One of the pleasurable things about my temporary life space has been having exclusive access to a well-stocked kitchen garden, and while I'm still bumbling my way through learning to "grown your own" and weathering the perpetual onslaught of greeblies, the Brussels sprouts, chard and rocket are all flourishing, there are florets appearing on the sprouting broccoli, and the vivid, sturdy leaves of celeriac are just starting to poke through.
Last week the rhubarb needed pruning so, naturally, I decided a little cake was in order. Moving away from the more traditional crumble I instead opted to try my hand at Stephanie's rhubarb yeast cake, substituting the sultanas with sour cherry, and steeping the rhubarb with a few leaves of Pelargonium graveolens.
The pairing of rose geranium and rhubarb has become a staple in my kitchen, providing a subtle variation on the classics, to which its floral tones add charm without being too overpowering. I find this combination absolutely gorgeous in jam, and thought it also worked deliciously well in this cake. Not overly sweet, the tartness and acidity of the rhubarb and sour cherry had a nice punch that was well balanced by the inclusion of a rich, syrupy Madeira. All this was then held together by a soft buttery dough and finished with a classic sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar, making for a very nice treat indeed.
An impressive afternoon centrepiece given how simple it is to prepare, this cake is perfect served warm, a dollop of crème fraîche on the side, and some good, heavy rain hitting the windows outside.
RHUBARB ROSE GERANIUM YEAST CAKE (Adapted from The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander)
For the filling
- 450 g rhubarb, chopped into 1-cm dice
- 4-6 leaves rose geranium
- 100 g sugar
- 60 g dried sour cherries
- 40 g walnuts, finely chopped
- 30 ml Madeira or Cognac
For the dough
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 200 g plain flour
- A pinch of salt
- 80 ml milk
- 20 g sugar
- 80 g butter
- 1 egg
To prepare the filling, place the dried cherries in a small bowl, cover with hot water and leave to steep for 5 minutes, then drain. Blanch the rhubarb for 1 minute in boiling water, then drain and dry well. Combine the rhubarb with the remaining ingredients, including the soaked and drained cherries, and leave to cool.
For the dough, mix together the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Heat the milk, sugar and butter together in a small saucepan until the butter has just melted. Pour the wet ingredients into a well made in the flour mixture, add the egg, and then work together for approximately 10 minutes until it comes together and forms a smooth dough. Place in a buttered bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rest in a warm place for one hour, until risen by half again.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, press down to de-gas and then roll into a 26-cm square. Transfer to a tray lined with baking paper and place the filling down the centre of the dough. Cut strips at 3-cm intervals into each side of the exposed dough, cutting all the way in to the edge of the filling. Fold the strips over the dough in an alternating, criss-cross pattern, then cover the cake with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Bake for 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C, until golden brown. Cool a little before sprinkling with cinnamon sugar. Serve warm with crème fraîche or double cream.