Rhubarb upside-down cake makes for great garden dessert
Orchids make me anxious. It’s not just the glamorous good looks, the frail stems, the supermodel attitude. It’s their habit of dropping dead. Or worse: near dead.
Happens all the time. I bring home some produce-aisle phalaenopsis; I admire its elegant blossoms, its tropical scent, its bored stare. Then watch the blooms shrivel and drop, never to return.
Eventually I gave up. Though one of my plants didn’t. Its limp leaves slumped across the pot, green and dejected. I think it kept up the last-gasp routine out of malice.
Years into this standoff, I noticed that my orchid’s sunny window wasn’t particularly sunny. I moved the plant and pointed out the garden, where rhubarb – all sturdy pink stems and poisonous green leaves – was bounding from the dirt.
Awakening the competitive spirit. Within weeks my orchid had sprung a nub, like a toddler’s first tooth. Soon it flaunted four downward-facing pre-roots and one upward-facing spike, which should grow into a stem. Which might swell into buds, which could unfold into flowers. Someday.
In the meantime, I’m baking rhubarb.
Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 35 minutes
4 cups chopped rhubarb (from about 6 large stalks)
1⁄3 cup dark brown sugar
2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (plus more for pan)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
∏ cup milk
1. Toss: Toss together rhubarb, brown sugar, 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon zest.
2. Whisk: Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Beat: Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and remaining 1⁄3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Slide in egg, remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest and the vanilla extract; beat fluffy again. Scoop in one-third of the flour mixture; mix on low speed just to combine. Pour in half the milk; mix to combine. Repeat, working in remaining doses of flour, milk, flour.
4. Bake: Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan (not springform). Scrape in rhubarb and any juices. Scrape in cake batter; smooth top. Slide into a 350-degree oven and bake until golden and a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Set a serving plate over pan and flip cake, fruit-side up, onto the plate. Nice slightly warm.
• Provenance: Inspired by Bon Appetit