I didn’t grow up eating rhubarb. I think the first time I tried it was a few years ago when I picked up a lovely looking bunch at the farmers’ market and came home and made a rhubarb crisp. My mother warned me that I better use a lot of sugar. This advice came from a woman who I’m quite sure never handled a stalk of rhubarb, but I think she was right. I was pleased with my crisp and some time later paired rhubarb with strawberries for a summery crostata.
I recently had a request for a pineapple upside down cake at my job. The following day I spied this recipe on the Food 52 website. Having had success with flipping a much larger rectangular cake out on to a platter, I decided to give this recipe a go.
The batter for this cake was similar to the topping for a cobbler. It’s not really spreadable-simply drop spoonfuls over the stewed rhubarb. I didn’t have a 9″ cast iron skillet, but did have a heavy stainless lined skillet which worked perfectly.
I found this cake best served warm and topped with vanilla ice cream. If you bake it earlier in the day, warm it slightly before serving.
Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 stick and 6 tablespoons cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Scant 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup whole milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Heat oven to 375° F. Melt 1 cup of the sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a 9-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the butter and sugar have melted together, add the rhubarb pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender and slightly caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your rhubarb stalks.
Meanwhile, whisk together remaining sugar and salt, plus flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add remaining butter, and using your fingers, rub into flour mixture to form coarse pea-size pieces. Like Phyllis Grant would say, make like you’re snapping your fingers. Add milk and eggs and stir until a soft, sticky dough forms. If your eggs are on the small side, you may need an extra splash of milk for the dough to come together. Place pieces of dough over the hot rhubarb mixture, trying to cover the entire surface. It will feel a little like you’re making a cobbler, but the dough will rise up and fill in any holes you’ve left.
Bake on a baking sheet until the cake is golden and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and let the cake rest for about 10 minutes. Place a large, flat serving platter on top of the skillet and invert quickly and carefully. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream.