Happy Canada Day!
This year I offer one of my favourite spring/summer cakes to ring in my country's 148th birthday. A lemon rhubarb pound cake.
When I was little I wasn't very fond of rhubarb -- it was just too sour. My neighbour grew it in her garden and would give my mum jewel-like stalks. Experiments ensued. A strawberry-rhubarb something was by far my favourite, but I thought it would have been better sans the stalks. I'm not sure I'd come to the same conclusion today.
Time passed and now I look forward to spring and summer, if not for the long ruby and green stems that I see thrusting from the ground, or bundled at my favourite country market. Neither my parents nor I grow rhubarb--so I can't just amble out and harvest some for my kitchen. One of these days I'll either plant some or befriend someone with a surfeit of the stuff.
I must admit I do find rhubarb a bit of an unwieldy venture. The stalks sometimes feel as long as I am tall, and finding an out-of-the-way storage space can be an adventure. They balance on top of refrigerated containers of leftovers and bottles of milk or weave and precarious path between bottles and packets. If I'm not paying attention and let the lie on the counter, the cats bat at the tips and occasionally tear off the remnants of the (poisonous) leaves. Yes, I have cleaned up the evidence of their taste testing. Yes (again), I should be better about trimming off the leaves if the stalks are going to lie about for any amount of time.
I'm not sure why, but in spring and early summer I tend to crave sharp flavours--lemon, lime, vinegary coleslaws--which is probably why I spend much of that time baking lemon and buttermilk cakes. Rhubarb seemed to be a natural addition to the batter, and a very good one. Slightly damp and just tart enough, this loaf is a more than welcome accompaniment to my afternoon tea.
Lemon Rhubarb Pound cake
Yield 1 loaf
zest of half a lemon (see notes)
20ml/2dspn/1.5Tbsp lemon juice
170g/280ml/1c+2Tbsp all purpose flour
1/4tsp/1.25ml baking powder
85g/90ml/6Tbsp soft butter
1tsp vanilla (optional)
250g/500ml/2c finely chopped rhubarb
Line an 8-1/2" or 8" loaf tin
Preheat oven to 170C/325F.
Rub the lemon zest into the sugar in your mixing bowl.
Mix the lemon juice into the buttermilk and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
Cream together the lemon sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Mix in the vanilla, if using.
Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures in the usual way (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry), scraping down bowl after incorporating each buttermilk addition. Fold in the rhubarb.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin, smoothing the top. Tap the pan a few times to release any trapped air bubbles.
Bake for 90 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the sides pull away from the tin and an inserted skewer is clean-ish (see notes).
- You can use the zest of the whole lemon, if you wish.
- This is a damp cake--the skewer won't reveal crumbs, as with many other cakes, but a *slight* stickiness.
- I prefer this cake without icing or glaze, but if you prefer it enrobed, try a lemon glaze or cream cheese icing.
- This cake can be made with sour cherries instead of rhubarb
I'm a quill for hire!