I must have been around 7 years old when I tasted rhubarb for the first time. I confess, I have no real memories of the meal itself, the taste or the look, or even whether it was sweet or savoury. It stayed with me nevertheless, in the way first impressions register, a notion of something new, not quite mystical but still different… exciting. Green-ish red stalks sprouting in bushes, cooking them in cake or compote or sauce? Even the name sounded exotic on a fruit that my maternal grandparents – in charge of bringing me up while my parents still studied and worked as junior doctors – had not used in their cooking. My grandmother from my fathers side though, she had rhubarb rampant in her little allotment and she proudly tended to it in the height of summer.
I never really warmed up to rhubarb then. It stayed a little mysterious and a little strange until I became a grown up with a taste for tangy, tart cakes. I’ll always remember the first time we met though. And because my grandmother is sick and far away and I appreciate those moments we shared now more than ever, here’s a rhubarb cake I think she’d like. Bunica – get well soon!
125g mascarpone cheese
60g butter, melted and left to cool slightly
220g granulated sugar
160g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
zest and juice from 2 limes
a sprinkle of granulated sugar to finish off
Preheat oven at 190C.
Butter and line a cake tin – square or round works well. Mine was round, 21″, loose bottom.
Wash rhubarb, chop ends off and slice finely.
Cream mascarpone and sugar together, until sugar is dissolved.
Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well before adding the next.
Beat in the lime zest and juice, then add flour and salt.
Finally, mix in melted butter and half of the rhubarb.
Pour into prepared pan and dot the remaining rhubarb slices on top, pushing them at least 2/3 of the way into the batter.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around for an even bake about half way through this time.
Leave to cool in pan, then remove from cake tin.
Dust with some icing sugar before serving.
Cake will keep well up to 3 days.
Enjoy, hugs your dear ones a little closer. Turn someone into a rhubarb fan if you can.