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Rhubarb Cake

This cake makes me think of my grandparents, Mimi and Bumbi. Mimi and Bumbi are my father’s parents, and Bumbi is so-named because my eldest cousin had a hard time saying grampi, or so the legend goes.

Mimi wrote down this recipe for her Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Cake at my request a few years ago. This, along with her Peek-a-boo Squares, are my favorite desserts that she would make. This rhubarb cake often made appearances in the spring and summer when Bumbi’s garden would be overflowing with rhubarb (and lots of other yummy vegetables- his carrots were more delicious than any I have ever eaten in my life).

I decided to make this cake tonight in honor of my beloved grandpa, Bumbi. He passed a few weeks ago, and since that time, I have been making and enjoying a lot of the things we liked to eat together. I went to the local ice cream place where we used to go and ordered our favorite flavor, black raspberry. I ate fresh pineapple and thought about how he loved it but it also made his tongue burn due to his sensitivity to bromelain, an enzyme it contains. I made fish chowder, but it wasn’t nearly as good as his. I watched a movie and made garlic popcorn on the stove, and remembered how he used to make it for me. I had some piccalilli and remembered seeing jars and jars of it in his basement when he would take me on tours down there and show me all his neat yard sale finds. I made this cake and remembered how he always used to encourage me to get myself another slice, so long as I got him another, too.

This is why I love to cook and bake; food brings us closer together, and helps us form memories and traditions. When I recreate my favorite family recipes, memories long forgotten come to the forefront of my mind and I get to enjoy them all over again.  I am going to take a few slices of cake over when I visit Mimi tomorrow, and we can talk about Bumbi, and how they were “meant to be:” born a day apart, a month apart and a year apart, they were married for almost 67 years. Bumbi, always the joker, would have said, “I guess that means I like her.” Mahoot!

1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cup sugar (divided)
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
2 cups of self rising flour
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons of sparkle sugar (coarse sugar)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 by 13 inch pan by spraying it with Baker’s Joy.

Cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar. Add the egg and vanilla bean paste and beat well. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Add the flour and buttermilk to the creamed egg and butter mixture in alternating additions (flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk and flour). Fold in the rhubarb.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 of sugar and sparkles sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Slice and enjoy with whipped cream, ice cream, or will a cup of tea!


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