rhubarb coffee cake

As is typical for any spring/summer weekend in Seattle before July 5th, it has been pissing down rain for days now. Mother Nature cares not that it’s a 3 day weekend or that people in other parts of the country are enjoying BBQ’s and sunshine on this holiday.

Which means that I was left with inside projects. I’ve been meaning to purge the pantry for sometime now. There were things in there from 2011! I do not fully understand how that is possible, since i HAVE purged it since then. I blame gremlins. Or my children. Which I realize is redundant.

In any case, 1 screwdriver of the liquid variety, a couple of hours and multiple trips to the compost/recyling bins later, and the pantry was back in shape. As a reward, I made this cake.

It is a coffee cake slightly adapted from a recipe in The Family Baker. She suggests you can use nearly any fruit, but I like it best with tart apples or, in this case, rhubarb diced small. For berries, I prefer a cornmeal coffee cake, but knock yourself out if berries are your thing. I think the sweet of the cake plays nicely with the tart of the rhubarb, and the cinnamon/sugar topping makes a crispy, spicy contrast to the tender interior. Even better, it’s a cinch to mix up.


(slightly adapted from The Family Baker by Susan G. Purdy)


2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine for topping.


2 1/2 cups diced rhubarb (or tart apples, or berries of your choice)

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 salt

2 eggs

1 stick butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ square baking dish.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together. (Or if you are lazy like me, just add them all to the top of the mixed wet ingredients, next.)

Whisk butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Add fruit and mix gently. Spread in pan. Sprinkle topping evenly.

Bake about 35 min or until done. Let cool if you are the patient type, but I will tell you, it’s pretty divine served warm. I’d even gild the lily with some vanilla ice cream for a dessert.


fall shortbread cake

Today, I did a bit of harvesting, a few tomatoes and berries and these beauts.

They grow on the tree in the front yard. In years past, they’ve never turned this delicious red color and they’ve been really sour.  No idea what kind they are, either.  This year it looks like we got lucky.  They are really tasty!

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the good stuff to make and eat (this week’s wacky warm weather notwithstanding). So I got out Baking – From my Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, to see what I could do with these guys. I am a sucker for anything involving apples, since it usually also involves ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.  There was quite a few options but this one had me at “shortbread”.  The recipe as written uses a cramberry jam filling, but in the notes she suggests apples as an alternative. I made a a few other tweaks as noted below and this is what came out.

It did not suck. Happy fall baking!

Fall Shortbread Cake 

Adapted from Baking – From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Cake batter:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1 stick plus 5 tablespoons room temp butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla (*I was out, so I used an *ahem* liberal splash of amaretto. Feel free to try some for quality control first.)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.  In a mixer, beat the butter until soft and smooth. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Reduce mixer to low and add egg and yolk, mix until absorbed. Beat in vanilla or whatever you are using. Add the flour and mix only until incorporated; you may wish to finish by hand to avoid overmixing.  It will be more like a soft cookie dough than a cake batter. Divide into two disks and wrap in plastic; refrigerate 15-30 minutes (or overnight but let sit out about 30 minutes before using).

Make filling.

Apple filling (as I made it)

2 apples, peeled and sliced

3 T butter

About 1/2 cup brown sugar, less if your apples are sweet – mine were on the tart side

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 grated nutmeg

Melt the butter til foamy and add the apples, let them soften for a few minutes. Add the brown sugar and let it thicken a bit. Add the spices and cook a bit longer, but you don’t want applesauce. I happened to have some dried cranberries on hand so I threw a handful of that in too. Preheat oven to 350.

Roll out one half dough and lay on bottom of springform pan. I gilded the lily a little here and spread some of last year’s apple butter on the bottom before I spread the cooked apple filling on top, your choice here. Roll out the second disk of dough big enough to fit the top of the cake and set it on top – mine was slightly too big so I just rolled the edges  and smooshed things together a bit to seal it.  Sprinkle with some sanding or raw sugar if you like.  Bake about 30-35 minutes. Cool. (Or not, if you are impatient like me. A little ice cream would not go amiss.)


the great piecobblercake experiment

I have some friends who are fond of desserts.  When one was celebrating a recent birthday with a BBQ, I offered to bring dessert.  Pie, cobbler, cake, said I.  The cobbler won out, based on a previous showing.

But that seemed a little safe.  And it occurred to me that putting those three TOGETHER in one fine baked item would be a winning combination.  I pondered the logistics for a bit and came up with a plan of attack.

Really, it would all come down to the timing, I thought.  I’d use my favorite recipes for each component, and try to get them all to finish baking at the same time.  How hard could it be?!

At first, I planned to layer each thing – pie, filling, cake, filling, cobbler. But Mike pointed out that the cake might have issues rising.  More pondering. I decided to do pie, filling and then alternate cake/cobbler for the top.  Off to the races!

rhubarb - secret ingredient #1

The filling was blueberries and blackberries, with some rhubarb I happened to have on hand as the first secret ingredient.  The second was…cayenne pepper!  I threw some in with the sugar, cinnamon and tapioca, which thickens the filling.

I figured I’d need to blind bake the crust for a bit to make sure it cooked all the way. I hate doing that because no matter what I line the dish with, the sides slide down.

I baked it for about 20 minutes and added the filling.


I let THAT bake for maybe 20 mintues? Probably should have taken better notes….

And then I plopped down the cobbler bits (used the San Juan scone recipe here) and filled in around it with coffee cake batter.  Here is where the problem began.

I really thought the two toppings would bake pretty evenly, since the cake was in smaller sections. Not so!  That damn stuff took FOREVER to cook. I was worried about the cobbler pieces – I’m sure they were overcooked. I covered the edges with foil and hoped for the best.

I resisted the urge to sneak a bite before the party.  Packed the ice cream and off we went.

Well, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t dang good!  Next time – more cayenne. And a looser cobbler dough that will cook more evenly with the cake portion.  Here is the birthday boy enjoying his slice…

Piecobblercake. The best of three worlds.