Rhubarb. Oh, rhubarb. I tell people pumpkin is my favourite vegetable: your ambiguous nature means I constantly forget about you, but how I love you so.
My sister and I had a wonderful childhood in that we always ate such a beautiful variety of fresh food, but I don't remember rhubarb as a part of this. It's one of the few foods my mother doesn't eat, so it wasn't until I was in my teenage years that I remember first trying it: in a cosy restaurant in the Gold Coast hinterland, as part of rhubarb crumble swimming in homemade custard. Love. at. first. taste. So now, rhubarb and me, we're making up for lost time.
This 'buckle' is similar to a coffee or crumble cake, requiring the crunchy toping to be frozen before baking, ensuring it doesn't just melt and get absorbed into the cake mixture. It's incredibly easy to make, but has a slow cooking time, so is perfect to make on a cold Sunday afternoon.
Recipe from June issue of AGT
250 gms each of strawberries and rhubarb, roughly chopped
110 gms each of caster sugar and rapadura* sugar
160 gms butter, at room temperature
220 gms plain flour
40 gms hazelnut meal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsps each of ground cinnamon and ginger
165 mls buttermilk
For hazelnut topping:
80 gms rapadura* sugar
40 gms plain flour
40 gms hazelnuts, roughly chopped
20 gms butter, melted
*Use dark brown sugar if you can't find rapadura sugar.
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a 24cm round cake tin, and line with baking paper.
For the crunchy hazelnut topping, combine ingredients in a small bowl. Freeze until required - this will stop the topping from melting into the cake during baking.
Combine rhubarb and strawberry in a bowl with 1 tbsp of each sugar and set aside.
Beat butter and remaining sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then with motor running, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk. Stir in one third of the rhubarb mixture, then spoon into prepared tin.
Scatter over remaining fruit mixture, followed by the frozen hazelnut topping. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted withdraws clean. Cool cake in tin for 30 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.
This cake is delicious served warm from the oven, but surprisingly tasted better when cooled to room temperature so the rubbly topping is crunchy and sweet. With un-iced cakes, I am usually known to heat and add cream, crème fraiche and/or custard to any I possibly can, but I didn't need to with this wondrous thing! The hazelnut meal gives the cake a nice density, but by no means does it create a grainy texture like it can it larger quantities.
This cake is very resilient and although best eaten within a day or two, will easily last for a few days before the fruit starts to lose its colour. This. This is my favourite cake of the year.
Recommended baking soundtrack: Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo.