fresh picked rhubarb buckle

IMG_7712Rhubarb is not commonly found in southern gardens.  The intense heat and humidity just do not suit the plant well.  In the demonstration garden, we have learned that the best way to grow it is to plant it in an area that does not see the intense light and heat of afternoon sun.  In the back of our vegetable garden, we have a shady area and in it are two rhubarb plants that are a green variety which seem to be better suited to our growing conditions.

When it comes to harvesting rhubarb, I really do not know much about when or how much to take.  Since the one plant has more than tripled in size since the spring and has stalks over an inch wide, I figured it couldn’t be a first year plant and decided to harvest about a third of it.  After all, we would be needing cake for our Saturday morning get together in the garden and a rhubarb buckle made with stalks from our own garden sounded perfect to me.

IMG_7721Color is not generally an indication of sweetness in rhubarb but the manner in which it was grown can be.  Hot house rhubarbs that have been forced are generally sweeter than those grown outdoors naturally.  This crop was pretty tart and I decided to let it macerate in sugar before adding it to the cake.

IMG_7728Having chickens in our own garden has been a wonderful experience.  When we moved into the new house, we added a few more and the littles have begun laying!  We have one Americauna hen who has been laying tiny green eggs.  We haven’t had the heart to crack them yet, but at the rate we are going, we will have to or run the risk of being buried in a pile of eggs.

IMG_7730Buckles are one of my favorite summer fruit cakes.  This particular recipe is so versatile that by making simple substitutions, you can have a completely different cake each time!  This time though, I kept it pretty simple and just substituted rhubarb for the usual sour red cherries.

IMG_7731 The name “buckle” comes from the manner in which some of the fruit sinking while some of the batter rises up during the baking and this can give the cake a “buckled” appearance.

IMG_7732With the final addition of a walnut crumb topping, the cake was ready to go into the oven.

IMG_7736The buckling I was hoping for was not as pronounced and I suspect that it may have needed to macerate longer or I may need to increase the amount of rhubarb in the recipe.  Looks like I will have to make another soon to test the theory!  Despite that, it did make a nice sweet-tart layer of filling between the cake and the crumbs, the perfect treat after spending several hours digging and pulling weeds.

IMG_7739Fresh Rhubarb Buckle

with Walnut-Oat Streusel Topping

makes 1 (8″x 2″) square cake serving 12-16

2-1/2 cups sliced fresh rhubarb

1/3 cup (2-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) unbleached all purpose flour

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1-1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2/3 cup buttermilk

walnut oat streusel topping, recipe follows

In a small bowl, toss the rhubarb with the first listed sugar and allow it to macerate for an hour to produce juice.  Add the flour, toss to coat it evenly and set aside while you prepare the cake.  Make the crumb topping at this time and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease and flour an 8″x 8″ cake pan.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the second listed sugar, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, scrape the bowl after each addition and mix well.  Sift the flour and the baking powder over the batter.  Fold a few times, add the buttermilk and fold completely until no streaks remain.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and level it.  Top the batter evenly with the rhubarb and all of the liquid in the bowl.  Sprinkle the streusel over the cake and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour and 15 minutes.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes and then turn it out onto a tray and invert it onto a rack to finish cooling.

Walnut-Oat Streusel Topping

makes 1-1/2 cups

1/2 cup (2-3/4 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 cup (2-1/4 ounces) rolled oats

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup (1-1/4 ounces) chopped walnuts

Place the flour, oats, sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl.  Using your fingers, mix the ingredients.  Add the butter and rub the cubes into the dry ingredients until clumps begin to form.  Sprinkle the walnuts over the mixture and toss together to combine.  Use this immediately or store in the refrigerator for as long as three weeks.

The original version of this recipe, made with sour cherries, can be found in my book, Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe

chocolate peanut butter cake; another birthday, another version

Yes, I’ve posted this cake before so why post it again?  Because this time, it’s different; the cake is a vertically positioned roll rather than the standard stacked layers.

Every year, I bake cakes for my girls on their birthdays or as close as I can get to the actual day.  Last year, I made this cake for Alix but made the traditional stacked layer version and the link to that post with the complete recipe is here.  For this version, the only thing I changed was the cake.  Because I was planning on rolling the cake up, I chose to make a sponge-like cake so that it would be easier to work with.

For those of you who are interested, please visit the link to read the full history on this cake.  It is one that I am proud of and probably the best cake in my first book, Sky High.

The cake recipe worked out fairly well.  It was not hard to roll but I do think that because I made this in stages, the cake dried out a little and some cracking occurred.  In the future, I will make my frosting ahead of time so that the cake can be rolled up while it is still fresh.

So the shape was not perfectly round, but most of that was hidden in the frosting/glazing.

 This version made a 6 inch round cake and would easily have served 8 people.  We snacked on that cake all week by slicing little slivers at a time.  Don’t worry, even though the slices were thin, this cake packed quite the punch in flavor and it was so rich that we didn’t attempt thick slices.

 Don’t you just love the vertical stripes?  This was so much fun that I will try this again with other cake recipes.  It looked like a regular cake on the outside, my daughter expected stacked layers and surprise, surprise!

 Honestly, with this configuration, the ratio of frosting to cake is very different.  With this method you get more frosting which is great for frosting lovers.

 Creamy peanut butter frosting and dark chocolate ganache-heavenly!

To make the stacked layer cake, visit the original post.  To make this version, the adjusted recipes follow.

Chocolate-Peanut Sponge Roll Cake
Cake recipe is adapted from Chocolate Cloud Roll recipe in The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, frosting and glaze recipes are from Sky High

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
peanut butter frosting, recipe follows
chocolate glaze, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a half sheet pan (17 inches x 12 inches) with parchment and spray grease, set aside.  Melt the chocolate and set aside.

To grind the peanuts, place them in a food processor with a tablespoon of sugar and pulse until finely ground.  Do this carefully so that you do not make peanut butter.  Whisk the yolks with 3 tablespoons sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Fold the chocolate and peanuts into the egg yolks.  Sift the cocoa over the top of the batter and gently fold in, set aside while you prepare the whites.

Whip the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue whipping until peaks start to form.  Gradually add the sugar as you continue to whip and whip until the peaks are almost completely stiff.  Do not take them as far as they will go, they need to be just a little soft at the bottom of the bowl.  This will allow the air bubbles to expand in the oven; taking the mixture to the stiffest point will not allow for the bubbles to expand and can actually make the cake collapse.

To finish mixing the batter, fold 1/4 of the whites into the batter to lighten it and then gently fold the remaining whites in.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a pick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.  Allow the cake to cool and use immediately.

Cut the cake into three equal strips, lengthwise.  Spread 1/2 cup of frosting over one strip and begin rolling it up from one short side.  Spread another 1/2 cup of frosting over the second strip and place the rolled cake on top of the layer at one short side and roll it up.  Repeat this with the last strip.  Place the cake onto a flat plate and freeze until very firm.  Ice the outside of the cake with the remaining frosting and freeze it to firm up the frosting.

Decorate the cake by spreading small amounts of glaze over the top so that it slides down the side of the cake in large drips.  Chill to firm the ganache.  Keep cake refrigerated but do set it out at least 30 minutes before serving for the best flavor.  To get neat slices, dip the knife in hot water, wipe it dry and slice it with the hot knife, clean the knife between slices.  Top with mini peanut butter cups just before serving, if desired.

Peanut Butter Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp 
3 ounces unsalted butter, at room temp 
4 cups confectioners sugar, sift after measuring if lumpy 
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter 

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the confectioners sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often.  Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate Glaze
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/3 cup half-and-half

In the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup.  Heat, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth.  Use while still warm.