Rhubarb, Orange, and Almond Tea Cake
I find it difficult to call rhubarb a vegetable, just as I find it difficult to call tomatoes a fruit. The perfectly slender pink petioles, or stalks as they are more commonly known, provide a never-ending source of inspiration when it comes to being creative in the kitchen. I only have to look at a bundle of reds, greens, and pinks and I become lost in the countless possibilities that these intensely sour raw stalks provide, what with the addition of sufficient amounts of sugar, these raw stalks are transformed into many an edible delight - Pies, crostatas, crumbles and jam. MY goodness, it even marries well with fatty meat and oily fish. Roast pork with rhubarb and apple sauce anyone? However, it is the way these mouthwatering sour-fruity flavours mingle with almond, orange and vanilla that really make my tastebuds tingle.
It is such a versatile gem and one that can be very easy to grow, or so I am told, I have two crowns that I've planted under our kitchen window which I check upon every morning, watching as the green fan-like leaves become larger and larger. The stalks, spindly as they may be at the moment, provide hope for what is to come. Fingers crossed! Harvesting my own rhubarb feels extremely romantic, I have visions of cradling a generous bounty in my arms, bringing them inside, and watching as the droplets of water slide down their smooth "skin", patting them dry with a paper towel and chopping each stalk into chunks, finally folding them through orange-scented, white chocolate studded sugary batter, scattered with a shower of flaked almonds and then baked to golden perfection.
This rhubarb, orange and almond tea cake is best enjoyed under the dappled light of a large tree, preferably barefoot, as good conversation flows upon the warm summer breeze. Of course, if this scenario is not entirely possible, then it is equally as good served in the comfort of your home at any time of the day, slicing off mouthfuls each time you pass by the kitchen. I imagine it would make for a very simple dessert as well, perhaps served with a dollop of creme fraiche sweetened with a touch of icing sugar.
Vegetable, fruit, whatever you want to call it, it is truly transformative - both in flavour and in the way it can brighten the darkest of days.
Rhubarb, Orange & Almond Tea Cake
150g softened unsalted butter, chopped
150g caster sugar
Zest of an orange
2 free-range eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g self-raising flour, sifted
150g almond meal
100g white chocolate, chopped
200g rhubarb, ends trimmed and cut into small chunks
25g flaked almonds
Icing sugar, to dust
Preheat your oven to 170c (fan-forced). Grease a 20cm springform cake tin with butter and line with baking paper.
Beat the butter, sugar, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer, (or in a large bowl using handheld beaters), until thick and pale. Add the eggs, one by one, allowing each to combine well before adding the next. Pour in the vanilla and continue to beat until combined.
Fold through the flour, almond meal, and milk, followed by the chocolate and rhubarb.
Spoon into the prepared tin, and then scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Pop into the oven, on the middle shelf, and bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool cake in the tin for at least 10-15 minutes before removing and placing onto a cooling rack. When ready to serve, dust with icing sugar.
It makes a perfect picnic cake to share with friends and can also be dressed up with a dollop of crème Fraiche sweetened with a little icing sugar for a very simple summer dessert.
*If you don’t have a springform tin then you can use a regular tin, just be careful when inverting the cake as you may lose a few almonds off the top, simply pop them back into place.
**Raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries also make a wonderful alternative to rhubarb