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Rhubarb Reminds Me of SoCal


I know that rhubarb and Southern California are really not generally associated with each other.  In fact it seems a bit odd to think of them together since rhubarb is a cool weather vegetable and needs lots of water to stay "sweet", which is a relative term since rhubarb is actually quite tart all of the time.  Because of those two factors I’m fairly certain rhubarb is not grown commercially in SoCal, although maybe for Farmers’ Markets there is some production.  But still rhubarb and SoCal for me are forever intertwined. 
When I was in college three friends and I took a road trip from Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon to Cal Poly Pomona in Pomona, California to attend a conference for the student chapter of the IIE.  It was a memorable trip for a variety of reasons:  the fact that one person, Jeff, drove the entire 14+ hour trip without ever sleeping and we drove overnight and it wasn’t until later that I realized he was dropping speed the entire trip; the mudslide that closed I-5 at The Grapevine just north of Los Angeles allowing my friends and I to play Frisbee on the freeway for 2 hours; we stayed at Jeff’s family’s house in one of the ritzy neighborhoods near UCLA which was my first exposure to real wealth; the Silver Fizzes Jeff’s dad served us for cocktail hour; and the rhubarb cake his mom made for dessert.
The Silver Fizzes had made all of us feel very grown-up and we were in a very festive mood throughout dinner.  At that time in my life there was never even a thought of turning down dessert and so I eagerly accepted a piece of the cake, at the time not knowing it was rhubarb.  Moist and tender, fragrant with cinnamon and topped with cream cheese frosting I thought it was amazingly good.  I had grown up with rhubarb but we mostly had pies or sauce – I’d never had a rhubarb cake before!  I was hooked. 
I got the recipe that night and I still have the original plain, white, lined 3"x5" card that we all used to share recipes in those days. 
I’ve made this recipe many times and it’s always been great.  A couple days ago I had the bright idea to use it to make cupcakes.  Well the bright idea wasn’t really all that smart.  As mentioned the cake is super moist and it also doesn’t raise much.  While I was prepared for basically flat cupcakes I hadn’t realized how unsuited the moistness makes the cake for cupcake liners – it’s really just too soft to work well.  I’d never want to serve these to anyone, although I don’t mind eating them myself! 
Here’s the recipe for the cake – just don’t try to get creative with the pan!  And Grace was not Jeff’s mom’s name but who the recipe originally came from. 
Grace’s Rhubarb Cake
2 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 well-beaten egg
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Combine rhubarb with 1/2 cup sugar and set aside.
Cream remaining sugar with the shortening.  Add the egg and beat until well mixed. 
Sift the dry ingredients together.  Add alternatively with the buttermilk. 
Stir in the vanilla and the rhubarb. 
Turn into greased 11"x7"x2" pan.  Bake at 350°F for 1 hour. 
Cool and top with Cream Cheese frosting, if desired.  (It really can be left plain and used as a coffee-cake, too.)
  1. DONNA permalink
    30-Apr-2008 5:37 pm

    For me too.  Southern California and Reubarb being intertwined and all.  I lived in San Diego for several years and my first experience with reubarb was there.  A tiny little town in the mountains east of San Diego called Julian had an apple festival thing that I went to and they had tons of apple pies and reubarb pies too.  My husband\’s grandfather bought reubarb pies there and so whenever I hear about reubarb, I think about that time in San Diego with Papap.

  2. Culinary permalink
    01-May-2008 8:28 am

    Hi YJB!  Nice to hear you have an association, too.  I\’ve heard Julien is beautiful!  Maybe someday I\’ll make it there! 
    ~ B


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