Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rhubarb Upside-down Cake, California Dreaming

Three cheers for Spring! I'm one of those people who doesn't really go for winter, but understand that I live in the northeast and so do what you do - prepare for it, get cozy, eat soothing foods, embrace the shorter days with more at-home enjoyment. But by February every year, I feel kinda hateful. All that grey - on top of the chill - just gets me down. 

So when I saw the first stalks of crimson rhubarb at my local specialty market I seized on them. At home, I lingered on how I could give them best expression and when I landed on this upside-down cake, it was a done deal. It is pretty amazing. Worth doing on repeat. I've even been thinking about using the basic recipe towards stone fruit such as plums when they come into season, as well as grapes. If you make it, I'd love to hear how you like it too.

To the grey, happily moving (mostly) along by now... a dear friend was set to get married in March, out in California. I hadn't been there in years - good enough reason to go - never mind that I couldn't miss her most special day. So sweet husband and I decided to make a layered experience of the trip... and we did that in spades.

To our good fortune, the onslaught of rain the previous month made for some of the most epic, abundant blooms we've ever seen. I can recall a few instances where we had to pick our jaws up off the ground at how beautiful it all was. And the sunshine! So abundant and warming, just when we needed it most (we escaped NY on a 39 degree very rainy day). 

Here are some favorite moments. You'll pardon me that there are so many, I hope. It was all of a dream - so good in fact, we've talked since about moving there. Time will tell, but the winds of change are definitely a-blowing...

(Scroll to bottom for cake recipe!)

a moment from the absolutely breathtaking Big Sur

Gjelina Take Away leftovers - happy next-day breakfast

Santa Monica farmers market - sent off with bags and bags of JJS Lone Daughter Ranch goodies

First thing I did with the market bounty...

The. Cutest.

Died and went to heaven with the grain bowl at Sqirl

roaming Silver Lake

I mean. 

Casual but amazing Santa Barbara beauty

Cocktail hour at the Biltmore with friend Betty

Betty went to market and so I whipped this up. Eaten al fresco on a lazy Sunday.

taken with my phone from our moving car with audible gasp

Next destination, lazing the afternoon away with old friends

poolside cocktail hour

Making my hosts my favorite breakfast

being on the road was almost as much fun as being someplace...

Carmel Valley retreat

fragrant lupines

sea baubles

Point Lobos

Barnacles waiting out low tide

Lovely - but wary - little crab

If I had more time I would have harvested some for dinner

breathtaking Big Sur

searching for a good picnic location....

we settled on a formidable cliff edge for picnic, only to realize we both felt vertigo

found a way down to the beach and then rolled out this feast

last moments before our flight home, shot by Jim Lafferty back in LA, 'gramming

    Now you know....

    So much beauty. Time to book another flight out and see it all again!

    Perfectly spring rhubarb upside-down cake

    1 ¼ cups butter, at 
room temperature, 
plus more for the pan
      ½ lb rhubarb (more if you have more available), cut on a diagonal into 2 to 4-inch segments
    ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar 
      1 cup organic cane sugar
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1¼ tsp baking powder
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    1 healthy tsp grated lemon zest (from 1 organic lemon)
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    4 pasture raised eggs, at room temperature
      ½ cup whole milk kefir

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment. Butter the parchment and sides of pan.
  2. Toss the rhubarb and the brown sugar together in a bowl. Arrange the rhubarb segments into a radial shape at the bottom of the pan. Scrape any sugar left in the bowl into the pan amidst the rhubarb.
  3. Using a fork, stir the flour, baking powder, and salt to incorporate. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of
 the bowl. Add the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  4. Stir in the kefir on low speed (the mixture may look curdled, which is fine). Gradually add the flour mixture and mix to combine. Spoon the batter over the rhubarb and spread to even out.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin knife along the circumference before releasing springform collar. Invert cake onto a platter. Peel away parchment paper and cut cake into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.