Today: An old-school American snack cake gets a little modern bling.
This Memorial Day, other people might be excited for the lazy backyard barbecues, or splashing around at the beach. Those sound fun. But seriously, we're in it for the buckle.
This is that time of year you can raid your local farmers market or roadside stand in the morning, and an hour later be staring at a cake-like thing heaving with fruit, willing it to cool.
It has all the grunts and slumps and pandowdies you'll need, and you don't even have to worry what those names actually mean. They're relics of our sweet American past, and there's little point in trying to neatly categorize them, although we try.
All we need to know is that they're snack cakes -- sweet dough wrapped around seasonal fruit, in all manner of glorious, lumpy guises. They resist definition -- they sprouted up regionally, so your grandmother's buckle is not Martha Stewart's.
But I can tell you about this buckle, sent my way by Food52er Fairmount_market. You make a thick buttermilk batter, fold in sliced rhubarb, and shower it with a frozen, sugary crumb. As it bakes, the rhubarb bleeds into downy cake, and a golden crust puffs and then dips under the weight of the craggy crumb top (okay, it buckles -- happy now?).
"A crucial step is to be sure the crumb topping is completely frozen before scattering on the cake and doing so right before placing the cake in the oven," Richardson told me. "Otherwise the crumb melts into the cake and although tasty, it just doesn't look as spectacular!"
It would be a pretty perfect recipe at that, but the clever Schreiber-Richardson team snuck in a secret ingredient: ginger (times two). There's fiery candied ginger minced up in the crumb topping, and ground ginger in the cake too -- just enough to give it a warm, flirty je ne sais quoi that doesn't try to shout over the rhubarb.
Because, with summer coming, it's all about the fruit. (Although the candy on top doesn't hurt.)
Adapted slightly from Rustic Fruit Desserts (Ten Speed Press, 2009)
Serves 8 to 12
Ginger Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and thinly sliced
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom