A 3-Desserts-in-1 Spring Cake (Mix and Match at Will)

April 28, 2016

This cake giveth, and this cake taketh away.

Specifically, this cake will taketh a little more than 2 sticks of butter, some eggs, a lemon, almonds, flour, 2 pounds of rhubarb, 14 dried hibiscus flowers (fine—those are optional), sugar (white and brown), and yes, the larger part of the afternoon.

But let's get back to the "giveth" part.

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More accurately referred to as a "confection" or "dessert" (traditional cake it is not*), this Bakewell Tart consists of three separate layers—tart crust, rhubarb jam, and almond cream—each of which needs individual attention.

The upside: You can plan ahead and you can take breaks between each component. Or, you can even take a hard stop after any one part and handily use it by itself. (And that's not to mention that the three parts come from Dorie Greenspan, Kim Boyce, and Deb Perelman, respectively—it's the dessert equivalent of a Baking All-Star Team.)

Photo by James Ransom

Here's a little bit more about each element, and ideas for using them on their own, or in some combination:

1. The tart crust

Deb Perelman calls this slight adaptation of Dorie Greenspan's recipe "The Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell," and once you give it a try, you'll wonder why you ever bothered with others (except maybe the olive oil press-in crust). It's made in the food processor, it rolls out like a carpet, and there's no need for pie weights (or in my case, unpopped popcorn posing as pie weights).

If you're in a rush for time, bake the shell fully—until it's truly brown—then top it with whipped cream and fresh fruit, or melted chocolate and candied lemon, or simply a layer of jam.) Save the compote and the almond cream for another time.

2. The rhubarb jam

The ratio of brown sugar to rhubarb in Kim Boyce's Rhubarb Hibiscus Compote from Good to the Grain, is such that you end up with something akin to a red-tinted, fruit-flavored caramel. (All the liquid comes from the rhubarb and the sugar; there's no added wine or juice or water to get in the way.) To cut the sweetness, you stir in raw chunks of rhubarb at the very end, which mellow out in the residual heat of the jam.

The dried hibiscus adds floral flavor (and their own tartness), but you can leave them out—or replace them with lavender or rose, or mix in some lemon or lime juice at the end—if you can't find them (or just don't want to use them).

If you use the jam on the tart, you'll still have enough leftover for topping yogurt, stirring into oatmeal, using in a trifle, or slumping over a piece of pound cake. Or, make the tart and the jam but skip the almond cream—simply spread the compote over a fully-baked tart shell (and add some sliced strawberries, too).

3. The almond cream

And, finally, the easiest of the three parts (also from Deb Perelman). It requires no cooking, just a bit of work from your food processor and a long rest in the fridge.

If you want to make the almond cream without the tart shell or the jam, spread it on a piece of toasted brioche and bake in a 400° F oven for a bostock. Or fold it into squares of puff pastry for a Danish-ish. Dollop it onto a batch of brownies or blondies before baking. Drop spoonfuls into the custard of bread pudding. Spread it on a galette before you put the fruit down. Try to stop yourself from eating all of it with a spoon because, hey, there's raw egg in there.


Call it a cake or a tart or a dessert or a confection, but don't call it a pudding. Whereas Bakewell Tart is an American invention of otherwise unknown origin, Bakewell Pudding, according to Munchies, actually comes from the village of Bakewell in Derbyshire, England.

(And the name "Bakewell"? It's not a mark of the town's baking abilities but rather an Old English word meaning “a well belonging to Badeca.”)

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • joan
  • Hannah
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


joan April 21, 2018
I grew up in England and am 73 yrs old. Bakewell Tarts were a common desert made with Raspberry jam. To say its an American invention I think is a stretch. However, I will try it with rhubarb, sounds intriguing .
Hannah April 28, 2016
You had me at Bakewell tart, my absolute favourite. Then with Rhubarb Jam, yum. Definitely on my bake list for this weekend
Sarah J. April 30, 2016
Hope you love it as much as I do!