I thought, Next time. Next week. Next week I’ll have more time, more opportunities for baking, a rhubarb recipe I just can’t resist.
You know how this story ends. Finally, I said, Enough! I’ll make scones! I’ll shape the dough and freeze the scones to eat whenever the mood strikes! And then there was no rhubarb.
Taking pity on me, my friend in Tacoma sent me a jar of homemade strawberry rhubarb jam. And then another, bigger jar of strawberry rhubarb jam when the first didn’t last through a week. And then, finally, the perfect birthday present for someone like me: rhubarb from her garden.
After the freezer was stocked with scones, I still wanted rhubarb for breakfast. And I always want cake. Especially this one, with its fluffy and soft cake studded with sweet-tart rhubarb and topped with a layer of sugary crisp crumbs. I’m so grateful for that second harvest of rhubarb – and to friends who send me produce as gifts!
For the rhubarb filling:
8 ounces rhubarb, trimmed
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground ginger
For the crumbs:
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) dark brown sugar
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
1¾ cups cake flour
For the cake:
⅓ cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb ½-inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.
2. To make crumbs in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and refrigerate.
3. To prepare the cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and a spoonful of the sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until the flour is moistened. Increase the speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add the remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about ½ cup batter and set aside.
4. Scrape remaining batter into the prepared pan. Spread the rhubarb over batter. Dollop reserved batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.
5. Using your fingers, break the topping mixture into big crumbs, about ½-inch to ¾-inch in size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.