We’ve got a North facing garden, shaded by next door’s garage and four stories of Edwardian brickwork.
There isn’t a lot of light back there, and the ground has a tendency to hold too much water because of the high clay content. I can successfully grow only two things – those Jurassic style ferns that seem capable of living in almost complete darkness and rhubarb.
The clump of rhubarb explodes into life in the early months of the year and soon grows to a massive size, huge thick stems supporting vast umbrella leaves.
Rhubarb is a very hardy plant…it’ll grow in the most unpromising of spots and tolerates all kinds of abuse and neglect.
That said, a couple of buckets of horse manure in the autumn will guarantee a bumper crop come the spring.
The trouble with this is that you’ve got to deal with a glut at about this time of year.
Rhubarb freezes quite well, but freezing something fresh like this always makes me feel like it’s defeated me. Better to make something with it straight away.
Anything, as long as it’s not another rhubarb crumble…
Rhubarb is very tart, and it benefits from being paired with a lot of sugar because of this.
This cake gets the balance of sweetness and tartness just right. The heavy rhubarb sinks in the batter and ends up suspended just above the base, as the cake rises.
Cream 140g of softened butter and 100g of light muscavado sugar together until the butter is light and pale. For a darker, richer cake, you could use dark muscavado instead, but the light version shows off the rhubarb well.
Stir in 200g of golden syrup.
Next, beat in two eggs, one at a time until they’re incorporated well.
You need to give the cake a little more moisture to work with, so add 200ml of hot water, very slowly, beating all the time. It may look like an unpromising mess at this stage, but persevere.
Sieve 300g of self-raising flour, a teaspoon each of ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda and two teaspoons of mixed spice over the batter and fold in. You may have to be more aggressive than you’d normally be, but carry on and hold your nerve.
Wash and slice 300g of rhubarb into centimetre-ish chunks and stir into the batter. A little more rhubarb probably won’t hurt, if you’re really trying to get through the glut.
Scrape the batter into a buttered and floured twenty-five or thirty centimetre cake tin and bake for fifty minutes at 180c, turning half way through.
Check done-ness by sticking a knife into the middle and, hopefully, extracting a clean blade. Remember that there’s a load of rhubarb buried underneath that golden crust, so if the knife has bits of cooked rhubarb on it, that’s fine, just look out for signs of any raw batter.
Let the cake sit in its tin for ten minutes before turning it out.