Not long ago rhubarb had a bad reputation. People remembered the school dinner/hospital canteen stringy, sour, sickly green goop; undersweetened, overcooked and probably from a tin. Maybe with a helping of lumpy custard.
These day’s rhubarb is super trendy, gracing the pages of every foodie magazine and cookbook out there, in pretty shades of pink. I’m guessing they only use the best forced rhubarb ‘cos I have never managed to get it that colour. Sickly green every time!
If you’re into growing fruit and veg it’s about the easiest thing to grow, it’s not fussy over situation or soil and I haven’t met the bug brave enough to try and eat it. Rhubarb contains oxalic acid, a component of bleach! Eating large amounts can aggravate Kidney stones, gout and rheumatoid arthritis and is responsible the the pungently acidic taste. You may have a parent or grandparent who will tell you how they used to dip the end of a raw rhubarb stick in a bowl of sugar and eat it. Do not try this! Raw rhubarb has certain side effects on the digestive system, it’s a purgative, that means something that causes mega poopies.
I like rhubarb.
Cake of the month for May is an attempt to capture the flavours of a rhubarb crumble served with lashings of Bird’s custard, a childhood (and adulthood) favourite.
Rhubarb and Custard Cake
For the rhubarb:
Peel two medium stalks of rhubarb and cut into 5cm lengths. Put in a baking tray or casserole dish and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar. Bake in a medium hot oven until soft (around 15 mins). Leave to cool.
For the custard:
- ½ pint (280ml) milk
- 4 tbsp of custard powder (not instant!) I used Bird’s
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 egg yolks
Mix the custard powder and sugar with a little of the milk to make a paste. Heat the milk to boiling point. Pour the milk over the custard paste and mix well.
Pour it all back into the saucepan and cook on a medium heat, stirring briskly until the custard is really thick, be careful it doesn’t burn.
Allow to cool for a few mins, then beat in the egg yolks. Cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming, and leave to cool completely.
For the crumble:
- 5oz (150g) plain flour
- 1.25oz (37g) butter
- 1.25oz (37g) margarine
- 2oz (60g) sugar
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, rubbing the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Put to one side.
The is the only time you will ever see me advocating the use of margarine. I find an all butter crumble to be too rich and powdery. Margarine helps it to clump together and crisp up better, though you can use all butter if you like!
For the cake:
- 7oz (210g) plain flour
- 1oz custard powder
- 1tsp each of baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
- 6oz soft butter
- 9oz caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
You did all the advance preparation didn’t you? Ok, now grease and line a 20cm round loose bottomed or springform cake tin. Preheat the oven to 170°c/ 150º fan/ gas mark 3
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and beat well.
Sift together the flour, custard powder, baking powder and bicarb of soda. Add to the mixture in two goes. It will be quite stiff. Stir in the rhubarb and all the syrupy juices in the tray. Stir gently till combined.
Scrape half of the cake mixture into the cake tin. Spoon the custard on top. Gently spoon the rest of the mixture on top, don’t worry if its uneven! Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top.
Bake for around 40 mins to an hour. Once the cake has started to brown, cover it with a piece of baking paper to stop it from burning on top before the middle is cooked. Test with a skewer poked in the middle, when it comes out clean the cake is done.
Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then carefully remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
Now, instead of making lovely layers, my cake mixture got a bit over excited in the oven leading to an interesting marbled effect:
Not what I had in mind! However, everyone agreed that it tasted really good, especially the custardy bits, so I leave the recipe as is, without trying to figure out what went wrong. Who knows, yours might turn out perfectly layered!