Before the Barb is Over

Context: It's the last leg of rhubarb season here and the plants in my backyard have reached this bamboo + leafy elephant ear stage where it looks like they've mutated into something prehistoric (last year, I actually thought they *had* mutated and, in a half-panic, hacked away at them, only to learn, if you want your harvest to double the next year, you should not do that).

The overgrowth is because I can't use up those stalks fast enough. The charms of raw rhubarb, unless you crave puckery earthy SweetTart celery, are pretty limited. Most people in the US only lust after its pleasures in a few forms: pie, tarts, um... pie again.  

Alas, I only have so much rhubarb bakery-making (not to mention, bakery-eating) ambition. It's also not an easy-to-give-away crop -- you've got to find people who know what to do with it -- who regularly bake and *will* do something with it. 

If you happen to be such a person (*do* call if you live near me & want some rhubarb!) this is the recipe you need to know about -- *please* -- don't pass it over so you can make yet another straw-barb pie. No... this is a flirtatious little sheet cake that inaugurates each and every rhubarb season in my family, and also how I wanted to end it this year. I'm fairly certain this particular recipe came from my grandmother in Alaska, which is also where the starter shoots for the rhubarb plants in our garden came from -- and *her* plants came from shoots she took from a family homestead in Wisconsin. See.. with wayfarers, you've got to carry your roots with you...

The Stats: 

Started: put on Joshua James and turned oven knob to 350F (turning on Joshua James didn't sound right) : 8:35pm

Finished: pinched a walnut off the still-warm pan of cake and remembered to look at time: 10:18pm... Best guess of actual finish time, which also includes going outside & harvesting rhubarb: 9:45pm

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars on the Recipes-I-Will-Pass-On-to-Progeny Scale

Improvements:  None (unless you want to un-veganize it!)

Alaskan Grandmother's Heirloom Rhubarb Cake (the Vegan Version)

You see rhubarb and you see cake and you think you've got it all figured out. With the cinnamon and nut topping I'm sure you're imagining basic coffee cake (yawn) sensibilities. But people who "don't like" rhubarb like this cake. People who don't really know what rhubarb is like this cake. *You* will like this cake. It's tart and airy and brown sugary while mysteriously not being brown sugary. It's a head-scratching recipe in how basic it is -- I almost never think it's going to be as good as it magically is when I take my first bite... and then I remember for the umpteenth time that it's almost crossing-over-to-the-other-side amazing.

I halved my recipe (it's only me here now -- and you can easily, almost scarily easily, eat half a pan of this stuff before you even realize it), so I've posted the halved version that I actually made first, and posted the original "full size" recipe underneath.

Half Rhubarb Cake Recipe (for 8 x 8 pan)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil (soft/room temp) 

1/2 cup sour almond/soy milk (I measured out approx 1.5 T of a lemon juice + apple cider vinegar combination into a glass measuring cup, then topped it off to the red 1/2 cup line with almond milk, stirred & let set... don't worry if it separates!)

1/2 tsp of chia seeds, measured out into a coffee grinder and blended into a powder, then whisked into 1.5 T warm water -- set aside so the mixture has time to gel

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup flour (I used approx 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, & 2/3 cup all purpose) 

2.5 - 3 cups chopped rhubarb (sliced into 1/2in - 3/4in pieces) {the more the better!!!}** {Red rhubarb is prettier, green rhubarb is more tart and flavorful -- use both, if you can}

Cream sugar with coconut oil. Add in chia seed/water mixture and vanilla and mix till smooth. Add dry ingredients alternatively with the sour almond/soy milk -- mixing till smooth each time.

**Mix in rhubarb last -- the more the better is *so* true -- this go-round I used probably *nearly* but not-quite 4 cups, which, if you use that much, given what it appears is a busting-at-the-seams fruit-to-batter ratio, you're going to think I'm completely nuts and pulled the wool over your eyes with this recipe. "No good can come of this!!" You will utter. "She can't possibly know what she's talking about!!" -- but trust... though it might look like you've got nothing but a bowl of rhubarb cuttings barely coated in a sticky bit of batter - it's all going to sort itself out in the oven, as those chunky slicings of fruit are going to melt like red & green ice cubes.

Of course, you don't *have* to use that much -- stick with what's specified and it will just be more cakey than what you might say nudges into buckle territory -- and honestly, it's all good.

Spread batter into coconut-oil greased 8 x 8 pan.

Top with chopped walnuts, a dusting of white sugar & cinnamon. 

Bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes -- till nice and golden, and baked through, you know, when that trusty toothpick coming out clean!  

 Dobrou chut! x  


Full-Sized Rhubarb Cake Recipe (for 13 x 9 x 2 pan)

1.5 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup sour almond/soy milk (measure out 3 T of lemon juice/apple cider vinegar -- I usually use 1 T of each -- into a 1 cup measuring cup, then top off with almond or soy milk, and let rest)

1 tsp soda

5 - 6 cups chopped rhubarb (approx 1/2 - 3/4in pieces) -- the more the better!! 

1 tsp of ground chia seed whisked into 3 T warm water (let set for a few minutes to really let it gel)

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups flour

Cream sugar with coconut oil. Add in chia seed/water mixture and vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternatively with the sour almond/soy milk. Mix in rhubarb last. Spread batter into greased 13 x 9 x 2 in pan. 

Top with: 

1/2 cup chopped nuts (I use walnuts) 

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar

Bake at 350F for about 40 minutes


Not-Gonna-Be-in-the-Wedding Chai Cake

Context: Lazy Sunday dedicated almost entirely to activity surrounding my sister's upcoming nuptials. Including, the ordering of several SUNO brand dresses (the most exciting fashion coming out of NYC according to my sis -- you may have seen it sported recently on a weeping-rehab-confessing Lilo on David Letterman) that may just suit as a bridesmaid/Maid of Honor dress... Kasey does *NOT* have colours for her wedding (how passé, how gauche, how completely matchy-matchy pedestrian *ordinary* I do believe is her take on the matter) but she most certainly DOES have a bare minimum level of "cool" fashion-forward sophistication expectation of her bridesmaid, namely: moi.

Anyway! Since we're making the cake for the wedding, this chai version was a tester trial run. It did not pass the test. Did not rise high enough. Wasn't intriguing and over-the-top tasty enough.

The Stats:

Started grinding chia seeds: Beginning of the third Radio West episode I tried listening to... the first two bored me within minutes, but this one, I actually stuck with -- an interesting talk with a now post-Mormon, bourbon "partaking" (his words, not mine)  Joshua James. He seems like a cool kid. He checked with the city of American Fork to see if his particular address could be its own incorporated little town -- so his address would read "Willamette Mountain" in lieu of American Fork. I would enjoy doing that! Declaring my own little tract of land to be a world/name/entire city of its own, with a representative name of my choosing! 

Finished taking cake out of oven: Probably within the last 10 minutes or so of said Joshua James Radio West interview (so, not quite an hour from start to finish)

Rating: 2 stars out of 5 stars (on *any* scale)

Improvements: Less Ground up chai tea... maybe not even any ground up chai tea --perhaps just steep the tea bags in the milk, which is what I believe the original recipe states, but the blogger I was referencing blended up the chai instead... which I had my doubts about, but she really praised the flavour she got as a result.

Not-Wedding-Worthy Vegan Chai Cake

This is a quartered and veganized version of Alisa Huntsman's Chai Cake from her Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes cookbook.  Some recipes veganize well, and I'm not sure this one did. All said, as it was, it came out tasting rather strongly spiced, but very one-note at the same time. There wasn't a lot of nuance. The texture was okay, but just okay. Moist, but not springy/fluffy/ooh-la-la. It reminded me more of a spice loaf than a layer cake.

 I quartered it because I have a lot of cake to test! So don't laugh at my measurements!

"Egg" Mixture:  Ground 2 tsp of chia seeds in coffee grinder and mixed with 6 T of warm water -- set aside

Whisked together in large bowl:

1/2 cup + 3 T cake flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp cardamom

1/8 tsp salt

3/4 T ground double spiced chai (I ripped open 3 Stash Double Chai tea bags, poured the contents into my coffee grinder, and then measured out well over 1/2 T into the batter -- but I'd say definitely use no more than 1/2 T.... and maybe just steep the tea bags in the soy milk rather than actually using the ground up tea -- see "improvements" note above)

Then blended in:

1/4 cup Earth Balance

1/4 cup soy milk

Mixed with a hand mixture, medium speed till thoroughly silky and combined

Then, to the sitting egg mixture, added:

1 T + 1/4 T + 1/4 tsp soy milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

blended on high speed for 45 seconds or so

Add the egg mixture to the large bowl of flour/milk/butter in THREE parts, till just mixed/incorporated each time.

Poured into coconut buttered/floured 8-inch cake pan and baked for 15 minutes at 350F -- rotating the pan after 7 minutes, and pulled out when the toothpick inserted in middle came out clean. This cake did not rise a ton!