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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rhubarb Banana Cake

















So some of us can’t seem to leave a good thing alone. Or perhaps, in our quest to use “frugal” ingredients, we look to the tried and true for inspiration.

Whichever it is, I recently took a beloved family recipe and changed it in order to incorporate a freebie from my backyard—rhubarb.

reached a fifth generation of family cooks this week, when my granddaughter made it for her Dad for Fathers’ Day. Now, however, I had a lot of “free” rhubarb in the backyard. With some frozen bananas in the freezer, it was time for a rhubarb and banana combination. I’ve tried this unlikely combination before—check out http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2012/06/rhubarb-banana-muffins.html
for a muffin recipe that I’ve been called on to make repeatedly in the past few years.

This week, however, I needed a cake for one of my baking commitments, so why not try a new take on Grandma’s recipe? And why not cook the rhubarb into an old-fashioned sauce?

It didn’t take long to come up with this new cake that is quite a bit lower in fat, has more fiber thanks to both the rhubarb and the oatmeal, and, by making the frosting a little thinner, is overall lower in calories and sugars.

No, this cannot be considered a “health food,” but it is a nice lightened dessert for those longing for a sweet end to their meal.

Frugal too—with far less butter, “free” rhubarb and inexpensive bananas, the cost of this cake is well below that of many other desserts.

Rhubarb Sauce

First, a note about “rhubarb sauce” listed in the ingredients for the second recipe. When I was growing up, this was one of the very first things my mother made when rhubarb was starting to flourish while the rest of the landscape had scarcely started to green up. Soon enough there would be pie and crisps and all the rest of those standard Midwestern rhubarb desserts, but it seems like the rhubarb sauce was the first thing to appear at the table.

As I began looking at recipes and making a game plan for a “new cake,” I wondered if rhubarb sauce could be substituted for applesauce in recipes. It didn’t take long to discover that the substitution was an easy one. Making a big batch of the rhubarb sauce was a great make ahead for several recipes, so the second version of the cake recipe below includes “pre-made” rhubarb sauce.

Now of course, you might not be interested in making rhubarb sauce on its own; truth be told, I really dislike the stuff served like this. (Even today, I could easily go without ever eating another rhubarb-containing dish, but rest assured that everything rhubarb included in this blog has been strenuously tested by many other tasters!) In that case, why go through the separate step of making the sauce and then bringing it to a boil again with the water? So I tested the recipe without the added step of pre-making the sauce. 

Both cakes turned out wonderfully well, so I have included both recipes. The first will be fine if you are not going to use rhubarb sauce for anything else, and the second version will work well if you do decide to make up a larger batch of rhubarb sauce.

Whichever way you choose to prepare the recipe, this is a relatively quick cake to make. Get the oatmeal mixture stirred up and resting while you measure out the remaining ingredients and get the oven preheated. Then just wait for the baking cake to spread that great homemade aroma throughout the house. .

Banana Rhubarb Cake 1

2 c chopped rhubarb
1 1/4 c water
1/4 c sugar
1 ¼ c quick or old-fashioned oats (NOT instant)
1 c mashed banana (about 2 medium)
2 T butter
1 egg
½ c sugar
½ c brown sugar
1 t vanilla                                                                                    
2 c flour
1 ¼ t soda
1 t cinnamon

1. Place the rhubarb, water, and 1/4 c sugar in a large bowl (the mixture will boil up) in the microwave and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft and the mixture is boiling.

2. Remove the rhubarb mixture from the microwave and stir in the oatmeal and banana. Set aside to cool about 20 to 25 minutes.

3.  Mix together the butter, egg, sugars, and vanilla. Stir into the slightly cooled rhubarb mixture.

4.  Sift together the flour, soda, and cinnamon and stir into the butter and rhubarb mixture. Beat with a whisk or wood spoon until completely blended and smooth.

5.  Pour into a well-oiled 9 X 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. (If using a thin disposable aluminum pan as shown in the pictures, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.)



The cake is done when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out without any liquid batter clinging to it.

6. For best results, frost the cake with the Caramel Frosting while both the cake and the frosting are still warm.

Banana Rhubarb Cake 2


1 1/4 c Rhubarb Sauce (see below)
1 c water
1 ¼ c quick or old-fashioned oats (NOT instant)
1 c mashed banana (about 2 medium)
2 T butter
1 egg
½ c sugar
½ c brown sugar
1 t vanilla                                                                                    
2 c flour
1 ¼ t soda
1 t cinnamon

1.  Add the water to the prepared Rhubarb Sauce and heat to boiling in the microwave—about 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Follow the same procedure as above, beginning in step 2. 
 

Rhubarb Sauce
2 c chopped rhubarb
¼ c water
¼ c sugar

Combine the rhubarb, water, and sugar, and microwave on High for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the rhubarb is completely soft. Makes about 1 ¼ cup of sauce and is easily doubled or tripled.

This may be made ahead (even frozen if desired) in recipe sized portions. If the 2 cups of rhubarb results in slightly more or less than 1 ¼ cups of sauce, adjust the water in the cake recipe so that the total of sauce and water equals 2 ¼ cups.

This basic sauce often has some grated orange or lemon zest included, with a tablespoon or two of orange juice or lemon juice substituted for part of the water. I haven't tried the cake with these additions to the sauce but they might make for an interesting flavor there too.

Frosting

The Caramel Frosting given here is a relatively small recipe for a cake of this size, but spreading it while both the cake and frosting are warm will allow you to put a nice looking finish on the cake, while reducing just a bit more the amount of sugar (and calories) in each serving. (If you want a thicker frosting, use the proportions listed at http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2011/05/bananas-bananas-bananas.html)


Caramel Frosting

2 T butter
2 T milk
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1 t vanilla
Approximately 1 ½ c powdered sugar

1.  Combine the butter, milk, and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is very bubbly and beginning to thicken slightly.

2.  Remove from heat and add vanilla. Then stir in the powdered sugar gradually, until of spreading consistency.

3.  While the frosting is still very warm, frost the cake. (If the frosting cools too much and begins to thicken, add a few more drops of milk at a time until of spreading consistency.)

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