Rhubarb is one of those things I love to eat, but never cook myself. I’ve always thought of rhubarb as the domain of the ladies of the Women’s Institute, and my granny – seriously good, slightly old-fashioned cooks. Admittedly, I thought it a bit scary, and maybe complicated. I have no idea why.
Going about my daily business at the greengrocer last week, the glorious colour grabbed my attention. I took a daring risk, with a dash of inspiration and before I could think rationally I’d stashed a bunch of rhubarb right into my basket. Living dangerously is my thing. I thought, if nothing else, it would make a stunning photo.
I poured through cook books when I got home, expecting I’d need traditional skills beyond my reach. Oh how I laughed! Cut up and poach in a pan with sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water for 10 minutes flat. Ha! I can do that and add a couple of star anise, off my own bat even. Gosh, I’m clever.
What resulted was some rather broken up rhubarb, some pieces that had held together better, and the most glorious, vivid, magenta syrup, perfumed with anise. I couldn’t resist: I had a bit of the mushy stuff with Greek yogurt and it was heavenly.
Inspired by this success, I thought I’d make an upside down cake. I’ve never made one before. I was on completely alien territory now. In for a penny, in for a pound. Here’s the recipe if you feel daring too.
- 1 bunch rhubarb - about 12 stalks
- 2 star anise - you could use a cinnamon stick, vanilla pod or a couple of whole cardamom instead
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1 cup gluten free self raising flour
- 1 cup almond meal
- Trim and discard the poisonous leaves. (don't eat these or feed to pets - compost or trash only)
- Trim away the brown ends, wash stalks and trim into 3cm pieces.
- Put the prepared rhubarb into an enamelled cast iron or stainless steel pan.
- Add a generous quantity of sugar, depending on your sweet tooth. I used 4 tablespoons. Use more if your rhubarb isn't as red as mine.
- Add 2 tablespoons of water and star anise, cover and simmer over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
- The rhubarb will be almost ready. At this point carefully pick out some pieces that have retained their shape, if you want to make an upside down cake.
- Give the remaining rhubarb a gentle stir and replace the cover for another 2 minutes or so.
- Pour off the bright pink poaching juices into a jug and set aside for serving.
- Set puree aside to cool. This will be added to the cake ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 180C fan forced.
- Grease a 20cm spring form cake pan and line with baking paper.
- With an electric mixer or food processor, beat sugar, oil and eggs until combined.
- Add the cooled rhubarb puree and pulse to combine.
- Add the gluten free flour and almond meal and pulse to combine.
- In a separate bowl, dissolve baking soda in the yogurt, add to the cake ingredients and gently pulse until well combined, scraping down the bowl between pulsing.
- Pour a small amount of the reserved syrup into the prepared cake pan and brush over the bottom.
- Arrange reserved whole rhubarb pieces in some kind of pattern over the bottom of the pan.
- Pour cake batter over the top and bake for about 40 - 45 minutes, testing for doneness with a skewer.
- When the skewer comes out clean and the cake is done, place on a wire rack until completely cool.
- Invert onto a plate and very carefully remove the tin and greaseproof paper.
- I had a bit of trouble with the paper sticking to the rhubarb on top, but it still looked really pretty.
- You might like to poach some extra rhubarb to pile on top of the cake. I did.
- Pour the reserved syrup over before presenting, for bright pink, perfumed, glossy gorgeousness.
Light, moist, fragrant, and absolutely stunning to look at: my goodness it was so delicious! Celebratory star jumps happened in the kitchen. I served it with a dollop of thick, natural Greek yogurt, and raspberries on the side.
It pays to sometimes walk on the wild side.