Thursday, December 07, 2017

Rhubarb Custard Tea Cake

I found this recipe on Eat, Little Bird a few years ago and had been wanting to make it ever since. It makes a gorgeous cake, provided you use bright pink (i.e., forced) rhubarb. There’s a layer of custard baked right into the cake! Both the custard and the cake batter itself call for custard powder, so this is a great recipe for using up that container of Bird’s custard powder stashed in the back of your pantry for when you make Nanaimo bars (though the link also has a version with from-scratch custard that I’d recommend you make with coconut milk, if you don’t mind the extra work).

My problem with this cake, originally, is that it was overbaked. It calls for a whopping 1 h 30 min in the oven; I tented it with foil after 45 minutes and pulled it out altogether after 1 hour. It wasn’t burnt, but was definitely way too dry (another blogger had the same issue). This is particularly disappointing for a custard cake! So I decided to try it again, this time with more custard and less time in the oven. I also added a bit of milk in the batter to moisten it. Since I didn’t have rhubarb for the second go-round, I made it with raspberries.

The result was delicious, and much better than the first cake. The Engineer said that if I had used blueberries, he would have loved the cake as much as I did. And for what it’s worth, I now realize that it’s pretty low in sugar, too, so I certainly wouldn’t feel badly making it again. The version below is mine.

For the custard
3 Tbsp. custard powder
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 ½ cup lactose-free whole milk
1 Tbsp. lactose-free butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

For the cake
1 ¼ cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup custard powder
1 ½ sticks (¾ cup) lactose-free butter or margarine, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup lactose-free milk
1-2 fresh rhubarb stalks, ideally pink (or other fruit, like raspberries or blueberries)
1 Tbsp. lactose-free butter or margarine, melted
1 Tbsp. coarse sugar

First, make the custard by mixing together the custard powder and sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk in the milk and bring the pan to a boil, stirring frequently. The mixture will start to thicken very quickly and, when it does, take the pan off the heat. Whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Let cool (you can refrigerate it until ready to use, in which case I recommend covering the surface with plastic wrap to prevent pudding skin from forming).

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Cover the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan in such a way as to trap the paper between the bottom and sides of the pan (I find that this is very helpful in preventing the paper from moving with thick cake batter). Grease the paper and sides of the pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and custard powder

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the flour, alternating with the milk. The batter will be quite thick, but it should still be spreadable.

Using a small spatula, spread half of the cake batter in the pan, covering the entire surface. Spread the custard over the cake mixture. Dollop spoonfuls of the remaining cake batter over the custard and carefully spread the cake batter to completely cover the custard.

Chop the rhubarb stalks in 4-inch lengths and slice them to be roughly ½-inch thick. Arrange the rhubarb like the spokes of a wheel, trimming where necessary.

Brush the top of the cake with melted butter and sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, then cool on a wire rack. (Note that these cook times worked in my oven, which runs on the hotter side of the normal range, with the extra milk in the batter and with the custard coming straight from the fridge.)

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