Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
Dorcas Annette Walker

The other week we picked our first harvest of rhubarb. So I thought I’d end the month of June with some rhubarb recipes. You either hate or love rhubarb. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Sadly today’s modern youngsters are not familiar with rhubarb as you seldom see it served. Rhubarb stalks are quite tart to the taste. I’ve known a few who actually like to eat the raw stalks. Personally I like my rhubarb cooked sweetened, and fruit added for color.

Rhubarb dates back to 2700 BC in China where it was cultivated for medicinal purposes. Its appearance in America was between 1790 and the early 1800’s. Rhubarb is actually a vegetable (a member of the buckwheat family with heart-shaped leaves that are poisonous), but was reclassified as a fruit by the US custom officials according to the way it was eaten. Rhubarb is harvested by pulling the stalks away from the base of the crown and snapped off- avoid cutting the stems with a knife as rot can set in. I was amazed at the diversity of recipes for rhubarb from: breads, cakes, cobblers, cookies, drinks, jellies, muffins, pies, puddings, salads, sauces, soups, to wine. Besides being good to eat, rhubarb has also been used in medicines and folk healing for centuries. Still not convinced that rhubarb is useful? Rhubarb can be used to clean pots and pans (rub an application of rhubarb over burnt area to bring back the shine in no time), as a hair color dye (only for persons with blond or light brown hair), as an insecticide (good for killing cabbage caterpillars, aphids, peach & cherry slugs), and in making paper (the fibers are used in handmade papers). I found one Rhubarb Tart Song and several poems lauding rhubarb. A couple of Yale scientists even discovered that the oxalic acid found in rhubarb can be used to help save the ozone layer. Bring on the rhubarb!

At home we used to make an old-fashion rhubarb pie but cutting up four cups of rhubarb, placing them in an unbaked pie shell, and pouring over a mixture of: one-and-one-half cups of sugar, three tablespoons of flour, one-fourth teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and two eggs all beaten together. Top with stiff egg whites and bake for around thirty-five minutes until the rhubarb is soft. After I got married I discovered another way to make rhubarb pie that was more colorful by first baking a crust. Cook the rhubarb separately in water with a pinch of soda until soft, add a package of strawberry jello (sliced strawberries can also be added) and sugar to sweeten, and then pour the rhubarb mixture into the baked pie crust. Chill until thickened and serve with cool whip. For years I’ve made an easy, delicious, rhubarb jam by cooking up four quarts of sliced rhubarb stalks in six cups of water with a pinch of soda until soft, then adding: two (four oz) cans of crushed pineapple, eight cups of sugar, and two large packages of strawberry jello. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, pour into pint jars, and seal- makes around one dozen pints. Even so rhubarb has a way of multiplying. I was excited to discover a recipe for a Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake that is easy to make and colorful. All total the preparation time for the Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake is one-and-one-half hours (baking time included) and serves around twelve.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Mix together and place in the bottom of a 9 x 12 baking dish:
6 c rhubarb cut up into 1-inch pieces
1 c sugar
2 (3 oz) boxes of strawberry jello
2 c mini marshmallows

Take a white cake mix, prepare according to the directions, and pour over the rhubarb mixture. Bake at 350º for one hour. Chill cake. Serve by flipping the cake over and garnish with a dollop of cool whip!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a freelance writer, author, columnist, and photographer from Jamestown, TN. If you have any cooking tips or favorite recipes you are welcome to contact me by mail at: Dorcas Walker, 929 Wildwood Lane, Jamestown, TN 38556 or email me at: dorcaswalker@yahoo.com. For more information about the Walker family and Dorcas’ books check out her website at: www.dorcasannettewalker.com or htpp://dorcasannettewalker.blogspot.com for other Creative Mountain Cookin recipes.

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