By Pasha Milburn

You may have recently spied the sherbet pink stems of forced rhubarb in your local supermarket or veg shop. Following a method that hails from Yorkshire in the 1870s, forced rhubarb (having first been grown outside for two years to toughen the roots) completes its growth in darkened sheds lit by candlelight. Desperately searching for light, it is said that forced rhubarb grows so quickly one can hear the buds ‘popping’ in the sheds. 

The tender stems that are produced from this method are more delicate and sweeter than your usual summer rhubarb but are only available for a limited period between January and March. Forced rhubarb is delicious poached for porridge or crumble, but this cinnamon scented polenta cake, dotted throughout with pink rhubarb, and piled high with a tangy yogurt whipped cream is a perfect recipe for when you want to serve something extra special. 

Cake adapted from Nigella Lawson. 

Cake is baked in a six-inch (15cm) round cake tin, but double the recipe to fit a larger nine-inch (23cm) round cake tin.

Ingredients:
• 250g rhubarb (washed and cut into 4/5 cm bite size pieces)
• 150g caster sugar
• 75g plain flour 
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda 
• Pinch of salt
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon 
• 78g fine polenta/cornmeal
• 1 large egg (at room temperature)
• ½ tsp vanilla extract 
• 63g unsalted butter (softened to room temperature before using)
• 125g natural yogurt (Greek style works well) 

Yogurt whipped cream
• 150g double cream
• 50g full-fat yogurt 

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 °C and butter and line a six-inch (15cm) round cake tin. Place rhubarb pieces in a bowl and cover with 50g of the sugar.

2. In a separate bowl, mix flour, bicarbonate, salt, cinnamon and polenta together and set aside. Beat the egg and vanilla together in a small jug/bowl. 

3. In a separate large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), cream the softened butter with the remaining 100g of sugar until smooth and fluffy before gradually adding the egg/vanilla mixture.

4. To this bowl, add the flour-cornmeal mixture in batches alternating with the yogurt, mixing until just combined. Fold in the rhubarb (and its sugary pink juices). 

5. Pour batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (a skewer should come out clean when inserted). Check after 30 minutes that the top of the cake isn’t browning too fast (and cover with foil if it is).

6. When the cake is cooked, let it cool in its tin before unmoulding onto a wire rack. While cake is cooling, prepare the yogurt whipped cream. Beat cream until soft peaks form before folding in the yogurt. When cake is cooled, serve yogurt whipped cream alongside or pile on top before serving.

This cake is best eaten on the day it is made but will keep for a few days in an air-tight container. 


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