Sunday, March 21, 2010

Signs of spring: Rhubarb coffee cake

Here comes spring, and with it, fun baking with the fresh fruit of the season. And as challenging as ever (for me), finding the right mix of fruit to cake. I feel like I've been chasing that ratio for some time now. But I'm up for the challenge, of course. And as I was browsing with my fresh rhubarb in hand, I couldn't help but be impressed with the following recipe from Smitten Kitchen. And, given that we've eaten generous slices for the last three meals (yes, breakfast too, it IS fruit after all!) and the whole family has pronounced it yummers, I think I chose just fine. This cake is more "cake" than fruit, so the search for the Sher-perfect ratio does continue. But for a coffee cake, it's superb. And take the "big crumb" part of it seriously--this crumb is indeed rich and thick.

‘Big Crumb’ Coffeecake with Rhubarb
Adapted from The New York Times 6/6/07
Serves 6 to 8

Butter for greasing pan
For the rhubarb filling:
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups cake flour

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make crumbs in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add 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 set aside.

To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add 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 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

As Smitten Kitchen observes, and I heartily agree, most any fruit would work wonderfully. Next up, I'm pretty sure I'll take blueberries out for a spin. Mmm, where's the next piece?


  1. Loved the phrase in the Smitten Kitchen blog on the coffee cake..."smudge it's splendor"...

    What you sent with us is still in the car so I don't eat it up before Shelby and Kim get a chance to at least sniff it!!!

  2. Did you put ginger in your cake?

  3. Yep, put ginger in just like they asked... I think that's one of the items that helped smell up the house so nicely!


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