Rhubarb 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.
Color 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.
Having 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.
Buckles 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.
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.
With the final addition of a walnut crumb topping, the cake was ready to go into the oven.
The 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.
Fresh 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