It is such a luxury this year to have all the rhubarb I could want. Our oldest plants are finally 3 years old, which means we can pick from them pretty freely – yay!
As my Mom reminded me on a another rhubarb post a few weeks ago, my grandmother loved rhubarb, and I can still remember the gooey sweet and tart pies that she made with it. She would give us little bits to eat raw, and even though it was so puckery-sour that it nearly turned us cross-eyed, we ate them anyway. They were a taste of spring; a part of visiting there and spending time with her while she worked in the yard. I can’t imagine there was any more welcome depression-era sight than the long stalks and big leaves of rhubarb coming up every year. No work to plant, nothing to peel or seed – just juicy yumminess leaping from the ground with rampant abandon as soon as the weather warmed up a bit. No wonder grandma was such a fan!
I think modern cultivars of rhubarb are sweeter than the old-time kinds my grandmother grew. I have one old-fashioned plant that a friend gave me and it has bigger, greener stalks that are definitely more on the sour side. Then I have a number of plants with more slender, bright red stalks – these are almost sweet enough to eat on their own. I like to combine the two kinds to get the best of each of them. This kuchen is an awesome way to do that – and despite being a yeasted cake, it is surprisingly easy and fast to get together.
If you look up “kuchen” online, you will find there is actually more than one baked good called by this name – some are custard filled cakes, some a thicker cinnamon topped cake, and then this type, which is more like a coffee cake than anything else. The rich buttery cake layer is topped with tart spiced rhubarb and then with a layer of crunchy sweet streusel. You can mix the whole thing up with just a whisk and wooden spoon.
- 2 - 3 cups rhubarb cut in ¼ inch pieces
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch salt
- 2 & ¼ cups all purpose flour, divided
- 1 packet granulated yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup milk
- ¼ honey
- ¼ cup soft butter
- 1 large egg
- 4 teaspoon very soft butter
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cinnamon
- pinch salt
- Generously butter two 8 or 9 inch cake pans
- Combine the filling ingredients and set aside, stirring every few minutes - it will become very syrupy as the sugar melts and the rhubarb lets out its juice.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 & ¼ cups of the flour, the yeast and salt.
- Measure the milk, butter and honey into a 2 cup glass measure, or a small glass bowl, and microwave on low until the milk is warm - stir to melt the butter and get everything combined well. [this can be done on the stovetop, in a small pan, if you prefer]. You should be able to hold your finger in the mixture without feeling like it's burning you - if it is too hot, let it sit a few minutes before going to the next step.
- Whisk the milk mixture into the flour mixture and whisk for a couple minutes, until the batter is very smooth.
- Whisk in the egg.
- Switch to a wooden spoon and mix in the final cup of flour, until well combined and the batter is fairly smooth.
- Divide the batter between the two buttered 8 or 9 inch cake pans and spread to the edge - you can dampen your fingers to do this, or use a silicone spatula. I use a scale to get an equal amount in each pan.
- Divide the rhubarb mixture evenly between the pans, getting it spread evenly over the cake layer.
- Use a pastry cutter or a fork to blend the topping ingredients together - it will be a rather crumbly texture.
- Spread the topping evenly over the rhubarb layer.
- Set in a warmish place to rise for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350º, and bake the cakes for around 40 minutes.
- Use a toothpick to test that the cake layer is done - there should be no crumbs on it at all. The fruit layer should be bubbly, and the topping nicely browned.
- Cool in pans on a rack.
- The cake can be served from the pan, or you can put it on a plate by loosening around the edge with an offset spatula, and then kind of keeping the spatula under the cake as you guide it onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. You can top it with a bit of glaze [1 cup confectionery sugar with cream mixed in to give it a drizzle-able consistency], whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, creme fraiche, Greek yogurt - or just eat it plain.
- Store leftovers in the fridge or wrap tightly and freeze to keep longer than a few days.
This would make a nice breakfast addition and it’s a great dessert. I like to serve it warm [you can easily re-heat it, wrapped in foil in a medium oven for 15 minutes] and Larry is particularly fond of it with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. But Grandma, and my Mom always put butter on their coffee cake, and I don’t think it’s at all overkill to have this with a nice big pat of soft butter on top.And it is pretty darned good all by itself!