rhubarb cake batter with thyme and lemon

You Remind Me of my mother

On this day, three years ago: I’m at Stagecoach Festival in Palm Springs on a stagette with a bunch of old friends. As the sun sets we take a walk away from the stage toward the food trucks and stop to eat under the twinkling lights laced through the trees. It’s a warm night, the velvety kind. Two guys in cowboy hats wander over. They’re young, so clearly we look young too. The taller one walks over to me, smiling, as Shania Twain begins singing You’re The One off in the distance. He reaches out his hand and asks me to dance.

He’s been studying here in California, he says, and he misses his mother back in Brazil. This is her favourite song; I remind him of her.

Stagecoach food Truck Palm Springs CaliforniaOn this day, today: I’m walking to Spin/Co. It’s my friend’s birthday and she asked me to come along, for a birthday spin. A smiling young face greets me at the desk and gives me a pair of cycling shoes and a pack of ear plugs. It can get loud, she shouts as she leads me to my stationary bike at the back of a darkened room. She locks my feet into the pedals, shouting at me over the music. Between the music, the ear plugs and the millenials chatting all around me, I can’t hear a thing. The disco ball begins to swirl, our instructor/DJ mounts his bike, and the music explodes…

Yo, I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want
So tell me what I want what I really really want

Relief. This is my music; I know when it ends. We spin fast, we hover above the seat, we do tri dips, bicep dips. I think I’ll spin off axis. I sweat, I close my eyes. I want out. But then,

I want to know what love is. I want you to show me

Again, my music. Slower.

Now this mountain I must climb
Feels like the world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds I see love shine
It keeps me warm as life grows colder

The woman in front of me spins faster. We go back up. Down. Up.

Yeah, I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road
I’m gonna ride ’til I can’t no more

Billy Ray. I think of his epic mullet and laugh. My eyes are salty, they burn. But this beat is working for me. I surrender, laughing, just like I did, on this day, three years ago.

On this day, every year: I make rhubarb cake. My mom’s, the one I wrote about in this post. It’s a super-moist cake, made with lots of sugar, oil and whatever creamy thing you have in your fridge. This recipe has made the rounds. My friends have it. Cousins have it. It’s in community cookbooks, and all the mothers in my baby group, way back when, have made it. It’s ‘the end of May/beginning of June’ cake, and I love it.

After spin class, one of the moms from that baby group dropped off a few rhubarb plants and a handful of stalks from her garden. She knew I would be needing them, on this day.

On this day. It’s a charming cyber tool scattered throughout social media to remind us of our past. But it also knows who we are. It knows our shopping habits, our age and our stage, not just our memories. And sometimes it weaves into real life, presenting us with humble reminders, like ear plugs and kids who miss their mothers. But then it plays our music, and rhubarb arrives on the back step.

It knows who I am, and what I need.

I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want.

Rhubarb Cake. But this time, I’m going off brand and adding a twist. Inspired by Hetty’s method in her Orange, Rosemary and Olive Oil Cake, I’ve rubbed the sugar with lemon zest and thyme leaves, and added the juice of the lemons too. Lemons and thyme take this cake to another level. Take note cyber land…

rhubarb cake batter with thyme and lemon

1 ½ cups (340g) white sugar

zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped

⅔ cup (160ml) vegetable oil

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup (250ml) sour cream, crème fraîche, full-fat Greek yogurt or buttermilk

2 ½ cups (380g) flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ cups (150g) chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 325F  (160C)

Butter a bundt pan and set aside.

Combine sugar, lemon zest and thyme in a large boil. Use your fingers to rub the zest and thyme into the sugar, until the sugar is damp and ingredients are combined. Add juice of the lemons, vegetable oil, egg, vanilla and sour cream (or whatever dairy you have on hand) and whisk until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking soda. Stir into wet ingredients. Gently add chopped rhubarb, stirring just until combined.

Spoon into a greased bundt pan (batter will be thick). Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Cool cake for 15 minutes or so in pan then run a knife around the edge and invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve as is or with a sprinkling of icing sugar.

PS – those legs up above? They belong to the lovely @yourpoweroutlet

 

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