Now that forced rhubarb has hit the shops it would seem rude not to take advantage of those delicious & beautiful slender red stems and bake something equally delicious. It's such a versatile fruit vegetable which can easily be used in a host of different recipes, such as crumble (like our classic recipe for rhubarb and ginger crumble), in cakes, or even made into a jam or curd. I'm also led to believe, for those carnivores out there, that the natural sharpness of rhubarb cuts through the oily qualities of mackerel really well!
One cake I'm particularly drawn to, aesthetically, is the Fraisier cake, no doubt popularised by GBBO's technical challenge a few years ago. The halved strawberries positioned upright around the edge of a classic genoise cake and surrounded by creme patissiere simply looks stunning. Last spring that cake inspired me to try something similar, replacing the strawberries with with rhubarb and orange. Short baked batons of rhubarb stood on end around the edge of a sponge cake, alternated with orange segments and filled with a patissierie custard. Alas, though, despite its amazing flavour combo, it didn't make it to the blog due to structural stability, or rather instability!
That wasn't the end of the rhubarb and custard cake inspiration though. The idea has stayed in my 'to bake list' all year. As forced rhubarb is now available in the supermarkets and a genoise sponge cake had been made in my recent side-by-side baking comparison the cake was revisited with a few necessary alterations.
The genoise cake, once cold, was carefully cut in half and a little of the prepared creme patissiere was spread on the bottom half of the cake. Baked rhubarb stems were then arranged (this time horizontally rather than vertically!) on top of the custard. A generous amount of rhubarb and orange homemade jam was spooned into the centre of the cake. Basic 'blobs' of the creme patissiere was then piped between the rhubarb batons. The top half of the cake was then replaced and this was topped with an orange water icing and orange zest.
The assembly image below hopefully shows how easily this cake can be put together, far easier than the classic Fraisier cake, though be warned you may need a pair of sunglasses to view it! The natural vibrant colours of the rhubarb teamed with the homemade creme patissiere really 'sings' out loud! Trust me, colour editing definitely wasn't used!
This rhubarb and custard genoise cake is teamed with orange. Rhubarb and orange is such a lovely flavour combination. And the creaminess of the custard (creme patissiere) works so well with the sharpness of the rhubarb.
As you can possibly tell, this Rhubarb and Custard Genoise is quite a delicate cake. It's certainly not the sort of cake
which can be packaged up in a lunch box (unless you're happy with
custard and rhubarb jam being all over the your sandwiches!) and therefore it's best eaten with a fork. Afternoon tea with friends and family springs to mind as being the perfect way to share this delicious bake.
Now before we jump to the recipe, I feel a few more words about forced rhubarb are needed. Forced rhubarb is grown in darkened sheds and harvested by candle light at this time of year. It is grown not too far away from where Mr E & I live in West Yorkshire in what is called the rhubarb triangle, an area of just 9 square miles. As such it has been awarded the Protected Designation of Origin status. The stems produced by the plant are far more slender, and therefore more suitable for this particular bake, than those of summer rhubarb which is grown outdoors.
If you're looking for forced rhubarb in the supermarket I'd fully recommend checking the details on the label before popping it into your basket. When we purchased our bundle of forced rhubarb from a local supermarket both summer (heaven knows how far it had travelled!) and forced rhubarb shared the same shelf space making it a little more challenging to get the correct type! The variety we bought was called 'Timperley' and was grown by E Oldroyd in Yorkshire. Varieties to look out for are: Timperley Early, Stockbridge Harbinger, Reeds Early Superb, Stockbridge Arrow, Queen Victoria and Cawood Delight. If you're unable to source it from your local supermarket or green grocers, E Oldroyd (link above) now runs a mail order service!
So, here's how to make Rhubarb and Custard Genoise Cake.
combination of rhubarb and custard, teaming it with orange for extra
deliciousness. It produces a wonderfully delicious light sponge cake which is
perfect for sharing over afternoon tea.
Hands on time: about 50 mins Bake time: 30 - 33 mins Yield: serves 8
21cm Spring Form or loose bottomed cake tin. It needs to be a deep cake tin rather than a shallow sandwich tin.
1 x Disposable piping bag
For the Creme Patissiere
- 300ml Single Cream
- 200ml Milk (ideally full fat)
- 5 Egg Yolks
- 125g Caster Sugar
- 50g Corn Flour
- 25g Butter (unsalted)
- 1 - 2 capfuls Orange Extract (we use Valencian Orange Extract from Sainsburys)
For the Genoise Sponge
- 3 Large Eggs
- 90g Caster Sugar (use 50/50 white and golden caster if you like)
- 1 Orange - Zest of
- 90g Plain Flour, + 1 teaspoon for preparing the cake tin
- 15g Melted Butter, + extra (not melted) for preparing the cake tin.
For the Rhubarb and Orange Jam
- 4-5 stems Forced Rhubarb, washed
- 2 Oranges - Zest of 1, Juice of 2 (reserving 3-4 dessert spoons of juice for the icing)
- 1 lemon - Juice of
- 2 - 3 tablespoon Sugar
For the Rhubarb Batons
- 3 stems of Forced Rhubarb, washed
For the water Icing
- 60g - 80g Icing Sugar
- Orange Juice (reserved from preparing the jam above)
a) The egg whites remaining from making the creme patissiere can be placed into an airtight container and frozen. b) The creme patissiere can be made the day ahead if necessary. Store it in the fridge once it has completely cooled. c) The genoise batter will take longer to beat up than 7 minutes if the eggs are cold from the fridge. d) Aim to work safely with the bain marie. If the beaters do not reach the pan safely allow the eggs to warm over the bain marie until they feel lukewarm (neither warm nor cold) to the touch and then remove the bowl from the pan beating the mixture on the work surface as normal. e) Although you could purchase a jar of shop bought rhubarb jam for this cake, often it is flavoured with ginger. Supermarket rhubarb jam is also pale in colour rather than being a vibrant crimson colour when made with forced rhubarb. f) If you're unable to source forced rhubarb from the supermarket or green grocers, http://www.yorkshirerhubarb.co.uk/ruhbarb_triangle.htm can supply it via mail order.