As I’ve told you, one of my very favorite recipes of all time is Rhubarb Crisp (though Karen likes it with strawberries thrown in). The tartness of the rhubarb set off against a crunchy, buttery brown sugar topping? It’s a dessert I can eat way past the point when I know I’ve definitively overindulged. Then I’ll call Karen or Marie and tell them how I ate enough to make myself ‘sick’ and they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. (What are sisters for if not to share the mundane as well as the lofty with?)
Because it’s in essence just rhubarb, sugar, and butter, it’s delicious, but it’s not exactly something I can get away with eating for breakfast. Well, not legitimately anyway (i.e. I’m not saying I haven’t done it). But–sprinkled on top of a cake? Why, it’s just as appropriate as a muffin or a pancake. (I mean, we can question how wholesome an idea it is to be eating muffins and pancakes for breakfast with any regularity, but at least if you must overindulge, doing so at breakfast appears to be the least damaging to your waistline).
Many recipes call for sour cream or buttermilk, but since I had ricotta on hand I figured that I’d give that a shot–and I’ve loved the result of ricotta in baked goods before–remember this old post? (And if you’re still wondering, it’s Smitten Kitchen approved; need i say more?). I wanted to use up some semolina flour so I threw that in as well. Semolina is high in gluten (which is why it’s so great for making pasta) so it’s not always the ideal choice for more tender baked goods, but I thought it might add a nice rustic texture and that the acidity of the ricotta would tenderize it and work out any rough edges. I was pleased with the result, but feel free to use regular all-purpose flour.
Now despite my paean to rhubarb here, I think this cake is a perfect base for any fruit you’d like–rhubarb for spring, peaches or nectarines for fall? The cake itself is mild in flavor and well-structured and thus will happily pair with whatever seasonal bounty you have on hand. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the rhubarb while it lasts.
If you’re looking for more ideas for rhubarb, check out one of my favorite blogs, Relishing It. Laurie has got tons of great ideas (and taught me that you can freeze rhubarb to enjoy it year round). There’s also our rhubarb-rose ice cream here and our pinterest page with rhubarb ideas here.
- 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces along the diagonal
- 1 1/3 cup sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice and zest of one lemon
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup semolina flour (substitute an additional cup of flour)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used muscovado with a bit of white)
- 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter or a nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper, extending the lengths up two sides. (It will look like a sling). Stir together rhubarb, lemon juice and 2/3 cup sugar and set aside. Beat butter, remaining sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at at time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon table salt together in a small bowl. Add one-third of this mixture to the batter, mixing until just combined. Continue, adding half the ricotta, the second third of the flour mixture, the remaining ricotta, and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing between each addition until just combined.
- Dollop batter over prepared pan, then use a spatula — offset, if you have one, makes this easiest — to spread the cake into an even, thin layer. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the cake, spreading it into an even layer (most pieces should fit in a tight, single layer).
- Stir together the crumb mixture, first whisking the flour, brown sugar, table salt and cinnamon together, then stirring in the melted butter with a spoon or fork. Scatter evenly over rhubarb layer. Bake cake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes. The cake is done when a tester comes out free of the wet cake batter below. It will be golden on top. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
- Cut the two exposed sides of the cake free of the pan, if needed, then use the parchment “sling” to remove the cake from the pan. Cut into 2-inch squares and go ahead and eat the first one standing up. (If it’s written into the recipe, it’s not “sneaking” a piece but, in fact, following orders, right?) Share the rest with friends. Cake keeps at room temperature for a few days, but I didn’t mind it at all from the fridge, where I kept it covered tightly.