Spring Skillet Cake (Vegan)

By butter, sugar, flowers
March 30, 2018
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Author Notes: This recipe is the result of a few culinary stars aligning in my life -- or at least that’s how I interpreted a couple of food coincidences. First, vibrant stalks of rhubarb started to appear at the market: an elusive and exciting annual moment. Second, a single banana sat ripening in my fruit bowl, and I began to daydream of new ways to use it. (It's not often that you find a recipe for just one over-ripe banana, in my experience.)

After bringing home a big bundle of rhubarb, it dawned on me that the stalks might pair nicely with ginger: refreshing brightness alongside fragrant warmth. And I pictured different sweet fruits that would match nicely, and wondered if the blackening banana on my counter could fit the bill. I also remembered how mashed banana can replace eggs in baking, holding together the batter while diffusing its tropical taste — and this recollection heightened my hunger for a light, new dessert.

Finally, orange zest would add a citrusy tang to echo and balance the tartness of the rhubarb. The result was not only a flavorful, ultra-moist, vegan dessert; it also turned out to be stunning, with a blanket of brilliant pink rhubarb draped over its top (and decadent caramely edges, too!).

Bright-tasting and beautiful, this is a truly uplifting spring dessert. The creamy-sweet banana tames the tartness of the rhubarb, while the double dose of ginger offers a welcome warmth to the otherwise cool notes. With its luxuriously moist crumb, this citrus-speckled cake delivers a complex harmony of texture and flavor. All in all, it not only leaves you feeling satisfied and light, but also celebrates springtime in every bite.

[This recipe was first posted on my web site, buttersugarflowers.com, in April 2015.]
butter, sugar, flowers

Serves: 8-10

  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil of your choice (canola, sunflower, melted coconut oil, etc.)
  • 1 pound fresh rhubarb -- preferably the deepest pink in color you can find, both inside and out of the stalks (this is purely for aesthetic reasons; pinker rhubarb yields a prettier cake)
  • 2/3 cup + 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup + 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 medium orange
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
  • 1.25 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  1. Using 1 tablespoon of the oil, coat the interior (both bottom and sides) of a 9-10" ovenproof skillet such as cast iron. Rinse rhubarb; trim and discard tough ends. Slice stalks in half, once crosswise, and then once lengthwise unless they are already very thin. If needed, trim further to fit across pan. Place rhubarb in skillet in a single parallel pile, then top with 1/4 cup brown sugar, spreading sugar to even it out a bit. Place pan over medium-low heat and cover with lid. Cook 5 minutes, remove lid, and use heatproof tongs to rotate top and bottom layers of rhubarb. (Pull the soft rhubarb up to the top and move the still-firm layer to bottom.) Cover with lid and cook another 5 minutes. Rhubarb should be very soft and juicy. Remove lid, remove pan from heat, and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel the banana and mash it well with a fork until no longer lumpy, then measure it: you need between a heaping 1/3 cup and a scant 1/2 cup mashed banana (if yours yields much more than this, be sure to use no more than a scant 1/2 cup). Rinse and finely zest the orange; set zest aside. Juice the orange and measure out 1/4 cup juice, with any seeds discarded. Set aside. Heat a kettle of water.
  3. In a large bowl, beat 2/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup vegetable oil. Add the vanilla, the mashed banana, and the grated ginger root. Mix well. Sift over the mixture: powdered ginger, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Begin to mix (batter will be thick), gradually adding the 1/4 cup orange juice and the boiling water. Beat well, scraping sides and bottom of bowl with spatula. Finally, fold in the orange zest until evenly distributed. Just before pouring batter into the skillet, gently rearrange rhubarb, pulling it to edges of the pan to ensure the bottom of the cake is completely covered in a single layer of rhubarb with no blank spaces. Slowly pour batter over rhubarb and place skillet in oven.
  4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out batter-free (a few moist crumbs are OK). Remove from oven, being careful not to touch hot skillet handle unprotected. Let sit at least 30-45 minutes or until pan is cool enough to grasp. Just when ready to serve, loosen edges of cake with a knife, and invert onto a plate. If cake has completely cooled or is the least bit stubborn about coming out of pan, place over medium heat on stovetop for 30 seconds before flipping. The cake is best served right away, but feel free to store it covered and refrigerated, eating within 24 hours.

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Dessert|Vegan|Spring