I bought rhubarb specifically to make a rhubarb cake I saw in Martha Stewart Living magazine. Pistachio-Rhubarb Yogurt Cake. Martha’s magazine is a guilty pleasure of mine – though it seems everything about the magazine is geared towards women. But that’s alright. I skip right past the make-up tips and arts and crafts stuff and look at her recipes. They always feature creative yet unapproachable seasonal ingredients. I’ll admit it’s not a magazine I’d read on a plane, but I still subscribe and I still skulk to the mailbox each month to retrieve it. Do you think I could get it delivered in a plain brown wrapper?
I feel the same way about rhubarb. It’s so pretty it blushes. Fruit that blushes is not what I’d call manly fruit. But (like Martha’s magazine) it’s frivolous first impression belies its practical place in our seasonal fruit bowl. Which means there’s an obvious disconnect here. That’s partly because rhubarb isn’t a fruit it’s a vegetable. A vegetable that’s best-known as a dessert. Rhubarb may be botanically a vegetable, but it is legally a fruit, as ruled by the U.S. Customs Court in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1947. Whichever way you want to classify it, rhubarb bridges the seasonal gap between winter citrus and summer stone fruit nicely. It’s perfectly suited to a no muss, no fuss in-between-season rhubarb cake.
However there’s another contradiction: On its own the sour stalks of rhubarb are no one’s favorite fruit. Rhubarb may wear a flamboyant crimson frock, but it can be so tart it verges on astringent. However, its flavor mellows when roasted with sugar. That’s exactly where this rhubarb cake starts.
In fact, whenever I’m faced with a bunch of rhubarb I immediately toss it with butter and sugar and stick it in a 400 degree oven. A bright-pink batch of roasted rhubarb can add a sweet and sour twang to almost anything. Spoon it on ice cream, set a bowl next to a pork loin, layer it in a silky parfait or make this manly rhubarb cake. Yes, rhubarb cake can be manly. Men invented cake. And fire. And weapons of mass destruction. I think I read that in Martha Stewart Living magazine. GREG