Monday, 17 August 2009
Rhubarb and Blackberry Cornmeal Cake
So, after spending all Saturday afternoon making a curry, on Sunday afternoon it was back to baking.
I was torn by indecision - my rhubarb is still growing strongly, but I'd also picked some more blackberries on Sunday morning and it seemed a shame to freeze them all. Whichever I used, the weather was too warm to want a hot dessert, so crumbles and pies were out. The only solution was to try them together in a fresh fruit cake.
I'd already earmarked Nigella Lawson's recipe for Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake (from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess') to try, so this seemed like a good opportunity. I wasn't sure about using cinnamon which I'd seen in some online recipes (I don't have the book, so don't know if Nigella uses it or if it's crept in while being moved around the internet) with either the rhubarb or the blackberries, and one review of the recipe found the flavour overwhelmed that of the fruit, so I decided to reduce both the flour and polenta by 25g each and add 50g ground almonds, leaving out the cinnamon completely.
250g rhubarb, sliced in 1cm slices
300g caster sugar
125g butter, at room temperature
125g plain flour
130g fine cornmeal (I used instant polenta)
50g ground almonds
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g natural yogurt (mine was low fat)
Pre-heat oven to 180C, 160C fan, Gas 4. Grease a 23cm springform tin, and base-line with baking parchment.
Put the fruit into a glass bowl and sprinkle with 100g of the caster sugar. Don't leave for more than 30 minutes, or too much liquid will be drawn out of the fruit.
Mix the flour, cornmeal, ground almonds and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl.
In a large bowl cream the butter and remaining 200g of caster sugar, until well mixed. As there is more sugar than butter, it won't get as light and fluffy as when making a sponge cake.
Add the vanilla extract, then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour mix with each egg.
Using a metal spoon, fold in the rest of the dry ingredients, alternately with portions of the yogurt. Don't overmix at this stage, mix until the ingredients are just blended.
Finally, fold in the fruit, with the sugar and any juice which has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl.
Put the cake batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 1 hour, covering after 40 minutes if it's getting too brown. A test probe should be clean of any wet cake batter, but note that if the probe goes through a piece of fruit, it may still appear wet.
Cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack before removing the sides of the tin.
Although an electric mixer makes this cake easier, I think it could easily be made with just a spoon, as long as the butter is really soft, as the creaming stage isn't as important as for lighter cakes.
The finished cake was a little disappointing; there wasn't much wrong with the flavour and texture, but I didn't like the way all the fruit had sunk to the bottom. This isn't a huge problem, especially if the cake is being used as a dessert, but it does spoil the appearance a little. I haven't notice other reviewers complain about this, so I wonder if using low fat yogurt has made a difference? As for the flavour, the almonds weren't really noticeable and maybe a little spice or other flavouring would have been a good addition - certainly if I try the cake again, with a single fruit, I will add some appropriate flavouring.
Using the two fruits together wasn't perhaps my best idea either. Neither flavour predominated, but it was hard to tell which fruits had been used, going by flavour alone. It makes me wonder whether the traditionalists have it right and that only some fruit combinations are 'right', such as blackberries and apples, or rhubarb and strawberries, and that doing something unconventional doesn't bring about any benefits.
Monday pm - after a slice of the now completely cold cake for lunch, I've revised my opinion a bit. The flavour of both fruits are more evident now than when the cake was eaten still slightly warm, yesterday, and it seems much better for that. However, cold, it's even more of a pity that all the fruit is at the bottom - it makes two distinct layers, which I'm sure wasn't the intention.