Intro

As the last of the plates were cleared grandma disappeared from the table. A moment later she returned carrying with her an aged tin box containing over 50 years of collected recipes. The lid no longer able to close as hundreds of  handwritten recipe cards and yellowed newspaper recipes packed tightly inside.

For the next hour I sat at the table oblivious to the squeals of the children around me and the conversation that continued as I tucked into the recipes already making plans to copy dozens of them. I held that box and imagined all the dinners that came from its contents. The cards themselves stained from the food that fed my dad and his four siblings.

I was holding a treasure. I felt the great value of that box and was so honored that grandma had thought to show it to me.

“Why don’t you take it?” She said.

I sat still for a moment reveling in her offer. It didn’t take much of her insistence before I held the box tighter overjoyed at this gift.

One of the reasons this blog exists is to create a similar sort of collection for my family. Instead of a tin box studded with blue and orange flowers this site houses our recipes as a sort of memoir of our meals. I am so eager to interweave in these pages the recipes that my grandma deemed worthy of feeding her family and entertaining the people who she graciously opened her home to.

Within minutes of riffling through the cards I found a recipe for Rhubarb Cake. It is no secret that I revel in the arrival of Spring mainly for the sake of Rhubarb so I knew this cake would be the first recipe I’d try.

What I find particularly endearing about these recipes is that there is little more than a list of simple ingredients. The few words written to describe the process show an assumed knowledge that is quite lost in our generation. I find the missing details freeing and the reminder that baking wasn’t always such a fearful act that required scales and a degree in chemistry. My grandmother’s and my mother knew how to bake by the feel of the batter and the way the dough reacted to their touch.

I creamed the butter and sugar by hand just as I imagined grandma did. There is something I find quite romantic about relying solely on a wooden spoon to bring a batter together. As the brown sugar and butter lightened in color and my arm felt a bit of a burn from the mixing I tossed in the remaining ingredients and sent the cake into a hot oven.

What emerged was a dense cake studded with tart rhubarb and scented with cinnamon making it the perfect cake to transition from Winter to Spring. I used its hearty texture and the presence of a vegetable as an excuse to enjoy it for breakfast – twice. And with an afternoon cup of coffee it paired quite nicely as well.

Grandma was wise to tuck this one away and now thanks to her, I’ve done the same.

 

 

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Rhubarb Cake

 

The simplicity of this cake makes it the perfect solution when a sudden urge to bake emerges. I made a few adjustments to the original recipe – enough to make it feel more me while still maintaining the feel of grandma. 

2 cups chopped (rough 1/2″) rhubarb

1/2 cup (not packed) brown sugar

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, soft

1 cup (not packed) brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup semolina flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

 

Butter and flour a 8 or 9″ (2″ high) round cake pan.

Pre-heat your oven to 350*

In a small bowl add the rhubarb and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Let that sit for 30 minutes.

In a large bowl cream the butter and 1 cup brown sugar until light. Add the egg and vanilla. Add the rhubarb mixture and yogurt. Stir well. In another bowl whisk together the dry ingredients then add it to the rest of the ingredients stirring well to combine.

Spread in your prepared pan and bake for 50- 60 minutes or until the middle of the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Store well-covered for up to three days.

56 Responses to “Rhubarb Cake”

  1. sara

    Totally gorgeous! I adore rhubarb – it just tastes totally like spring to me! Such a great sweet-tart flavor. This cake looks wonderful!

    Reply
  2. Natashia@foodonpaper

    Oh you’re so lucky to have those recipes! My mum threw out her recipe notebook with 7 years worth of Italian home-made recipes as she thought they were too outdated. I still sit in shock over that stupid decsion of hers… This cake looks perfect!

    Reply
  3. Katrina

    I know I will like this from the plain and simple title. Rhubarb is a favorite of mine to bake with. I have so much right now too!!

    Reply
  4. alison

    yummy! How sweet of your grandma to give you such a treasure. I am definitely trying this one. Can’t wait to read more of Grandma’s recipes ;)

    Reply
  5. Tanya Frost

    How thoughtful and what a great way to pass on memories to your children. After my husbands g-ma passed, one of his aunts made a ‘recipe box’ for all the grand children and great grands. It is something I treasure, especially at Christmas!

    Reply
  6. Kat Collins

    This reminded me of my grandmother and her treasured recipes. At Christmas this past year, she gave me her recipes. As I looked through them, I was struck by how worn they were. There were side notes from her friends on them, scribblings in her own handwriting, magazine recipes from way back when and more. It is such a delightful treasure of my family history. Thank you for provoking the memory!

    By the way, the cake sounds delicious!

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Kat – Isn’t it amazing? I’m guarding them closely while at the same time enjoying the thoughts of putting a few of my own stains on the cards and hopefully my children will have the desire to stain them also when they grow up.

      Reply
  7. Trace

    I kinda wish you’d included the recipe box lurking in the background on one of the pics. When you described it I felt like I wanted to see it, touch it, hold it. There’s a powerful connection to family through handed down recipes.

