Of rhubarb and cake by Kellie Anderson
I first met Kellie Anderson a couple of years ago at Food Blogger Connect having followed her blog, Food to Glow, for a while. Dedicated to bringing healthy, seasonal plant based food to the people of Scotland and beyond, I’m delighted that she has taken the time to write for A Scots Larder and I can’t wait to make this cake with one of my favourite ‘fruits’ which is in season right now.
The first, slender shocking-pink stalks of January’s forced rhubarb have come and gone. And at quite a ticket. Did you take home a paltry bundle at exorbitant price like I did? If so, did you roast it to enjoy with slices of blood orange, or poach it gently under foil? Did you pair it with apples under a blanket of nubbly crumble and dig in with a spoon? Or did you stew it to silky strands with spoons of sugar and fold it into an airy cloud of whipped cream?
Am I making you hungry? Yeah, me too.
We rhubarb-heads just can’t seem to wait for garden rhubarb. As lovely as it is to see and eat those first tender stems, I do prefer the more robust – and I reckon more flavourful – stalks of spring. And, for the price to float down to more reasonable levels. Early forced rhubarb is cosseted stuff – all candle-lit and under canopy – hence the terrific price. But now anyone who grows it themselves in a back garden or allotment is inundated with a triffid-like forest of pink and green. From a single plant. Overnight those proud pinky-green stalks, that manage to be both architectural and primitive, seem to sprout into canopied trees, requiring the skills of an arboriculturist to manage. But luckily they are still darn tasty.
Many of you will already know that rhubarb is not in fact a fruit but a vegetable, albeit one that we treat almost exclusively as a fruit: a resilient, versatile, cold-loving vegetable. And it was brought to Edinburgh (!) from the Far East by Sir Alexander Dick in the 18th century. It quickly became a feature in the kitchen garden, and highly valued as a source of fibre and vitamins, especially during the privations of the Second World War. In China, the anti-bacterial properties of rhubarb are used in Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments, many to do with detoxification and ‘draining heat from the body’. In Western medicine it is perhaps best known for its high concentration of infection-fighting Vitamin C, for its capacity to reduce cholesterol and its action as a natural laxative. Those with gout or rheumatoid arthritis should perhaps not indulge in rhubarb as unfortunately it can aggravate these conditions.
It may look a bit “plain Jane” (an expression really not fair to any Jane that I know); the taste is anything but. This is one of my husband’s favourite cakes. It requires nothing but a plate or a napkin to eat, but roasted fruit and a dollop of cream is always welcome.
Very Vanilla and Turmeric Polenta Cake with Roasted Rhubarb and Grapes
This is suitable for those with coeliac disease and a soft diet. Dairy-free and gluten-free, too.
150ml light rapeseed oil/light olive oil/virgin coconut oil
125g unrefined caster sugar OR coconut palm sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp turmeric
175 g ground almonds
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract OR seeds from one vanilla pod (I use a pod most times)
3 medium eggs
3-4 stalks of rhubarb
double handful of black or red seedless grapes
2 tbsp unrefined caster sugar or coconut sugar
- Oil and baselinean 11 x 7 inch/27.5 x 18cm (approx) pan. Preheat oven to 180 C/160 C fan/350F. Have your baking paper reach up from two sides so that you can pull the cake out easily when cool. Or use a loose-bottomed tin. I used a loose-bottomed bundt tin, carefully oiling all of the crevices.
- Beat together the oil and sugar. I use a stand-mixer and let it rip for about 4-5 minutes. Pour in the polenta, baking powder, turmeric, almonds, vanilla and eggs. Mix well and pour into the prepared tin. Although I use a stand mixer for this, strong arms or electric beaters are fine.
- Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, checking at 20 minutes and perhaps covering with foil to prevent burning. I usually take it out at 25 for a slightly softer cake. For a bundt you will want to shave off about five minutes. You can also make this in a well-greased muffin tin (uses 9-10 holes); bake these for about 20 minutes, but check at 15. The top of the cake or muffins should be golden brown in patches and juststarting to pull away from the sides of the tin.
- Let the cake stand for about 20 minutes before pulling it out by the baking paper ‘handle’ and onto a serving board or plate. If you use a bundt tin, just cool and flip it out. It should ideally be just almost imperceptibly soft in the middle; certainly not at all dry.
Serve barely warm, or cold, with the roasted fruit compote and/or vanilla custard (and!).
The Fruit: While the cake is baking, prepare the fruit. Wash and slice the rhubarb (see image), and toss it with the grapes and sugar. Pour the fruit/vegetables onto a baking paper-lined baking tray, cover lightly with a sheet of foil, and bake in the oven until the rhubarb is tender – about 25 minutes. Allow to cool. Serve with the cake or keep for adding to yogurt, porridge or cereal.
The cake makes 12-16 pieces and freezes well once sliced.
Living in Edinburgh for more years than she cares to admit, Kellie Anderson is an ex-pat American cancer health educator with a taste for global food – and big flavours – made with fresh, seasonal British ingredients. Her blog Food To Glow is mainly ‘plant-based’, but you will find the occasional decadent treat – usually with a healthy tweak.
Recipe and images property of Kellie Anderson