In this day in age, with the world at our fingertips courtesy of the internet, it is easy to forget to leverage things like books for information (such a novel (pun intended) concept). Despite my incredible wall of cookbooks, I don't use them nearly as often as I should. Not because I don't want to, but it is so much easier to just ask Google for the best rhubarb cake recipes rather than flipping through a dozen cookbooks.
The problem with Google is that the top results are almost always the same handful of recipes just made by different people. It's hard to unearth something that hasn't been tried by thousands. It's hard to find a unique point of view and a recipe that offers something just slightly different then all the others.
This is why we have cookbooks.
Cookbooks allow chefs and people passionate about food to tell a story through recipes – it’s why I find them so invaluable – I love that they have a very specific point of view. Sean Brock’s Heritage is one such book. Sure some of the recipes are so insanely specific that I want to scream at the impracticality of them but together they tell the story of Southern cooking – or the kind of Southern cooking he wants the South to be known for. I can appreciate his desire to tell that story. And! For every insane thousand step recipe lies a seemingly easy one. (I love that this cookbook is filled with such juxtapositions.) This rhubarb buckle is one of the easy ones. It’s one of the ones I imagine I will eventually memorize and come to rely on because it is dreamy. It’s not over-the-top or stuffy instead it’s reliable, comforting, and I will go so far as to say perfect.
Recipe adapted from Heritage by Sean Brock
I have quite the love affair with fruit filled streusel topped cakes and have made MANY such cakes in the past. This may be one of my favorites yet. The streusel is killer, the cake bakes up like a dream, and I imagine this could be made with any number of fruit varieties – apples could be phenomenal and blueberries equally addicting. I couldn’t help tinkering just a bit by adding some ground ginger to the mix – my love affair with spices knows no bounds. Feel free to change the spices depending on which fruit you use (but I strongly suggest you try making it with rhubarb at least once).
Makes one 9-inch cake
For the Buckle
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups, ¼ inch thick slices rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (though you can sub ½ cup for whole wheat and rye if you choose)
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup whole milk or buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (you can also do ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon almond extract as I did)
1 large egg
For the Streusel
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup rolled oats
½ cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
For the rhubarb: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the rhubarb and cook, stirring frequently until tender, about 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup of the sugar and stir to dissolve it. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the rhubarb to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the streusel: Using your hands or a fork, mix the butter, sugar, oats, nuts, flour, salt, and ginger in a medium bowl until clumps form. Set aside.
For the Buckle: Put the flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Put the milk, vanilla (or vanilla and almond) extract, and egg in another small bowl and whisk to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the remaining 8 tablespoons butter and ¾ cup sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with the flour. Fold in the rhubarb. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Sprinkle the streusel over the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the buckle is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes. Serve the buckle warm with ice cream.
The buckle is best the day it’s made, but it will keep, covered, for up to 3 days at room temperature. Reheat in a 325 degree oven for 7-10 minutes.