Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

With rhubarb coming out of our ears and a new volunteer arriving, it seemed high time to bake a rhubarb dessert. I’ve always had a soft spot for upside-down cake, and Saveur’s recipe looked downright irresistable.

Unfortunately, this cake turned out to be an unequivocal flop. I’m sure the fault lies not with the recipe, nor the liberties I took with it, but rather that the temperature dial no longer matches up with the actual temperature of the oven.  In this case, the cake would not bake. After five hours, it finally firmed up and browned slightly. I deemed it done as it ever would be, desparate to get a few hours of sleep. Unfortunately, when I went to cut it the next morning, the liquid from the rhubarb topping had “unbaked” it back into a soggy, doughy mess.

The flavor, however, was this long-suffering cake’s redeeming grace, as we kept returning for another slice and then another. The rhubarb topping is a delightful explosion of flavor, also great on top of oatmeal or spread on a piece of bread.

I can’t wait to finally give this recipe a chance to shine, as soon as I have rhubarb and a working oven again!

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake


3/4 pound rhubarb, cut into 1″ pieces

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Cake batter:

2 cups flour (half whole wheat)

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

6 tbsp. chilled butter (or 1/2 cup oil)

1/4 tsp. salt

2 eggs (or flax eggs)

1/2 cup milk (I used hemp milk)

Cook topping in a 9″ cast iron skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and rhubarb is tender and slightly carmelized.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then add cubes of  chilled butter or oil and work in with a pastry cutter or your fingers. Stir in milk and eggs to form a soft, sticky dough. The batter will be very thick. If necessary, thin with additional milk, a tablespoon at a time, then drop spoonfuls of dough onto the rhubarb topping and smooth with a spatula. Bake at 375ºF for about 30 minutes, until golden and a knife comes out clean. Remove skillet from oven and turn quickly onto the plate. Let cool slightly, then enjoy!

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can cook the topping in a small saucepan, then pour it into the bottom of a greased cake pan (with a removable bottom if you have one).

This entry was posted in Breads and Baked Goods, Flops with Promise, Snacks and Sweets, Vegan and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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