My mother-in-law was one of those women who turned all the food she touched into culinary gold. This rhubarb cake was one of her masterpieces—a simple, sweet and tangy dessert that’s a perfect finish to any summer meal. When she moved to Florida, she missed making this treat, as rhubarb doesn’t like the heat in the southern states. So I always tried to make it for her when she came up for a visit. It was the least I could do, since she shared the recipe with me! Now, savoring this treat is nostalgic for us, as my mother-in-law passed away a couple years ago. Two of my sons like grandma’s cake recipe so much they request it on their birthdays each year, over chocolate cake—which makes me question if they are truly my offspring. The appeal of this particular recipe is the moist, velvety texture of the cake, which it gets from the addition of sour milk as well as the rhubarb.
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sour milk (or purchased buttermilk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. To make sour milk, put 1 tablespoon white vinegar in glass measuring cup. Add milk to 1 cup line. Stir, and set aside for 15-30 minutes to allow milk to sour. (Best to use 1%, 2%, or whole milk. There needs to be some fat in the milk to curdle.) Prepare 3-quart rectangular glass baking dish* by coating with shortening, and sprinkling with sparse amount of flour. Remove excess flour from pan. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment, cream together shortening and brown sugar. Add egg, and cream again. Add sour milk and vanilla, and stir. Scrape down sides of bowl and stir again until all ingredients are combined. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add to creamed shortening and sugar mixture, stirring on low until all flour is incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer and fold rhubarb into batter with rubber scraper or large wooden spoon. Pour batter into prepared baking pan.
In small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of cake batter. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched gently in center. Cool on wire rack for 30-60 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla or strawberry ice cream, if desired.
*NOTE: You need to bake this cake in a glass dish, as the acid from the rhubarb will eat into the finish of metal pans, and can given the cake an unpleasant metallic flavor, in addition to ruining your pans.