Red-streaked stalks of rhubarb appear in tight bundles in our CSA each spring, and as soon as spring fades into summer at the local farm, the rhubarb from our own garden is ready for the harvest. My family lives high in the mountains, where the force of summer's heat never quite reaches and we can grow cool weather crops from July through September until the snows begin again.
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Rhubarb is a favorite of mine, its tartness marrying well with sweet things - strawberries, of course, but also mineral-rich brown sugars whose faint acidity provides a complement for the vegetable's natural, rounded sour notes.
Making the Cake
Skillet cakes are my favorite cakes - simple to prepare and served in an old-fashioned cast-iron skillet which is, incidentally, the most used piece of equipment in my kitchen. I start by blending freshly ground whole-grain flour with yogurt, and letting it soak for a period of time, a process that not only increases the bioavailability of the minerals it contains, but that also softens the crumb delivering a delicious, light cake. The next day, I saute a bit of fruit (or, in this case, rhubarb) in jaggery and butter until it softens, finish off the batter, and bake. Impossibly easy, and impassibly delicious.
Rhubarb Skillet Cake Recipe
- The night before you plan to bake, beat the spelt with yogurt until loosely combined. Cover the bowl with tight-fitting plastic wrap lest it dry out, and set it in a warm spot in your kitchen overnight for 8 to 12 hours.
- The next day, chop the rhubarb into ¼-inch dice. Toss it into a bowl and sprinkle ½ cup jaggery over the rhubarb. Allow the rhubarb to macerate in the jaggery for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of clarified butter or ghee over low heat in a well-seasoned 9-inch cast iron skillet. Toss the macerated rhubarb into the hot butter and saute about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and prepare the cake batter.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with ¾ cup jaggery until smooth, then beat in the vanilla extract. Working ½ cup at a time, beat in the batter of yogurt-soaked spelt flour. In a separate bowl, whisk high-extraction flour with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, orange zest, baking soda and salt. Working ½ cup at a time, beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they form a smooth batter.
- Prepare the jaggery crumb in a small to medium-sized mixing bowl. Beat the almond flour and jaggery together with cinnamon, then slowly beat in 3 tablespoons melted butter.
- To assemble the cake, pour the cake batter into the skillet over the rhubarb. Sprinkle the jaggery crumb over the cake batter, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake's center comes out clean - about 1 hour. Allow to cool about 20 minutes before dipping into it with a spoon and scooping it out onto waiting plates.