Here in Montana, it seemed like we skipped winter this year. I know it’s crazy to say, since we usually get hit with some pretty cold temps and bad snow storms; but at least according to the trees and plants, summer is here! Rhubarb is out in full swing, and I have to admit that I’ve never thought I was a very big fan. It always seemed stalky and tough and almost like celery, and in my mind, it was just…weird.
I also have never been a fan of bread pudding, or anything that’s (in my mind) soggy or soupy. Bread is supposed to be bread not mush, and pudding is supposed to be creamy, not crumby and spongy. But both of these apprehensions were completely forgotten with this pudding cake. It really is something else.
It’s not your typical rhubarb pairing; one of the reasons I never really used rhubarb before is because strawberry-rhubarb is usually all I see, and to put it bluntly, that pairing has been pretty overused and I’m not a huge fan of the mix to begin with. But the use of cardamom with a punch of lemon zest in this recipe kicks it up a level or three.
I found this recipe in an article about rhubarb taste pairings, and they quote it as being from Kim Ode’s book, titled “Rhubarb Renaissance”. The only thing I tweaked was adding a bit more lemon zest; she only called for 1 tsp, but I added an entire lemon which came out to be just under a loose tablespoon. I was going to cut the sugar (since I usually find most dessert recipes way too sweet for my taste), but due to the tartness of the rhubarb and the fact that I haven’t worked with rhubarb that much, I followed her instructions to start out. You could probably cut down a little bit on the sugar if you want to, but I will say that as-written it’s not overly sweet.
I’m all about not dirtying up more dishes that I need to, so here are some things that I do to save those two seconds it would take to put one more dish in the dish washer:
I make a lot of “flour wells” so I don’t have to mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. I use my pyrex measuring dishes as bowls to mix ingredients. I use an already-dirty measuring cup to make a well in the dry ingredients. I use my already-dirty metal 1 cup measuring cup to melt butter over my gas stove. I beat any eggs I’m using in that same measuring cup instead of a normal bowl. I will rinse a fork or spatula after using it for wet ingredients to toss the dry. I will use an incorrectly sized measuring cup to eyeball the correct amount (“yeaahh that looks like about half a cup”). If there is a recipe that says it “only uses one bowl!” I am ALL OVER IT. I probably spend way more time figuring out how to dirty fewer dishes than the time it would take to just wash the ones I need.
Am I just crazy, or does anyone else do this???
If you’re not insane like me about making dirty dishes, you can use a small ice cream scoop (about the size you would use for cookies) to evenly drop some plops on top of the rhubarb. It’s also easy enough to do with two large spoons, again kind of like making drop cookies.
Use those two spoons to gently pull and spread the batter as best as you can to cover as much of the rhubarb as possible. Doesn’t have to be perfect!
This topping is key! It goes on after the sticky stuff and it bakes up into an unbelievably light and sweet and crumby top. This is also where the magic happens with the cardamom and lemon zest; something about this combination is just perfect. It’s not too heavy on any flavor, but the citrus gives a brightness to the cardamom, and the two of those balance out sugar and the tartness of the rhubarb.
After sprinkling it over the batter, we’ll drown the goop and fruit with 1 1/4 cup of boiling water, which results in a pretty nasty-looking concoction; just shove it in the oven real quick before anyone else sees it, and you’ll be safe.
Am I right? It looks like wet playdough pulled out of the kitchen sink drain. Blegh. Quick, shove it in the oven!
After baking for 50 minutes or so, it comes out like this. It should be bubbly, with a beautiful light brown crispy top. And yes, it comes out half eaten too. I definitely did not eat 54 square inches of cake before I could even get picture taken. (Okay fine, maybe I did, with some help from the hubby. Are we the only ones who eat out of the pan like this? Please tell me we’re not alone!)
Cardamom Rhubarb Pudding Cake
5 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used one bunch from the farmers market; about 6 med/large stalks)
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (white or packed brown)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbls melted butter
2/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbls corn starch
1/2 tsp cardamom
Grated lemon zest from one lemon
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1. Preheat oven to 350, and spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
2. Spread rhubarb in the bottom of the baking pan.
3. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center, then add the wet ingredients (butter, milk, egg, and vanilla). This batter will be very sticky, almost like a wet cookie dough. Drop plops of the dough evenly over the rhubarb, then spread as much as possible to cover the rhubarb.
4. Toss together the dry ingredients of the topping, and sprinkle it evenly over the batter. Pour the boiling water over the entire cake, and bake for 50 minutes till bubbly and lightly brown on top. Let cool for 20 minutes (if you can wait that long!) and serve with ice cream.