    Reply
  8. Deanna

    We’re currently searching for my grandma’s recipe box. She passed away when I was little, and we don’t know who has it, but it has become very clear to everyone that it should be in my possession…mainly because that way the recipes will actually get used. And my mom can tell me when they aren’t right.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Deanna – I do hope you find it! I think that’s the very reason why I became the lucky owner of the recipe box – Grandma knew how much I would appreciate it and that I would use it. She was right.

      Reply
  9. Laura Dembowski

    What a great story! It’s so great your grandmother has so many recipes to share with you. I too love mixing doughs and batters entirely by hand, in addition to being fearless when experimenting during the baking process. The cake looks amazing; I’ll be making it soon : )

    Reply
  10. Mikaela Cowles

    I feel a little like I’m six again, stealing sugar cubes from grandmother. Or if my grandmother made rhubarb cake, sitting at her kitchen table. Lovely. Just lovely.

    Reply
  11. Cookie + Kate

    Lovely post, Ashley. I have my grandmother’s recipe cards and her copy of The Joy of Cooking tucked safely away in my cabinet, but I can’t say I’ve used any of her recipes yet. Your grandmother’s rhubarb cake looks wonderful and I love the clean, white photos!

    Reply
  12. thelittleloaf

    What an absolutely wonderful gift. My granny has old notebooks full of recipes and many of them have passed on to me over the years.

    This cake looks beautiful – simple but so full of flavour. Gorgeous.

    Reply
  13. Magda | My Little Expat Kitchen

    What a lovely cake, Ashley. I have never eaten rhubarb in my life, it is not very common in Greece. Now that I’m living in The Netherlands I can easily find it yet I never seem to buy it :)
    You are tempting me with your cake!

    Reply
  14. Lindsey

    Thank you for sharing! I am thinking of making this for Easter. Just a quick question: I have never worked with semolina flour? Is there anything different to preparing it than with bakers flour?

    Reply
  15. Nicole @ Eat This Poem

    What a wonderful gift! I received a similar gift last year. My grandmother wrote a food column in a magazine during the 60s, and my mom gave me her bound archives. It’s like being in the kitchen with her! This rhubarb cake looks perfect for early spring.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Ann – Thanks so much. I really appreciate that. Go have a look in my archives and you’ll feel better I’m sure. I’ve had a lot of practice. The more I shoot the more I learn.

      Reply
  16. Linsey

    A thousand times YES!! ” The few words written to describe the process show an assumed knowledge that is quite lost in our generation. I find the missing details freeing and the reminder that baking wasn’t always such a fearful act that required scales and a degree in chemistry. My grandmother’s and my mother knew how to bake by the feel of the batter and the way the dough reacted to their touch.”

    Reply
  17. Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef

    This cake looks so good. I’ve never made a rhubarb cake. I did cook some with some strawberries to go over yoghurt but that’s as close as I get to rhubarb these days. I’ll have to try this.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Maureen – You must. Rhubarb is such a joy to work with – floral, tart, and blends well with so many other great flavors. Let me know if you try it!

      Reply
  18. Brandi Bailey

    Wow! What an incredible gift!! I’d love to see that recipe box sometime! Wow…

    Reply
  19. Kasey

    I’m so excited about the arrival of Spring (and rhubarb!!) Your grandmother’s cake reminds me of the sorts of cake my mom and grandma bake and baked…honest, simple, full of love. The true taste of home!

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Hey all! Very important message here. When I first posted the recipe I failed to mention the yogurt. Crazy, right?! I feel horribly for those who may have printed the recipe before I made the change. It’s all good now. Happy Rhubarb cake making!!

      Reply
  20. Bethany

    Hi Ashley!

    I saw this recipe yesterday and made it last night. I LOVE rhubarb! My father loves it too. It reminds us of his mother who grew it in her backyard and would make the only recipe that she knew by heart- Rhubarb pie.

    I have never cooked with rhubarb myself, but lady, this was easy peasy! The batter was super thick, which I wasn’t expecting but the cake turned out super dense. I had some of the parts that stuck to the bottom of the pan last night and it was sooooo yummy! I plan to do a light dusting with powered sugar before I serve it.

    Reply
  21. Brianne Wright

    Wait… Doesn’t your dad have five siblings? I’m telling my dad you left him out ;)

    Reply
  22. Natalie Rose

    I made this delightful cake this morning, and then brought it in to school. A huge success! I hadn’t realized how much I’d been craving rhubarb all winter until I took a bite. Thank you for sharing- I can’t wait for more of your grandma’s recipes!

    Reply
  23. バーバリーブラックレーベル

    Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and everything. But think of if you added some great pictures or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and videos, this site could definitely be one of the very best in its niche. Terrific blog!

    Reply
  24. Donna Crow

    I can hardly wait for spring to try this. I also have recipes from my mother, grandmother and my mother-in law and I treasure them.

    Reply
  25. M Chadd

    I would have loved to see the original recipe alongside your changes. :)
    I too have lots of index cards with favorite family recipes. So much fun as we had a bunch of great cooks in our family.
    When each of my boys left home, I created a cookbook of the recipes that I used while they were home. Yes, I love to make new recipes and so MY collection has grown, but they at least have something to look at and say…..This is what my mom cooked/baked when I was growing up.

    Reply

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