Spring is the time of year of the great pinkening in my kitchen. When, fed up with a winter of stored apples and fleetingly good citrus shipped in from far away, there’s finally some fresh produce to bake into desserts. Enter: rhubarb. So far, I’ve steeped rhubarb in vodka for an entirely new kind of Cosmopolitan, I’ve made quick sweet-tart sauces, and I’ve adapted the apple cake from my cookbook, Secrets of Great Second Meals, to accommodate the pucker of spring’s stalky crop.
This isn’t an architectural cake—it’s tender and moist and almost, but not quite, like a cobbler, so you may even want to eat it in a bowl. But the most signature element of this dessert is the cinnamon-toasty flavor that comes from bread crumbs.
This is a great way to use up all those ends of artisanal bread loaves that you may not have gotten around to eating. Here’s how I cultivate my own bread crumb garden. If I notice the end of a loaf has been sitting around longer than a couple of days, I slice it into thick slices and lay it on a sheet pan. Then I forget about it for another day or two. I break the stale slices into shards and pulverize them in a food processor or high-speed blender. Though some recipes are best with milder bread crumbs, this one is great with rye bread or brown levain—it’s all character building. Once the bread is ground, I keep it in an airtight container in the freezer if I’m not going to use it right away. —Sara Dickerman
unsalted butter (1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons), melted and cooled to lukewarm, plus extra un-melted butter for greasing the pan
unseasoned bread crumbs, finely ground, preferably homemade
almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
fine sea salt
large eggs, at room temperature
brown sugar, firmly packed
grated fresh ginger
cream (2 tablespoons for the batter, plus the remaining cream to whip and serve)
rhubarb, cut into half-inch dice
In This Recipe
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, then scoop about 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs into the pan and swirl and pat to coat the interior.
In a small bowl, whisk the cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, flours, and salt.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer (and a large bowl), beat the eggs and white and brown sugars until creamy, thick, and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. On medium speed, beat in the melted and cooled butter, ginger, and 2 tablespoons of cream; mix until well incorporated. Working with a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture just until a bit streaky. Fold in the remaining bread crumbs, then the rhubarb. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
Bake until a paring knife inserted into the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 55-60 minutes. (If the cake is browning on the edges before it is set, cover it with aluminum foil.) Let the cake sit for 10 minutes, then remove the ring. Let cool to warm or room temperature before serving. Whip the cream softly and serve alongside the cake.