Hooray for Rhubarb!

Sometimes I find it hard to recognize my childhood memories as being about the real me.
I have no trouble recalling the loquaciousness, the adorability, or (I admit it!) the mule-like stubbornness of the young Tinky.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe that I spent my earliest years disliking some of the foods I now adore.
I thought spinach was bitter and ugly.
I disliked Chinese food so much that when my parents wanted to teach me to eat with chopsticks they fed me ravioli. (By the way, ravioli are A LOT harder to pick up with chopsticks than most Chinese food.)
And I was determined not to eat rhubarb in any form.
Today I’m thrilled to see fresh spinach at a farmstand. I long for Chinese food regularly.
Rhubarb represents my biggest conversion. Rhubarb is probably my favorite fruit. Don’t bother to tell me that it’s not really a fruit. I know. We treat it as a fruit, however.
Rhubarb is beautiful. It’s resilient. It’s sweet and tart simultaneously. And it’s versatile. (Gosh, I just realized that I may love rhubarb because IT’S LIKE ME!)
Today I am happy to post my first rhubarb recipe of this spring, courtesy of Sue Haas of Seattle, Washington, a regular reader of this blog. Sue received it in turn from her mother in Albion, Michigan, a bastion of rhubarb almost as strong as my own western Massachusetts.
Their cake is excellent for supper or even for breakfast. The marshmallows (yes, marshmallows!) tone down the tartness of the rhubarb, and the cake is substantial without being over heavy.

Before I get to the recipe, I’d like to remind readers that I have several other rhubarb recipes on this blog, including cole slaw, crumble, salsa, and soda. And then there’s the rhubarb baked Alaska….

Michigan Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
for the topping:
3 cups rhubarb (1/2-inch chunks)
3/4 cup sugar
10 large marshmallows, cut in half
for the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 10-inch iron skillet, and arrange the rhubarb pieces in the bottom. (If you don’t have a 10-inch skillet, use an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.) Sprinkle the sugar on top, followed by the marshmallows.
For the cake cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the baking powder and salt. Stir in the flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla, and pour the batter over the rhubarb mixture.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center (but not too far down; don’t hit the rhubarb!) comes out clean, about 50 minutes. If the cake is brown but not done before this happens, decrease the oven temperature and continue baking.
Allow the cake to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife, and invert the cake onto a serving plate held over the skillet. Turn upside down. Remove skillet.

Serve alone or with whipped cream. Serves 12.

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13 Responses to “Hooray for Rhubarb!”

  1. Flaneur says:

    Tinky, I have been one of your readers fortunate enough to have tasted many of your cakes in their original form, i.e., actually baked by you. The cakes have always been delicious. But this morning you’re asking us to take a significant leap of faith: marshmallows with rhubarb? Surely Dr. Tinky, you must be joking? After a lovely tribute to the rhubarb you love, and after a very appealing photograph of the finished upside-down cake, you show us the underbelly of the beast and it’s encrusted with marshmallows? Oh, dear. I’d like to suggest that this affront to rhubarb (your suggestion that the marshmallow tames the rhubarb’s tanginess notwithstanding) is akin to serving caviar with peanut butter. And, in a sense, rhubarb is the caviar of the fruit realm – a cultivated taste, perhaps, bursting not with the essence of the ocean but the garden instead. But… you may be right.

    So, in the spirit of culinary generosity, may we make a similar gesture to Midwestern culinary adaptations, thanking Michiganders for their inspiration, wondering perhaps whether they might have had mallow (an edible fruit, Genus Malva, family Malvaceae) in mind, and offering a New Englander spin on their cherished S’mores recipe: keep the Graham crackers and the marshmallow, but substitute rhubarb for the chocolate. That ought to dampen an infinite number of childhood campfires on the shores of the Great Lakes.

  2. Sue Haas says:

    Wow. The mention of marshmallows with rhubarb seems to have touched a nerve with “Flaneur.” And the fact that the recipe came from Michigan… All I can recommend is that he/she try the recipe. The marshmallows provide a moist, vanilla-laced sweetness to the tart rhubarb. I’d like to see “Flaneur’s” favorite rhubarb dessert recipe…Is it served following a big bowl of clam chowder?

  3. tinkyweisblat says:

    Not to worry, Sue; Flaneur actually owns a home in Michigan so I’m sure he meant no disrespect to that state. But he’s clearly not a marshmallow guy! I believe his favorite rhubarb dessert would be my rhubarb baked Alaska–but it’s possible he’d go for pie……

  4. DanW says:

    This pie recipe is from a neighbor in Wisconsin back in the 70s. The cream and sugar make a rich, sweet contrast to the tartness of the rhubarb. My favorite way to eat this is straight out of the refrigerator for breakfast.

    Rhubarb Pie

    1 1/2 cups sugar
    2 tablespoon flour
    1 cup heavy cream
    3 cup rhubarb

    Mix sugar and flour, add cream, and mix. Place rhubarb in prepared pie shell. Pour liquid mixture over rhubarb. Top with a lattice crust.

    Bake at 425 for 5 minutes
    Reduce to 325 for 55 minutes

  5. tinkyweisblat says:

    Dan–Your pie looks amazing–and so simple! I’ll definitely try it (particularly the refrigerator part). Thank you.

  6. DanW says:

    I actually haven’t made this pie in a while (though I’ve been dying for a slice); I need to find a rhubarb source closer than my in-laws in Maine. I did see some in a store the other day, but it was more than $4 a pound!

  7. I have never heard of such a thing but I think it sounds fantastic!! My husband will eat anything with marshmallows and I, too, am a huge rhubarb fan like yourself-Thanks!

  8. Oh yum – that looks good to me. When we were children, my Dad grew rhubarb in the garden – we would sometimes have a (raw) piece, with some sugar in a paper bag to dip it in. My Mum made rhubarb pies in the summer – she would line the pie dish with shortcrust pastry, chop rhubarb into inch lengths (approx), sprinkle sugar over, put pastry on the top (cutting a little hole in the centre to vent the steam) – sorry, I can’t remember how long she baked it for, but the rhubarb would be soft, and the sugar would have mixed with the juice from the rhubarb ….. she also made apple pie the same way (oh, I’ve just remembered she also did one with currants) Sadly I haven’t inherited her talent (yesterday’s bread mix came from a packet – all I had to do was add water and knead it!)

  9. tinkyweisblat says:

    Dan, it sounds to me as though it might be worth buying just a little rhubarb to make that pie! EveryDay, I know your husband will love this. Frayed, I love the sound of your mother’s cooking. And if you can knead, you can make just about any bread……

  10. vicky says:

    Tinky!!!! I made this yesterday and it was so yummy 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!!!

  11. tinkyweisblat says:

    I’m so glad, Vicky! It’s always nice to know I’m not imagining that recipes work…….

  12. I tasted my first rhubarb in a pie in Northern Idaho when I was twelve. The combination of sweet and sour was wonderful! This looks like a recipe worth trying too. I posted it to my Facebook and Twitter today.

  13. Judy says:

    I love Rhubarb. A lot of people think I am nuts. Thanks for the tips.

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