Hardy rhubarb is perfect upside-down

Chicago TribuneMay 28, 2014 

Rhubarb upside down cake is a delicious way to enjoy it when it grows in the home garden.

BILL HOGAN/CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Orchids make me anxious. It’s not just the glamorous good looks, the frail stems, the super-model attitude. It’s their habit of dropping dead. Or worse: near dead.

Happens all the time. I bring home some produce-aisle Phalaenopsis; I admire its elegant blossoms, its tropical scent, its bored stare. Then watch the blooms shrivel and drop, never to return.

Eventually I gave up. Though one of my plants didn’t. Its limp leaves slumped across the pot, green and dejected. I think it kept up the last-gasp routine out of malice.

Years into this standoff, I noticed that my orchid’s sunny window wasn’t particularly sunny. I moved the plant and pointed out the garden, where rhubarb — all sturdy pink stems and poisonous green leaves — was bounding from the dirt.

Awakening the competitive spirit, within weeks my orchid had sprung a nub, like a toddler’s first tooth. Soon it flaunted four downward-facing pre-roots and one upward-facing spike, which should grow into a stem. Which might swell into buds, which could unfold into flowers. Someday.

In the meantime, I’m baking rhubarb.

Rhubarb Upside-down Cake  •  4 cups chopped rhubarb (from about 6 large stalks)

 •  cup dark brown sugar

 •  2/3 cup granulated sugar

 •  2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

 •  1 cup flour

 •  11/2 teaspoons baking powder

 •  1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

 •  6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (plus more for pan)

 •  1 egg

 •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 •  1/2 cup milk

Toss together rhubarb, brown sugar, cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon zest.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and remaining cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Slide in egg, remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest and the vanilla extract; beat fluffy again. Scoop in one-third of the flour mixture; mix on low speed just to combine. Pour in half the milk; mix to combine. Repeat, working in remaining doses of flour, milk, flour.

Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan (not springform). Scrape in rhubarb and any juices. Scrape in cake batter; smooth top. Slide into a 350-degree oven and bake until golden and a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Set a serving plate over pan and flip cake, fruit-side up, onto the plate. Nice slightly warm.

Prep: 20 minutes/Bake: 35 minutes Yield: Makes 8 servings Source: Inspired by Bon Appetit

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