Though most of us are not, perhaps, privileged enough to be weathering our Pandemic Indoor Time in a getaway cottage, that doesn't mean there's any harm in fantasizing you were somewhere else right now. Let the transportive effects of rhubarb—the tart, tangy, rhizome so oft underappreciated—transport you to cooler climates. Like the Nordic climes, where rhubarb is appreciated almost as much as coffee. Or the dark side of the moon, which is cold as hell, to bastardize David Bowie. This cake—dare we call it a coffee-cake—is in fact named for the moon: it is the Lunar Rhubarb Cake, so-dubbed for its cratery streusel topping that sinks into the surface of the cake like so much craggedy green cheese.
By early spring (which it is, amazingly, for much of the planet beyond our closed doors), rhubarb is off and running in the perennial garden. And in Canada—another notoriously cold place—you'll be sure to come across this traditional recipe for baking up this vivid vegetable. We're pairing it today with Intelligentsia's Persephone Blend, another recurring Spring favorite with easy-drinking notes of caramel and green grape that meet this cake's brown sugar notes perfectly, but doesn't try to compete with the acidic bite of rhubarb.
Here, come along and bake. (Note: for the purposes of this feature, and for not using up all my flour, I've halved this recipe. Be aware the original makes a full slab suited to a 9×14 baking pan. Or as my friend Kate, who first passed it along to me, says: “This sucker is huge.”)
Traditional Canadian “Lunar” Rhubarb Cake
1/2 C butter, softened
1 1/2 C sugar (can reduce to 1 cup)
1 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk or soured milk (1 cup of milk with 1 tbsp vinegar)
2 cups or more of chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×14 baking pan.
Pour 1 tsp of flour over rhubarb in a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar together, then add egg and vanilla. Stir to combine.
In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt.
Add flour mixture and sour milk slowly to wet ingredients, alternating. Then stir in the rhubarb, combine, and pour mixture into prepared pan.
In a separate bowl, prepare streusel topping by mixing butter, sugar, and cinnamon into uneven chunks. Scatter buttery cinnamon-sugary bits across top of the cake batter.
Bake for 45 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean and allow to cool. Prepare a cup of Persephone coffee and get ready for your trip to the moon!
Liz Clayton is the associate editor at Sprudge Media Network and is based in New York City. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.