Rhubarb Almond Cake

Pastry Affair turned seven this week—a milestone I never imagined when I started this blog so many years ago. 

Blogging has evolved since I began sharing my own recipes and stories. This year more than any other I have felt the pressure to do more and be more. The list of things I "should" be doing to improve this space stretches the length of a page. It is easy to get caught up in comparisons, to feel as if my voice is not enough when it's not coming from a professionally designed website and broadcast across a half dozen beautifully curated social media accounts. At the same time, these comparisons feel so silly. Blogging was never meant to be a competition. There is a place for every voice; our diversity only strengthens us.

I spent time this year reflecting on this space. Pastry Affair has meant very different things to me at different times—a reprieve from reality, a creative haven, a community. I have shared recipes as many as three times a week when I was seeking a sense of purpose, and as little as once a month when I found that purpose as a teacher in a high school classroom. This past year I also did something unusual by taking an unannounced break. I spent a weekend building up a few recipes to share during my absence, and turned off my oven for a solid month. I learned we sometimes need vacations even from the things that bring us joy—when we return, it is with a new energy and excitement.

Though my relationship with this space is ever-evolving, I have enjoyed the journey and the company I have had along the way. Thank you, dear readers, for being the loving, supportive constant that makes this space feel like home.

In the past I've celebrated the blog's anniversary with bold layered cakes, but this year I opted for a simpler, seasonal cake. Growing up, there was an immense rhubarb plant in the backyard. Around late May, the first stalks were ready to harvest; the clean, tart flavor of the rhubarb holds a special place in my memory.

This rhubarb almond cake allows both the tart rhubarb and rich almond flavors to shine. The fresh rhubarb lends moisture to the cake and the almonds provide a grounding profile. The cake is most reminiscent of a pound cake once it has had a chance to cool. The top of the cake is sprinkled with almonds and raw sugar, which provide a sweet contrast to the produce. I adore that the rhubarb carries a tartness after baking, but if you prefer a sweeter cake, cut back on the amount of rhubarb and sprinkle a little more raw sugar over the top. 

Rhubarb Almond Cake is a seasonal snacking cake that balances flavors both sweet and tart. The cake starts with a rich, almond cake batter infused with almond meal and almond extract. Rhubarb is cut and layered in the center and on the top to provide a tart contrast. With a sprinkling of sliced almonds and sugar, the cake bakes up into a treat that is a delight to share. For a better finished product, I suggest cutting the rhubarb into smaller pieces than shown in the photographs. The smaller pieces fit nicely on a fork and provide a more balanced flavor between sweet and tart from bite to bite. 

One Year Ago: Chocolate Banana Baked French Toast
Two Years Ago: Perfect Pie Crust (tutorial) & Berry Balsamic Pie
Three Years Ago: Roasted Strawberry Red Wine Popsicles 
Four Years Ago:  Fresh Strawberry Cake, Whole Wheat Almond Waffles, Pineapple Rum Cocktail, & Nutella Banana Bread
Five Years Ago: Rhubarb Custard Tart, Chocolate Almond Ice Cream, Rhubarb Muffins, Coconut Waffles, & Mocha Granola
Six Years Ago: Parmesan Crackers, Pina Colada Cupcakes, & Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade
Seven Years Ago: Chocolate Coconut Granola & Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Rhubarb Almond Cake
Adapted from Floating Kitchen

Yields 10-inch cake

1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (225 grams) sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (50 grams) almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 oz (0.75 lb or 340 grams) rhubarb, sliced into 3/4-inch pieces (roughly six 15-inch stalks)
1/3 cup (30 grams) sliced almonds
1 tablespoon raw or turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 10-inch spring-form pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract until uniform. Gradually add the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt, mixing until uniform. 

Spread 1/2 of the cake batter in the prepared pan. Layer 1/2 of the rhubarb pieces in concentric circles. Spread the remaining batter evenly over the top. Layer the remaining rhubarb pieces in concentric circles. Sprinkle evenly with sliced almonds and raw sugar.

Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing spring-form and cooling completely. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar.

