Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rhubarb Coffee Cake, Vegan (or Not)


I love rhubarb. My patch holds a bit of nostalgia as it is one I started from digging a clump or two from my grandparent's house. In the spring when I would go to visit, Grandpa used to pull it right out of the ground, cut off the 'root' and leaf, then sharing a small bowl of sugar between us we would dip the wet ends in and eat the stalks raw, wincing with each tart bite until a small pile of stalks were missing from Grandma's patch. She never seemed to mind, in fact, on pondering it I suspect she sent us out there, bowl of sugar in hand, just to get us out of the house.

Grandma always said rhubarb should not be eaten past the Fourth of July, that the poison in the leaves (never eat those) would travel down into the stem after the heat of summer came on and consuming it make you sick.  Turns out Grandma had that bit wrong, the stems are fine to eat all summer long, but they tend to get tough as they age, so we try to pick them regularly as the new shoots keep coming right up until frost. Rhubarb freezes perfectly; simply cut, bag, and throw into the freezer. Thaw before using (at least in this recipe or it can cause the cake to cook unevenly, as per firsthand experience.)

If you aren't vegan, and I am not always, simply use regular milk and sour it with the vinegar or switch both out for buttermilk if available. Add an egg if you desire, they do make for such a lovely binder. The recipe does hold together very well without the egg; however the rhubarb needs to be chopped into approximately 1/2 inch bite-sized pieces. Since the cake is loaded with rhubarb, if the chunks are too large the cake batter just can't support the weight and even an egg will have a hard time holding it all together.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake, Vegan (or Not)

 Crumb Topping:

4 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour

In a small bowl cut the butter into all the remaining crumb topping ingredients with a fork or pastry blender. Set aside

Cake: 

1 cup milk of choice
1 tablespoon vinegar 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 1/2 cups flour
3 cups rhubarb, thawed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.
  2. Measure the milk into a one-cup liquid measure and add vinegar to sour and/or curdle it. Add the vanilla.
  3. Beat the the margarine, coconut oil, brown and white sugars with an electric mixer until light and well blended. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix lightly to incorporate and then blend with the milk mixture on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes until well mixed. 
  4. Toss in the rhubarb and blend to combine with a spatula until evenly dispersed in the batter. 
  5. Immediately turn out batter into prepared baking dish and smooth to fill. 
  6. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly around top and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until top is golden brown and cake bounces back to touch. Toothpick test is a harder gauge due to the rhubarb content. Err on the side of too done if in question since the cake is very moist and won't suffer from a bit of over-baking. 
  7. Allow to cool to serve as coffee cake, but it is equally delicious as a dessert served warm with a dollop of ice cream or your favorite dessert topping. Store leftovers in the fridge. 

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