Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

It is believed that the name ‘rhubarb’ comes from the Greek,  rha and barbarum —meaning “the plant of the barbarians”.  And ‘barbarians’ got their name from the words barbara and barbarous, meaning ‘to stammer’ and ‘strange and ignorant’.

In the 1850s, actors in crowd scenes on stage were instructed to mutter ‘rhubarb, rhubarb’ because it was unintelligible to the audience, and the custom has continued since . In other parts of Europe they say rabarber [In the USA, bizarrely they say walla walla]
My rhubarb crown in the back garden seems to have died over the winter, but a generous friend brought some from her garden and gave it to me at church on Sunday. She also gave me some crystallized ginger. I plan to make a rhubarb and ginger pudding - but I've already had a go at this cake [another recipe from Bronte at the Scandikitchen]

Danish rhubarb cake with cardamom and custard
A very moist vanilla sponge with a fresh, tart rhubarb topping, spiced with vanilla and cardamom. The custard adds a lovely creamy texture, but can be left out if you prefer a firmer cake. Serve hot or cold, with or without cream.
Serves 6
150g butter
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g plain flour
1½ tsp vanilla sugar
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
Crushed sugar cubes, to decorate
100-150 ml ready-made custard, heated and thickened with 1 tbsp cornflour, then cooled
For the topping
25g butter
50g golden caster sugar
The seeds from 2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp vanilla sugar or extract
4-5 sticks (400g) rhubarb, cut into 12cm lengths

  1. First, make the topping. In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar and spice for the rhubarb mixture. When bubbling slightly, add the rhubarb and stew for a few minutes until completely coated. Take off the heat and leave to cool. This stage can be done the day before you want to eat it.
  2. To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is incorporated before adding the next.
  3. In a bowl, sift the flour, salt, vanilla sugar and baking powder and fold in with the wet mixture. Line a 23cm-diameter baking dish with high sides (minimum 5cm) with baking paper (or grease it well). Add the batter and spread evenly. If using custard, spoon it thinly over the batter. Carefully and evenly add the rhubarb mixture on top. Reserve a little bit of the syrup (a few tablespoons).
  4. Bake in the oven at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 – this can take anything from 35-45 minutes. Check with a skewer: if it comes out clean, it's done. Leave to cool, drizzle with the remaining syrup and scatter with the crushed sugar cubes.
I decided I was going to make a cake half the size, so halved the quantities and baked it in a 16cm diameter tin**. I used some custard from a tin, which was pretty thick already, so did not add extra cornflour. This cake will cut into 4 decent sized wedges. I cut my rhubarb to 6cm lengths, and when the cake was done, I drizzled it with the lovely cardamom and vanilla syrup - but omitted the crushed sugar cubes [A very small attempt at carb reduction!] It will be served with low fat crème fraiche
[**if you want to make a cake half the size of a 23cm diameter one, 16cm tin and half quantities is the right way to go. Trust me on this, I'm a better mathematician than I am a cook!]


  1. Yum! My rhubarb is doing well so I shall try this. Did you cover the crown over Winter, with lots of compost? If not maybe that is why it has died. Or, it could still come back.

  2. I am afraid our crown languished uncovered and neglected behind the shed! Perhaps it may yet revive...

  3. That rhubarb pie looks absolutely delicious and I already have a pot of sugar with vanilla pods stashed inside it, all I need now is for my rhubarb to grow.

    1. We have enjoyed some at room temperature and some which I warmed through gently in the oven. Both equally delicious. Two slices remain in the freezer for the weekend!

  4. I saw your title and instantly starting singing the theme tune to Rhubarb and Custard- da da da da, da da da da, da da da da da.


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