Eating Wild: Rhubarb and Spruce-tip Cake

Eating Wild: Rhubarb and Spruce-tip Cake

Recipe turns huge rhubarb into huge flavor

  • By Erin Anais Heist For the Juneau Empire
  • Wednesday, June 12, 2019 7:00am
  • Neighborsfood

I was never a rhubarb fan growing up. The only way I would suffer through the strong sour taste was when my very Minnesotan grandmother would make strawberry rhubarb refrigerator jam using strawberry Jell-O mix.

But here in Southeast, even a terrible gardener (I’m speaking about myself here) can grow jurasically large rhubarb plants. I also never considered myself a baker. That’s probably part of the reason rhubarb was never something I was inclined to use, because it is often shown to its best advantage with a good dose of sugar in something warm and fruity.

All of this changed when I discovered the flavor combination of spruce tips and rhubarb. The sweet citrus notes of spruce tips, when combined with bright tart rhubarb, has become a seasonal treat that I literally spend the whole year dreaming up ideas about. For the first season of Eating Wild, I published a winner of a recipe for a Rhubarb and Spruce-tip Galette. This year it’s a decadent, elegant and simple cake.

Erin Anais Heist’s spruce tip rhubarb cake on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erin Anais Heist’s spruce tip rhubarb cake on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

This is essentially a take on Marian Burros’ famous (and perfect) Plum Torte recipe. It’s a great excuse to use the biggest, gnarliest rhubarb stalks on your plant, and keeping those stalks in large chunks means you get delicious in-your-face hits of rhubarb, the juice of which then seeps down into the surrounding spruce tip-infused batter. Be sure to leave at least a little space around each piece of rhubarb to ensure that your cake can rise up between the pieces and get beautifully browned and caramelized.

We’re now at the tail end of spruce-tip season, although they can still be found in shadowy nooks up at elevation. This recipe can be made without spruce tips, and you can easily sub in just about any type of stone fruit for the rhubarb, but for the classic version, use about six or seven halved plums, cut-side down, and top with cinnamon sugar instead of spruce-tip sugar. If leaving out the spruce tips, expect to reduce your cooking time by about 10 minutes.

Rhubarb & Spruce-tip Cake

Prep: 15 minutes active, 70-80 minutes total

Makes: 8 generous slices

1 cup sugar

1 cup spruce tips, finely diced

1 cup butter (room temp)

1 tsp lemon zest

2 eggs

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

3 large rhubarb stalks, cut into 2 inch pieces

Erin Anais Heist prepares spruce tip rhubarb cake in her home kitchen on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Erin Anais Heist prepares spruce tip rhubarb cake in her home kitchen on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Combine spruce tips and sugar ahead of time, either dicing the spruce tips by hand and combining with the sugar, or throwing the spruce tips and sugar into a food processor for a couple of seconds. Allow for the spruce tip and sugar mixture to stand for at least 30 minutes in the fridge, but you can do this step the night before.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saving aside about a tablespoon of spruce-tip sugar, cream the butter, remaining spruce-tip sugar and lemon zest together until fluffy. Mix in eggs. Slowly add flour, baking powder and salt until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape batter into a 9-inch springform pan and smooth until evenly distributed. No need to grease the pan, there’s already plenty of butter in this recipe.

Press rhubarb chunks flat side down into the top of the batter, spaced so that the batter can push up between the pieces. Sprinkle the reserved spruce-tip sugar over the rhubarb. Bake 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (although likely shining with all that rhubarb juice and butter). Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let stand for another 5-10 minutes before slicing. Best sliced with a serrated bread knife to easily cut through the rhubarb.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for added decadence! And honestly, if it’s possible, I think this cake might be even more delicious the next day after all of the cooked juices have had time to really absorb into the cake. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate overnight and then warm up the next day just before serving.


• Erin Anais Heist is a food blogger in Juneau. Readers can contact her at foodabe.com, or on Instagram or Twitter at @erinanais. “Eating Wild” recipes publish every other week.


More in Neighbors

Thx
Thank you for the week of July 3

Thank you for making Celebration 2022 possible.

t
Recognitions for the week of July 3

Juneau students earn academic honors.

Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist.
Slack Tide: My especially Alaskan life

It’s more than a lack of Trader Joe’s.

t
Gimme a Smile: Cooking with the kids

There is a love triangle at my house, between parents, kids and food.

Jane Hale (Courtesy Photo)
Coming Out: It is Germane, Part 2

It was nothing like an epiphany. Instead, it was a slowly gathering storm.

Joab Cano
Living Growing: Strive to enter

What was the mission of Christ here on earth?

t
Thank you letter for the week of June 19

Thank you, merci, danke, gracias, gunalchéesh.

Chief Ed Mercer presents Robert Partin an award for bravery during the Juneau Police Department’s annual award ceremony on June 9, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Man talks receiving Citizen’s Award for Bravery

Snowy streets and foul weather could have been a recipe for disaster.

Melissa McCormick, left, accepts a check from State Farm insurance agent Robin Lonas for the Find Your Fire nonprofit as part of a State Farm outreach program. (Courtesy photo / State Farm)
Insurance company donates $10,000 to local nonprofit

It was part of a program where 100 agents selected organizations to award grants to.

Donna Leigh (Courtesy Photo)
Living & Growing: What does giving grace mean?

I’ve heard that word a lot over the past few years.

Tari Stage-Harvey (Courtesy photo)
Living & Growing: Healing and a hand to hold

“You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”

If warm weather and blue skies aren't enough to tell it's summer in Juneau, Slack Tide offers up 36 other sure signs of the season. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Slack Tide: 36 Signs Summer is Back in Juneau

The return of whales, salmon and tourists… and, of course, closeout deals on steer manure.