Rhubarb and I have reached a bit of an impasse, and it’s not even Memorial Day.
Giddy with the not-so-novel idea of an upside down cake featuring stalks of pie plant, I hold up a photo. Rhubarb sighs. “What’s the problem? This is a stunning bake!” Totally nonplussed, Rhubarb shrugs his poisonous leaves and dismisses my upside down cake dream. The harbinger of spring then poses the obvious question, “Can’t you simply leave upside down cake to Pineapple? Why must you drag me into the mix?”
Setting down a parchment-lined springform pan, I cajole. “C’mon… you know you’re perfectly suited to this role. You’ll love this cake- it’s spiked with ginger and healthy from yogurt, and of course…” I point in his direction. “What’s not to love?” Rhubarb pauses before replying. “What’s not to love is being subjected to a poaching syrup of hot caramel. What’s not to love is being wedged into the confines of a pan held together with a massive latch and then being smothered in cake batter. Call me petty, but withstanding fifty minutes of moderate heat under glaring lights before someone flips you on your head isn’t a pie plant’s dream. We’re a common garden vegetable, for crying out loud, not Cirque du Soleil!”
Rhubarb continues. “Once again, you’re only thinking of yourself. Your breakfast slice, your post running snack, your dessert. Have you ever considered my feelings?” I hadn’t. Rhubarb lashes out, “You try standing on your head in a 9” springform pan with nowhere to turn.”
Rhubarb is right, after all. It’s not easy coaxing lightly poached stalks of a spring vegetable into a tightly confined space. Refusing to line up with precision, the vegetable wiggles and rolls over, refusing to surrender to the blade of a small paring knife, overlapping in the wrong places and leaving unsightly gaps where the pan bottom meets the side. My fingers are scorched from the caramel syrup and unlike the photograph, the brilliant pink stalks are less brilliant post-bake. Still, the cake bakes up perfectly tart from the rhubarb and spicy from the candied ginger and just sweet enough from the caramel. I have a slice for breakfast and another later in the afternoon. And despite the hullaballoo from the star ingredient, I’d call this Ottolenghi recipe a wild success.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm