The North Iowa farmers markets are open again and I spy rhubarb, so summer may begin now.
Unlike the Twin Cities, we don’t have a farmers market in every neighborhood, but I’m happy we have one in town. The Mason City farmers market isn’t large and there aren’t food trucks or anything, but I can at least buy fresh vegetables and fruits, plus extra treats like bread, jam, and bags of puppy chow mix.
There’s also a vendor that sells grilled brats with the typical fixings of sauerkraut, onion, ketchup, and mustard. This is a simple pleasure that never gets old. I rarely turn down street meat.
On my last two visits, I rejoiced over this summer’s first bounty of rhubarb like the good Midwesterner that I am.
We never cooked with rhubarb growing-up. Nobody in our neighborhood grew it and I think they considered it like a weed. Jake remembers picking it as a child and eating the tart stalks dipped in sugar. As an adult, I’ve become taken with rhubarb. I love how it retains some tartness when cooked and balances out sweet desserts. The complexity of its unique flavor strikes me as both fruity and floral.
I asked friends for their favorite rhubarb recipes, but chose this cake because I had all of the ingredients in my kitchen. I found variations of this recipe in nearly all of my cookbooks, so, where it truly originates, I do not know. This cake is very simple to prepare and light and fluffy like a muffin. It reminded us so much of muffins, that I poured the batter into muffin tins the second time I made it.
This cake will be an ol’ reliable for us. Now I’m moving on to trying everyone’s favorite rhubarb recipes.
Rhubarb Muffin Cake
Adapted from Bonnie Anderson, Dee Detlefsen, Blanch Grummons & Ardy Haugen’s recipe in the Peaceful Pantry Recipes cookbook compiled by Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, MN, 1975
Cook’s Notes: The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of white or brown sugar. I used both, but in lesser amounts. The original recipe also calls for buttermilk, which I did not have. It says you can substitute one cup of regular milk + one tablespoon of lemon juice for buttermilk. In my first cake, I used 2/3 almond milk + 1/3 cup sour cream. In my muffins, I used only almond milk. I think you can use whatever you have, though the sour cream adds extra moistness. If you’d like to bake muffins, reduce the cooking time. Mini muffins took about 10 minutes. The cakes are done when you can cleanly remove a toothpick from the center.
A scant 1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick). I used salted.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: Splash of almond extract
1 cup milk or combination of milk + sour cream
2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
Topping: sugar & cinnamon
- Pre-heat the oven to 350℉.
- Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.
- Mix the egg and vanilla extract into the butter-sugar mixture.
- Add the milk and dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, half at a time, alternating until just combined. Don’t overmix.
- Stir in the rhubarb.
- Pour into a greased pan or muffin tins. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and sugar (or just cinnamon).
- Bake until you can remove a toothpick cleanly from the center. A small cake pan took about 45 minutes, a 9×13 will take about 35-40 minutes, and muffins will vary depending on the size. Mini muffins took about 10 minutes.