Rhubarb and Vanilla

Rhubarb and Vanilla

A match made in heaven!

The dreaded dessert as a child was rhubarb and custard! Somehow the velvety vanilla custard sauce made the rough tartness of the rhubarb even more pronounced! However, since then I have slowly come to enjoy the pleasure of its tartness, and if young sticks are used they are much sweeter. I found some nice young rhubarb on the market last weekend. (Mine is not quite ready yet). This cake is proof that vanilla most definitely is the right spice to use with rhubarb; but instead of eating cake with custard (although I know some people who do!) I have incorporated this lovely spice into the cake itself.

This recipe is adapted from Heidi Swanson’s buttermilk cake (see:101 cookbooks), which is great with apples, raspberries or strawberries too. (Probably with any fruit in fact!)

Rhubarb and Vanilla Cake

  • 2 cups tender rhubarb, cut into 1cm long pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups (275g) self-raising flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (60g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (220ml) buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (55g) butter, melted and cooled
  • about 3 tablespoons brown/vanilla sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease and flour a 12-inch square baking tin.

Combine the flour, baking powder, brown and vanilla sugars and salt in a large bowl. Split the vanilla pod and press out all the seeds into the flour mixture. Mix with finger tips into flour until well-dispersed. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract and the buttermilk. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until barely combined – try not to over mix. Now fold in the rhubarb.

Spoon into the prepared pan and sprinkle with most of 3tbsps sugar. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until cake is just set and a touch golden on top. To give the cake some crunch, at the end of baking sprinkle remaining sugar on top and put under a hot grill for 2 minutes. But be careful… it browns very quickly!

Leave to cool completely on a rack, and then serve with whipped cream. (I only had clotted cream, and it went perfectly!)


12 thoughts on “Rhubarb and Vanilla

  1. This looks moist and delicious! I’ve never heard of a vanilla pod being used that way–very interesting! Do the seeds say whole in the cake, or do they become absorbed and unnoticed in the final product?

    • Thanks Robin! The seeds are so tiny they disperse through the mixture and are barely visible as little brown flecks. You notice it only in ice cream really. I find the flavour much better than extract. 🙂

  2. I’ve had rhubarb only once, served in a pie. Rhubarb is available but not really very common where I live. Your cake looks delicious though, and as I’ve come to appreciate vanilla more and more lately, it sounds perfect.

  3. I have some rhubarb in the freezer I’ve been wanting to use up before the new plants start springing up. I’ve printed off your recipe, so I can make this lovely cake today. It looks so delicious and perfect for a Sunday afternoon at home with my family:)
    I love all your flower pictures by the way. I’m in love with my garden and flowers. This is a great time of year when things are just starting to come on.

  4. This looks divine! Rhubarb is a huge favourite of mine, and my go-to dessert is usually a rhubarb upside-down cake. But I’m definitely going to try this pairing with vanilla.

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