Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: sizzling (heater)
Mood: rhubarbalicious
Music: Nick Drake

Good mooooorning.

Tired this morning, but the whirring heater woke me early. Autumn's rolling in, and while for us that means sunshine and seventy-degree temps, it also means cool mornings and earlier sunsets. I'm digging it.

Thought I'd catch the end of the growing season with this recipe today. I'm making an effort here to roll somewhat with the seasons, moving into traditional and suitable flavors as the months and temperatures change, so this morning's recipe is an attempt to cling to the last few weeks of the summer rhubarb season.

Rhu-what, you say? Yeah. If you're from Northern California, where you're more accustomed to talk of fennel and arugula and truffles and Meyer lemon compote blah blah blah, you might not be so familiar with rhubarb. But if you just so happen to have grown up with an old-world German grandmother who lived on an old family farm in southeastern Nebraska and who lovingly tended a garden roughly the size of a football field, you know what I'm talking about. The red and green shit, long-stemmed, strange-tasting, excellent for pies and cakes and cobblers and not so much else.

Rhubarb was always a mystery to me as a kid. My father grew it, too, way up on the top of the hill beyond the garden, reserved for its own special spot. I never knew what to do with it. And the name was so, well, weird.

So when people asked me about this week's recipe, the word that kept coming up for me was: unusual. Unusual because it's a vegetable (fruit? not sure) we don't use so much. Unusual because it's a flavor I don't know very well. And unusual because it's certainly not the first thing that catches my eye when I hit the produce section at the grocery store.

The rhubarb season generally runs from April till late September in more northern climes like Michigan and Minnesota (hence the warm heartland association, as well). This shit just makes me think of good people. So enough blathering. Let's get to this week's cozy and comfortable recipe for

RHUBARB PECAN CAKE

Once again we can thank Bundt Cake Bliss for the inspiration. This one's a little more difficult than last week's, but all the chopping and measuring and mixing was pleasant enough, and the prep time hovered around 45 minutes. It's got about 15 minutes left in the oven yet, and the kitchen is smelling deliciously of spices and baking fruit (vegetables?).

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas cardamom
1 cup plus 3 teas sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teas vanilla extract
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a 12-cup bundt pan using butter and flour and set aside. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Combine cinnamon, cardamom, and 3 teas of sugar and set aside. Beat remaining white sugar, brown sugar, and butter until fluffy and beat in the egg. Add flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Add buttermilk and vanilla and mix just until blended. Stir in the rhubarb and the nuts. Place half of the batter in the pan and smooth out the surface. Sprinkle it with half of the sugar mixture. Pour the remaining batter in the pan and sprinkle with the remaining sugar and spices.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake clean. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

So there's that. Can I say, I had no aesthetic expectations for this particular cake: I expected it to be, like any good Midwesterner, hearty, humble and sort of homely. But the batter itself was lovely and brown-sugary, and adding the red and green rhubarb and the chopped pecans gave it such a pretty, warm, autumnal look. And I can't say enough about how delicious that spice mixture smelled, and how sweet it looked sprinkled there in layers on the cake.

What I CAN say enough about is: holy cardamom! I didn't have any on hand, so when I picked some up the other day, not only was I surprised by how difficult it was to find, but also: $15.99 for 2 ounces! Out of control! And since I used a whole 1/2 teas., I've got a helluva lot of that shit left. Likewise the buttermilk (minus the pricey factor). So if any of yous need cardamom or buttermilk in a bad way, you just let me know. I'll be glad to share my (expensive) stash.

The cookbook recommends just dusting the finished cake with a light confectioners' sugar, but I have to say: BOR-ING. So I settled on a recipe for a sweet little Raspberry Rhubarb Sauce (convenient since of course I bought twice as much rhubarb as I needed). Your sauce recipe looks like this:

2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (more or less depending on your preference)
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the rhubarb breaks down and the sugar is dissolved. This typically takes 10 to 12 minutes (but it took me almost 25!). Allow the sauce to come to room temperature before using it.

It's a good thing I decided to make the raspberry sauce, because when I removed the cake from the pan to cool, it was so moist that the crown of the cake stayed in the pan.  Oops.  Thanks to a little emergency reconstructive surgery, I was able to salvage the top, but I have a feeling the addition of the sauce will really help things to, uh, stay together.

It did end up being a little, um, "chunkier" than I anticipated, more the consistency of Prego garden vegetable marinara sauce than a sheer glaze, but oh well.  Drizzle that shit over the cooled-off cake, and enjoy the beautiful raspberry-rhubarb fuschia. Doesn't that just feel like autumn coming on? 
 
I've been so crazy about the color pink this summer: starting in May with some serious peony love, and extending over the course of the summer - I couldn't wear enough pink to sate myself - that it only feels appropriate to finish out the season with this vibrant fuschia sauce. 

Dig it.

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