Rite of Spring, with Rhubarb Cake!

Rite of Spring, with Rhubarb Cake!

I am really happy to see my rhubarb this year.

I’m happy to see it every year, but this year, the year that winter just wouldn’t die, it really meant something when those pale green leaf tips started poking up from the mulch. They withstood a couple of late season snows and, like rhubarb must, soldiered on.

This week, I could tell they would like a little more time to stretch, but I couldn’t wait. A few of the fattest and tallest stalks had to be sacrificed. Kneeling in the wet dirt with my paring knife, I carefully culled only a few, then lopped off the elephant ear-sized leaves and threw them in the compost pile.

Brushing off the mud from my knees, I toted my precious stalks to the kitchen. My own personal rite of spring.

So in the spirit of celebration, I decided to make a cake. I’ve been madly in love with a  Blue Cornmeal made by Whole Grain Milling Co. They are based in Welcome, MN (could there be a better name?) and make lovely organic coarse grind meals, flours and cereals. They grow most of them, or buy them from other organically certified farmers in the region. They even grow flax seeds, so this cake was perilously close to being all local, if I hadn’t detoured into using coconut oil and organic sugar from the Tropics.

I was thinking, let’s get a little crazy and make this cake sweet and tender, so the tartness of the rhubarb is a perfect accent. And I wanted some extra rhubarb sauce to puddle on the plate, to really revel in rhubarb-ness.

You see, I think that rhubarb is too often seen as a background player. It’s ok with some raspberries to sex it up in a sauce, or a bunch of strawberries to give it curb appeal in that pie. But rhubarb deserves to shine in its own glory. What other plant grows effortlessly, providing free pie filling for decades? What other vegetable is good in pie?

Yes, rhubarb is good in pie, yet it has the nutrition profile of a veggie. 1 cup raw has 26 calories, 2 g fiber, 1 g protein,  and it’s a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Potassium and Manganese, and a good source of Magnesium. Vitamin K, that’s one of those nutrients you get from kale. And I promise you, kale will never be this good in dessert. Even if you dip it in chocolate.

So if you have a spot to plant a rhubarb plant, it will be a gift that keeps on giving. It’s perfectly ok to support your local growers by buying it at the Farmer’s market, too.

The rest of my Spring ritual consisted of watching a torrential downpour from my window, and slowly eating a big fat piece of cake.

Life’s too short not to stop and smell the rhubarb.

Blue Corn and Rhubarb Cake
This cake is sweet and tender, topped with meltingly soft and tangy rhubarb. You can use half whole wheat pastry flour, too.
Serves 9-12
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons finely ground flax
1 1/2 cups blue corn meal
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup organic sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (plus more for pan)
8 ounces (2 cups) chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Use coconut oil to coat a 9 inch square pan at least 2 inches deep. In a measuring cup, whisk the flax seed into the non-dairy milk and let stand. In a large bowl, whisk the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk the melted coconut oil into the non-dairy milk mixture, then stir into the cornmeal mixture. Stir until well mixed. Spread the batter in the pan.
Toss the rhubarb with the turbinado sugar and sprinkle over the blue corn batter.
Bake for about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cake on a rack, serve with stewed rhubarb or fruit. Great with berry sorbet or non-dairy ice cream.
Rhubarb Sauce
8 ounces (2 cups chopped rhubarb)
about 1/4 cup organic sugar
Put the chopped rhubarb and sugar in a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring often, until the rhubarb is falling apart and the sauce is as thick as you like it. Cool.