rhubarb cake

Happy Easter everyone! We’re back on this bright and sunny Sunday with our ninth bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. We’ve loved everything we’ve made so far from the Loaf Cakes and Single Layer Cakes section of the book, but this is probably the last really “simple” bake we’ll have for a while; the recipes that are left in this chapter aren’t overly complicated but definitely more unique and involved in terms of steps and preparation, and we’re so excited to make them!

After a few weeks of non-seasonal recipes, we are finally getting in to some spring flavours with this Rhubarb Cake.

Lauren’s Take

Hello friends! So a lot of big, top-tier news items to share this week. First we reached 1000 followers on our Instagram this week and I’m still in shock over it. Second, I turned 27 this week and have officially entered into my late 20s and I’m still in shock over it. And lastly, and maybe the most shocking news, my partner said he liked this cake more than the Poppy Seed Almond one (and if that’s not big news, I don’t know what is).

This week we stepped into the spring flavours with this Rhubarb Cake. Now, my only experience with rhubarb has been in a strawberry rhubarb pie, so I wasn’t quite sure how rhubarb would hold up as the main feature in a baked good. I also find the taste of rhubarb kind of hard to pin-point, so it was great to have this experience to truly let rhubarb shine. And man oh man, does Claire make it a star. You use the rhubarb in three ways in this dessert: as a mash that combines in the batter, pieces of rhubarb that are folded in, and on top as decoration.

Even though rhubarb has just come into season, I wasn’t able to find it at my local grocery store; Julia informed me that you can find it in the frozen aisle often so that’s what I used and it worked out well (also meant I didn’t have to figure out how to cut and trim rhubarb, so always a win in my book). Like I mentioned, you start off by making a rhubarb mash, which just involves heating and reducing rhubarb in a saucepan and then adding baking soda once it’s cooled; adding baking soda and watching the rhubarb foam was extremely satisfying and brought me right back to Grade 5 science class. Otherwise, this is a very easy dessert to whip up. The batter is super moist; it uses a decent amount of sugar to balance the tart of the rhubarb and the addition of Greek yogurt makes for an extremely moist batter. Claire also included orange zest in the recipe; I find orange zest decently strong, so I only used about half of what was recommended and it balanced out perfectly.

This cake checks all the boxes for me; it’s super soft and moist, very light, not too sweet, and has the perfect balance of flavour. The rhubarb taste comes through so well and the orange zest really helped to round everything out. I thoroughly enjoy this cake and will definitely make it again with fresh rhubarb. 5 stars for me! I may or may not be rhubarb’s newest fan.

Julia’s Take

I was really excited to make this loaf because I looove rhubarb. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a big fan of overly ripe fruits or veggies; I would not call myself a picky eater at all, but if produce is too soft or too sweet, it’s just not my fave. Especially with fruit, if it’s slightly under-ripe or tart, I’ll be into it. Rhubarb is technically a vegetable (didn’t know that til this week…), and is known for its crisp, more sour flavour which is exactly why I like it so much.

Rhubarb season doesn’t start until a bit later here in Ontario, so Lauren and I weren’t sure we’d be able to make this recipe right away, but luckily we both managed to find bags of frozen rhubarb. Mine came in small pieces mixed with strawberries, so it took me a little bit of time to separate out the rhubarb chunks, and the design on the top didn’t work out as well as it would have if I was using full stalks, but overall the frozen pieces were a good substitute to the real deal.

Claire’s recipe calls for rhubarb in a few different places: the top of the cake, a rhubarb mash inside the batter, and chunks of rhubarb folded in to the cake before baking. After cooking down the rhubarb with some water to make an applesauce-like puree, the recipe says to add a teaspoon of baking soda; this apparently helps neutralize the flavour and ensures your cake will rise properly despite the extra acid. Claire warns that there will be a bit of a reaction when you do this but I still somehow wasn’t expecting for much to happen. As soon as you add the baking soda though, the whole mixture fizzes, foams up, and turns this really disgusting shade of grey—and it just gets worse the more you stir it around. Definitely the least appetizing thing I’ve seen while baking a cake.

Despite the different forms of rhubarb that are added in to the cake, I still didn’t find it was the most prominent flavour. This could have been partially my fault because I think I went a little overboard on the orange zest; when all you get in a bite is the cake itself, all you taste is orange but the chunks of rhubarb throughout the loaf help to cut through that and give you that distinct tartness that makes rhubarb desserts so great. There is a lot of sugar that goes in to this recipe, but Claire says it still doesn’t come out as an overly sweet loaf, and she was right!

I was pretty happy with how the top of the cake turned out. Since I didn’t have stalks, I cut the frozen pieces into thinner coin-size pieces and then placed them sideways down in a line, with the pink skin facing up, to sort of create the same effect. Some of the thinner pieces got a bit dark during baking, but overall I mostly achieved what I was going for!

This recipe didn’t completely blow me away, and is pretty much exactly what you would expect to get from a rhubarb loaf, but it was really delicious and the perfect thing to bake on this beautiful Easter weekend. I give this bake 3-stars!

We have a really unique bake coming up next week: Rice Pudding Cake with Mango Caramel. See you then!

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