A couple years ago, my folks moved into a house that had a huge garden of rhubarb in the backyard.
I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if that was an even trade for missing out on the mulberry trees I used to be able to exploit at my childhood home, but I’ve been meaning to figure out what to do with rhubarb since they moved in.
So, a couple weekends ago, my mom helped me chop off a bunch of long stalks, and I brought them home to see what I could do. After letting them sit in my fridge for a bit, I decided to try a cake from my recipe box that I’d never made before, one from my paternal grandma and one I can’t remember the last time I got to have.
And it was awesome.
The recipe I’m sharing this week comes from my grandma, Tillie Miller. I can’t tell you where she got it originally, but it was my grandpa’s favorite, and I think she made it long enough that it became her recipe. I did add a little extra cinnamon and vanilla in my version.
- 1 cup rhubarb diced finely
- 2 cups sugar divided
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk with about 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1 cup coconut
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup chopped nuts I used walnuts
- Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch cake pan and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the rhubarb in a bowl with 1/2 cup sugar and set it aside while combining the other ingredients. (If you’re worried about how sour your rhubarb is, give it a taste before adding the sugar. Mine was especially tart, so I added a few extra tablespoons of sugar just to be sure.)
- Beat together the flour, remaining sugar, oil, egg, sour milk, baking soda, cinnamon and vanilla until well-combined. Mix in the rhubarb.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
- When the cake is almost done, combine all of the ingredients for the frosting in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the butter is melted and everything is well-combined. Pour the frosting evenly over the cake while it is still warm.
- Store the cake in an air-tight container.
Despite having a particularly tart crop of rhubarb, this cake was sweet and delicious, with tons of fruit flavor along with coconut and cinnamon. We really enjoyed it, and my dad gave it his stamp of approval, too, so I think I did OK.
I tend to avoid rhubarb a lot of the time, since I’m not a big fan of sour fruits, but I really liked this. It had fantastic flavor.
I guess this means I might need to harvest a few more stalks from my folks’ garden this summer to try some other new recipes. I apparently like rhubarb more than I thought. I’m still really missing that mulberry tree, but a big slice of cake on my plate is helping me get over it.
This piece first appeared in print on June 11, 2020.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.