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Monday, 18 April 2011

Sweets for My Sweet

As a kid I used to love the small local sweet shops. There, for a few pennies, you could indulge yourself. "Flying Saucers" full of sherbet, Cream Soda dabs, Sherbet dips, Licorice Wheels, sweet cigarettes. One of my favourites was "Rhubarb and Custard". So it was with some alacrity, finding a Rhubarb and Custard Cake Recipe I  headed for the kitchen to conjure up memories of childhood.

I think custard is the ultimate comfort food, just dipping a (large) spoon into a freshly opened tin of the overly yellow ambrosia brings me out in goose bumps. I am in awe of rhubarb. Its name, its massive leaf and its timing. When the rest of the soil is fast asleep, locked in a deep frost induced coma, rhubarb is about its business. A vegetable which the American courts have recognised as a fruit.

Down to practicalities. The recipe I followed is from the BBC's Good Food website. As with most of the recipes I repeat it's dead simple - if rather resource rich, not to mention the liberal use of butter and caster sugar.

The first time I made it, following the recipe to the letter, I thought there was too little rhubarb and custard, for whilst the cake was wonderfully light and airy the rhubarb and custard were AWOL. So in the cake I made the other day I upped the vegetable/fruit by a third and more than doubled the quantity of custard.

I like the idea of roasting the rhubarb. I think roasting is such a civilised way of cooking. This has the advantage of producing a lovely liquor which can be poured over the finished cake or used to boost a rhubarb fool.

I use the suggested amount of custard in the mix, which is simplicity itself. All in one bowl goes the softened butter, custard, self raising flour, caster sugar, 4 eggs, baking powder and vanilla extract to be whisked up on a moderate speed. Otherwise one's face, hands, tee shirt, trousers, and the kitchen walls end up covered in a sweet sticky mixture.

Pour a third of the mixture into a 9 inch cake tin, the base of which you've already lined with baking paper and greased the sides. Add some of the rhubarb, then some more mixture, then some more rhubarb and yet another layer of mixture topped off with the remaining rhubarb - repetitive isn't it? Finally add dollops of the remaining custard - that is most of the tin.

Cook in a preheated oven at 180C/160 Fan/Gas 4 for 40 mins, then cover with tin foil (to stop the cake top browning too much) for another 20 mins. It's done when the skewer comes out clean.

I may be dreaming but I'm sure that the custard you pour on the top of the cake migrates to the bottom.

It's delicious as a dessert to follow a potato and onion pie, with home grown Swiss Chard, Spinach and Asparagus. 


...louciao... said...

This post has conjured up my own childhood memories of rhubarb and custard. My grandmother would boil the rhubarb in water and sugar till it was good and mushy(she was British after all) and then serve it with heaping gobs of Birds Custard Powder. The mixture of sour and sweet was quite a sensation to my sensitive young palate. These days, I like to make a rhubarb version of apple crisp, but it's a bit more like rhubarb sog. I do believe I'll mix up some custard next time to serve with it.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

Sounds yummy. What is caster sugar? Like granulated or powdered?

Marginalia said...

Dear L, so pleased it brought back a taste of childhood. What is apple crisp? - sounds intriguing.

Marginalia said...

Dear ETW, your question had me thinking why "caster". It called that because its grains are fine enough to fit thro' a sprinkler or caster. In the States it's called "superfine".

Steve said...

Have to admit I hate rhubarb - probably because my parents grew their own and I was forced to eat it as a kid. But rhubarb and custard sweets I loved... and can't seem to find anymore.

Marginalia said...

Dear Steve, I remember school lunches and rhubarb and custard - very sour rhubarb and extremely runny custard with lumps. Helicon days.

This cake is the sweet exactly - except it's a cake!

There's a shop near us which specialises in those lovely jars of sweets you used to find in sweet shops. Also this might be of interest

Tenon_Saw said...

Old fashioned sweet shops are on the way back. has just opened near here. Do they still do sweet cigarettes?

Marginalia said...

Sweet cigarettes and licorice pipes. And for those wanting to break the habit - candy patches.

To misquote GBS " Candy's wasted on the young."

...louciao... said...

Apple crisp is, basically...cut up apples baked in a bowl with an oatmeal/brown sugar/cinammon topping. And I think some cooking oil and perhaps some juice and walnuts are involved. It's been awhile since I've made it. Saves the bother of making pastry, at which I'm totally inept.

Marginalia said...

Dear Louciao, thank you for that - sounds a bit like one of those breakfast bars.

You are missing out on one of the joys of life: making a simple plain/savoury or sweet pastry. It's really extremely straightforward and it gives one a surprisingly strong sense of achievement!