Who says upside-down cakes must be pineapple?! Here, the upside-down fruit is fresh rhubarb made slightly unusual with just a kiss of anise.
"... it tasted great." ~ Nat
"Nice light, soft, moist cake without being too gooey heavy or sweet." ~ Kari
Battling the bunnies. It’s an endless fight this time of year. A particularly persistent little guy is tearing up new impatiens in the shade garden. Every night he digs up a dozen plants, every morning I carefully restore them to the dirt. Something’s nibbling at the hostas as well. And the shasta daisies. And ...
The other day, my neighbor Mr. McGregor (okay, that’s not his real name) was perplexed to see dirt flying out of a grassy rise behind the house. He approached cautiously to find the muscular hind legs of a bunny digging to China the long way, sideways.
Ah, the joys of summer.
One of summer’s true treasures is rhubarb. This year’s crop is abundant and seems particularly sweet. I’ve frozen a few quarts for next winter but couldn’t miss this lovely upside-down cake, a perfect example of what my mom called “a good dessert when supper’s a little skimpy”.
It’s also a good example of how serving size, fat and sugar can be cut without loss of satisfaction or taste. In fact, testers here actually preferred my lower-fat, less-sweet version to the original. I agree: the anise’s light sweetness is more apparent when it doesn’t compete with so much sugar.
RHUBARB UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
Baking time: 45 minutes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
- 1-1/2 pounds (700g) rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped (about 3 cups, see Later Notes)
- 1 teaspoon anise seed ground in a mortar & pestle or a spice grinder
- 1-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 187 grams
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons, 114g) salted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon anise extract (or vanilla)
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350F/175C.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter and brown sugar over medium heat in a well-seasoned, nine-inch cast-iron skillet (see Later Notes). Stir to combine, then simmer 2 – 3 minutes, being careful not to burn.
Remove from heat and arrange rhubarb evenly over top without disturbing the butter-sugar mixture.
Meanwhile, stir together anise seed, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream 1/2 cup softened butter and sugar. Add anise extract. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, taking care to not overmix.
Spoon batter over rhubarb without disturbing the fruit. Bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm.
My cast iron skillet has disappeared (how does that happen?) so this last time I cooked the butter and brown sugar mixture in a skillet and then poured it into a cake pan. After arranging the rhubarb, I greased the sides of the cake pen. This worked great!
You want enough rhubarb to densely cover the butter-brown sugar mixture. This last time, the perfect amount was three cups of chopped rhubarb weighing just three-fourths of a pound after trimming.
Originally published in print in 2003, first published online in 2008, updated and republished in 2011.
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