Pipe Dream #216: To Retire Early – Rhubarb Crumb(le) Cake

rhubarb crumble 4

I saw a recipe for a “big crumb” cake, which emphasized the crumb part of the cake, and thought, “Duh, everyone’s favorite part. I want this now so I can pick the crumbs off the top.” And then I promptly waited probably two years to make it because I was half-waiting for rhubarb season, even though this riff on a classic American coffee cake can be made with any half-pound fruit ya like, I’d wager. (P.S. I apologize that rhubarb is sooooo not in season right now. Forgive me.)

rhubarb crumble 3

A friend of mine pointed out that it is odd that these types of cakes are called “coffee cakes,” as they really have nothing to do with coffee. The only logical explanation is that this is the perfect slice to have with your afternoon coffee…for those of you who sit around in the sunshine dozing, reading and doing other laid-back things on your average afternoon. Someone has to live like this. Please tell me who.

rhubarb crumble 2

Maybe this cake would have made more of an impact on my life if I hadn’t already made this hulking monstrosity, which not only featured the actual biggest crumbs this world has ever seen, but also an excellent sliver of actual cake at the bottom. Because the crumbs of the behemoth crumb cake were so massive, I actually appreciated the cake part a lot. When I made this rhubarb version, which featured a very similar cake/crumb recipe, I found myself wishing the bottom of the cake had not got so brown.

rhubarb crumble 1

Two years from now, when I make another crumb cake, I am going to double the cake recipe from the behemoth cake and cut the crumbs by like 2/3, and it will be the most perfect crumb cake ever, and I will sit in the sunshine and eat cake and enjoy my early retirement from work, life and the cares of this world. The end.

Completely pipe-dreaming,


Rhubarb Crumb(le) Cake

Adapted from smitten kitchen

For the rhubarb filling:
7 ounces (or about a 1/2 pound) rhubarb, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
1/4 cup whiet sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups cake flour (I was out and used all-purpose and it worked great)

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) softened butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, and spray an 8-inch-square baking pan with non-stick spray. Toss the rhubarb with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make the crumbs, whisk the sugars, spices and salt into melted butter in a large bowl until smooth and amalgamated. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture comes together in a solid dough. Leave it pressed in the bottom of the bowl.

To prepare the cake, stir together the sour cream, egg, heavy cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and a spoonful of the sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened and the mixture looks like large crumbs. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add the remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about a 1/2 cup of the batter and set aside.

Scrape the remaining batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the rhubarb over batter evenly, then dollop the reserved cake batter over the rhubarb.

Using your fingers, break the crumb mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size and sprinkle over the cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

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