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Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

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Strawberry Scones

The rains of spring have arrived with determination, filling the forecast with a week of gray, overcast skies. After a long winter of snow and cold weather, I forget how much I enjoy the sound of the rain drumming against the window panes and sloshing through the gutters. In the last evening downpour, I threw open the windows and turned on the fan, bringing the deep scent of earth into the apartment. I curled up in bed with a book, eventually lulled to sleep by the steady beat of raindrops overhead.

Rainy days are my excuse to set aside the busy schedule and curl up indoors instead. The pace of a slow day is rehabilitating in a dozen small, but significant ways. These heavy gray skies may soon feel monotonous, but for now I am reveling in these moments before the heat descends. 

Once the winter season of citrus passes, I am anxious for spring produce to arrive. It is still early in the season for fresh strawberries, at least in the Midwest, but my impatience cannot always be tamed. After sorting through the tubs at the market, I found dark red berries with a sweet scent. For now, these would do.

Overcast days feel like baking days to me. After slicing the strawberries, I gently mixed them into scone batter and baked them up for a taste of spring.

Because sliced strawberries hold moisture after baking, I recommend eating the scones the same day they are baked. If you do choose to store them overnight, cover the scones, but do not keep them under an airtight seal; this will prevent the scones from becoming soggy. As an alternative, a quick 5-8 minute reheat in a 350 degrees F oven will also bring the scones back to the right consistency.

Strawberry scones are a sweet recipe to use up the fresh, seasonal strawberry bounty. Sliced strawberries are mixed into a classic scone dough which is flavored with vanilla bean seeds. Once baked, the scones are topped with a vanilla bean glaze for extra sweetness. The scones hold moisture so they are best eaten the same day they are made. Serve for a special breakfast or enjoy as part of a morning snack.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Oat Bars & Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes
Four Years Ago:  PB & J Muffins, Almond Butter Chocolate Cookies, Sunflower Seed Bread, Blackberry Fool, Lime Curd Tart, Honey Chocolate Chunk Cookies, & Strawberry Charlotte
Five Years Ago: S'mores Cupcakes, Mai Tai, Homemade Mascarpone, Ladyfingers, Tiramisu Cake, & Honey Wheat Cake
Six Years Ago: Lemon Thins, Vanilla Pear Muffins, Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies, & Chocolate Raspberry Pots de Creme

Strawberry Scones

Yields 8 scones

Strawberry Scones
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (28 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold butter, cubed
8 ounces (225 grams) fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 large egg
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream

Topping
Egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, whisked)
Raw or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Vanilla Glaze (optional)
1/2 cup (62 grams) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender (or your hands) until mixture resembles coarse sand. Gently fold in sliced strawberries. 

In a small bowl, beat together egg, vanilla bean seeds, and heavy cream. Pour over the scone batter and lightly mix until the dough comes together. 

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, form a circle, and flatten it until it is about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut 8 equal pie wedges. Transfer scones to a baking sheet using a flat spatula dipped in flour. Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

For the glaze, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. Using a spoon, drizzle glaze over cooled scones. Allow at least 15 minutes for the glaze to set before serving.

Scones are best if served on the same day. If storing, cover the scones, but do not keep under an airtight seal.

2 Comments

Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

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Basic Sandwich Bread

For many years, one of the goals on my recipe checklist has been to find a recipe for a perfect loaf of sandwich bread. I envisioned the bread as an alternative to the many loaves I have purchased from the store over the years, working equally well with a spread of jam as it would as the backbone of a good sandwich. I wanted the recipe to be simple, the bread to be soft, and the crust to be golden and chewy. The task seemed easy enough, but as time has proven again and again, the kitchen staples are the most difficult to get just right. 

I have worked on this task passively since I began developing my own recipes years ago. There were many good loaves along the way, but never a loaf that made me stop in my tracks and proclaim, "This is the one!" Well, that is, until now. This basic sandwich loaf meets all of my requirements. The recipe is simple, only requiring 20 minutes or so of active preparation. The interior is light and soft, with sunflower seeds added for variation in taste and texture. The exterior is brushed with an egg wash to brown the loaf and give the golden crust a chewy texture. The egg wash also helps seeds or oats stick to the top so it can be adorned however you please. 

