I hope you lovely mums out there had an enjoyable mother’s day. I know we did.
My mum loves cakes and desserts but her and I actually have quite different tastes when it comes sweets and treats. As it was mother’s day I really wanted to bake something suited to her tastes and decided The Hummingbird Bakery - Cake Days was probably where I was going to find it.
I haven’t had much luck with cupcake cookbooks and as a rule I generally stay well away – think I’ve been ‘burned’ one too many times by those mass-produced generic ‘beauties’ that everyone thinks you’ll love. But I digress, what I wanted to say was an old friend from Uni came over from the UK in March and brought me the book for a present. As I flicked through the pages I saw recipe after recipe that I knew my mum would love. It must have been the British-ness of it all (custard, cream, crumble etc). So after much deliberation I went for the ‘rhubarb and almond loaf’, except I made quite a few changes.
I’ll fill you in on what I did differently and then I’ll give you my take on the recipe.
Oo-errr – never done that before!
cake pan / quantity – I considered a loaf tin as the original recipe called for one but then as always thought cupcakes would be prettier and so much more appealing – I also doubled the recipe (thank goodness) and ended up with 26 large cupcakes.
rhubarb – rhu-what? You try finding rhubarb in Hong Kong in May (or ever for that matter). I did find one pack covered in fuzzy mould and just as I thought I would have to choose another recipe I found tinned/canned! The recipe calls for stewed so I figured it would be fine and to be fair the taste and the texture were adequate. My problem however lay in the COLOUR. It looked like I had opened a can of ‘heart of palms’ (whatever they are) or artichokes. They were achromatic!! I was deeply disappointed – half of the appeal of freshly stewed rhubarb is that beautiful Parisian pink it turns!
Confession time! These days if something can’t be coloured naturally then I’m not really interested in food colouring – it’s artificial and garish and leaves a horrible taste in the mouth and an unattractive hue on the tongue. But it was late, there was no time to bake something else and I panicked – I cheated. I grabbed some pink food colouring and tipped a bit in to the bowl of canned rhubarb. In my panic I probably put a touch more than I should have but suddenly it was all like it should be (or sort of). I also doubled the quantity of fruit , its not called slightly rhubarb cake after all.
almonds - Mum loves almonds (she’s a marzipan fiend) so the more the better. I didn’t mess with the quantity of ground almonds in the actual cake but I used 3 times the amount of flaked called for in the original recipe to sprinkle on top.
Verdict? ‘marzipan’ Mum loved them (job done!) but I would have to say this is definitely an almond lovers cake. The texture was dense and slightly crumbly due to the ground almonds with a moist tang from the rhubarb. The extra flaked almonds on top were a welcome addition and overall a nice teatime cake. They do need to go in the fridge eventually, due to the ‘wetness’ of the cooked fruit but I must say they tasted just as good chilled. My natural impulse however is to swap out my ‘colourless and impossible to get’ rhubarb and replace it with cubed plums, baked in from raw. I think that would give this the kick and natural vibrancy that I’m probably looking for. (raspberries would work a treat too!)
Rhubarb & Almond Cupcakes
adapted from the cookbook The Hummingbird Bakery - Cake Days
24/26 large cupcakes – halve if you only need a dozen (sorry only metric today)
- 380g unsalted butter (room temp.)
- 280g plain flour
- 380g sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 2tsp baking powder
- 100g ground almonds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger (I used grated fresh)
- 50ml milk (I used skimmed)
- approx. 350g stewed rhubarb (I used canned but that would be about 16 sticks fresh and stewed)
- 100g flaked almonds
- Preheat oven 170°C/325°F – Prepare cupcake wrappers.
- Using stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Break eggs into jug and lightly beat. With mixer running at medium speed add egg mixture slowly, waiting for each addition to be incorporated before adding more. Scrape down bowl half way to ensure everything is evenly mixed.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together plain flour, baking powder, ground almonds, ground cinnamon and ground ginger.
- Add half of the dry mixture to the wet and and mix with half the milk. Add the rest of the dry mixture followed by the rest of the milk. Scrape down sides to incorporate.
- Fill cupcake wrappers to just over half full.
- Add a heaping teaspoon and a half of rhubarb on top of the batter. Push down gently and try to fold in slightly. Generously sprinkle with flaked almonds.
- Bake in oven for 50/60 minutes until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the sponge comes out clean. If your oven runs hot, it may take less time than this.