Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nigella's Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake

To me, the arrival of rhubarb always signaled that summer was finally here. In mid to late May the luscious red stalks would start to pop up in stores, and my grandmother would make rødgrød med fløde, the quintessential Danish dessert pudding whose name is unpronounceable to anyone but native Danish speakers. The arrival of rhubarb and, to a certain degree, strawberries (although now it seems you can get the latter year round here) brings back so many memories of sun-filled summer days in Denmark

So I was excited when I spotted rhubarb at the store the other day, seeing how it's not even April yet. I knew immediately what I wanted to make with it - Nigella's Rhubarb Cornmeal cake. Lately, I've been obsessed with How to Be a Domestic Goddess, and, like Nigella, I'm of the opinion that you can never have too many rhubarb recipes. This recipe is rather straightforward and doesn't require any particular skill or equipment.

Once I had cleaned and sliced the rhubarb, I realized I didn't quite have the pound and 2 ounces that the recipe calls for, but that didn't really affect the final product.

Sprinkling the rhubarb with sugar draws out the liquid.

This is how the cake looked prior to baking:

And after:

Visually, it's not a fancy cake that will impress your guests, but it is incredible moist and really delicious, full of rhubarby goodness. The cornmeal adds a nice texture, and the pink splashes of rhubarb brighten up an otherwise beige cake. I will definitely make this again, but next time I'll cut down on the cinnamon as it tends to overwhelm the other flavors.

I served it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I think it works just as well, if not better, on its own.

Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess

1 pound 2 ounces rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp fine cornmeal (polenta)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter (soft)
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp plain yogurt
9-inch springform pan, buttered and lined with parchment or wax paper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Wash and dry the rhubarb if necessary, and then trim, removing and stringy bits, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Put into glass or china bowl and cover with 1/3 cup of the sugar, while you get on with the rest of the cake. Don't let the rhubarb stand for more than half an hour or the sugar will make to much liquid seep out.

Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cornmeal together. With a fork, beat the eggs with the vanilla in a measuring cup or small bowl. In a large bowl, cream the butter and the rest of the sugar, then gradually add the egg and vanilla mixture, beating while you do so. Then add the flour-cornmeal mixture alternately with the yogurt. They just need to be combined: don't overmix.

Finally, add the rhubarb together with its sugary, pink juices, folding in to mix, and then pour the speckled batter into the prepared pan. Put in the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour or until springy to the touch. You may need to cover it with foil after about 40 minutes so that the top doesn't scorch. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for a while before unmolding.

Serves 8-10