I haven't played around yet with substitutions (such as multi-grain or whole wheat), but when I find another recipe I will certainly share. I've had more than my fair share of bread over the years, but this loaf truly stands out as something special. 

My boyfriend starts every morning with two slices of peanut butter toast. Over the last five years, we have gone through several toasters together. The first, a relatively cheap toaster, lasted for a couple years before the coils burnt out. The second, a much more expensive toaster, brought hopes that it would hold up over time. It did hold up, but it performed dreadfully at its single purpose. With a shade scale from 1 to 5, it blackened toast at level 2 and set off the smoke detectors at level 3. My boyfriend actually taped down the shade scale knob because the toaster never seemed to toast consistently at the same level, believing I must have been messing with it (I wasn't).

When Wolf Gourmet asked me to test their Four Slice Toaster, I was excited to see how it would perform against my past experience. The toaster fits larger than average slices and self-centers the bread while toasting to ensure even browning. It works equally well with store bought sandwich loaves as it does with artisan breads. The toaster also has special settings for frozen bread or waffles so they defrost and toast to your desired level in one easy step. 

My favorite feature on the toaster is the "Keep Warm" button, which toasts the bread and keeps it warm for up to three minutes thereafter. When I am rushing around the kitchen preparing other ingredients, it is a definite perk to have the toast ready whenever I am (especially when spreading butter or peanut butter to the ideal melting consistency). Albeit minor, my only complaint is that it may take more than one cycle to reach a dark toasted brown when toasting extra thick slices of bread. Overall, the toaster reached my expectations in its single purpose—making a perfect piece of toast.

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Edit: Giveaway closed.

This Basic Sandwich Loaf is a kitchen staple. The bread is subtly sweetened with honey and uses olive oil to retain a soft crumb. Sliced thin for sandwiches or thick for toast, the bread holds up well in variety of situations. I prefer mixing in a few raw sunflower seeds for flavor and texture, but you could do as you choose with your loaves. For best results, use a new package or container of active dry yeast.

One Year Ago: Hazelnut Cherry Granola with Chocolate Coconut Bites
Two Years Ago: Cherry Almond Granola and Cinnamon Sugar Swirl Loaf
Three Years Ago: Honey Almond Quinoa Granola & Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Four Years Ago:  Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes, Pita Bread, Almond Joy Candy Bars, & Mango Lassi
Five Years Ago: Blackberry Goat Cheese Tart, Chocolate Whoopie Pies, Hot Cross Buns, & Irene's Orange Rolls
Six Years Ago: Honey Rolls, Chocolate Nests, & Roasted Pineapple

Basic Sandwich Bread

Yields 1 loaf

Dough
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup (235 ml) barely warm milk
1/3 cup (80 ml) barely warm water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups (445 grams) bread flour
1/4 cup ( grams) raw sunflower seeds (optional)

Topping
Egg wash (1 large egg + 1 tablespoon water, whisked)
Raw sunflower seeds (optional)
Old fashioned oats (optional)

In a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), sprinkle the yeast over the barely warm milk and water. Stir in the honey, olive oil, and salt. Gradually add bread flour and sunflower seeds, mixing until the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry and will not come together, add small amounts of water until it does. Conversely, if the dough is too sticky, add flour until it becomes workable; however, do not add too much flour or the bread will become dense.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, or until elastic. Alternatively, using the dough hook on a stand mixer, knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, or until elastic. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in a warm place, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough before turning out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into an even log and place in a lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Press dough down so it reaches the corners evenly. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for another 40-50 minutes until doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Brush the top of the loaf with egg wash. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and oats, if desired. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped (internal temperature of 190 degrees F). Remove from baking pan and allow to cool before slicing and serving.

Disclosure: A complimentary four slice toaster was provided for review by Wolf Gourmet. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

81 Comments

Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

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