As a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I first read about the pie plant in her book The First Four Years, when she wrote about forgetting to put sugar in her pie. I had no idea what a pie plant was until years later, when I learned it was rhubarb. Rhubarb has always been one of my favorites, and when we were kids, we would sit on the back steps dipping stalks of rhubarb into little paper cups of sugar and eat until our bellies hurt. Rhubarb doesn’t grow in Florida, but sometimes I would buy it in the grocery store just for old times sake. Yes, buy it. I know you Minnesota people are shaking your heads wondering why anybody would ever pay for RHUBARB, but I paid about $2.95/pound. That is a small price to pay to combat homesickness. In Minnesota, almost every yard in the country, town, or city has a thriving rhubarb plant growing somewhere. Nobody has to do much to it, because it just grows and grows and grows. Everyone cooks with it, freezes it, gives it away, then just ignores it until the next year because they are tired of it. That is, everyone except me. When we first moved to our little farm, I was excited to see a rhubarb patch in the front yard. The rhubarb was pretty small, but I thought it was just early in the season, so I waited with eager anticipation. It stayed small, with skinny, spindly stalks that weren’t worth harvesting. The next year I dug up part of the patch and fertilized everything with compost and waited with eager anticipation. It stayed small and spindly. I sent off for new rhubarb roots, dug them in, fertilized them with compost and waited with eager anticipation. Even the new plants were small with skinny, spindly stalks that went to seed about the time it came out of the ground. This year, I have three different rhubarb patches, and I finally got a harvest. I am very happy to report that I spent a little time peeling and chopping yesterday and got three cups. Well, almost three cups. Enough to make one cake. I know the rest of you have made pies, jam and sauce, plus have gallon bags of it in your freezer. Please don’t tell me about it because I feel bad enough already. I would feel even worse if the cake hadn’t turned out so well. I thought I would pass along the recipe for those of you who have plenty of rhubarb. Be sure you have ice cream in the freezer so you don’t have to run out in your gardening clothes, only to find out that there are 17 people in the Bowstring Store when you thought you could slip in and out without being seen. That’s another story altogether.
Oatmeal Rhubarb Cake
(A Farm Woman original recipe)
Cake: 1/4 cup butter, softened 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 2 tsp. pure vanilla 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups flour 2 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. allspice 1 tsp. cardamom (optional) 1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda 3/4 cup milk 3 cups rhubarb, peeled and diced
Topping: 1/2 cup quick cooking oats 1/4 cup flour 1/4 cup butter, softened 2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped 1/4 tsp. salt 1/2 cup brown sugar
Combine butter and sugar, mix until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute each. Add vanilla. Mix together dry ingredients, alternate adding milk and dry ingredients, mixing after each. Fold in chopped rhubarb. Pour into greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Put topping ingredients in small bowl, mix with spoon until well combined. Sprinkle on top of batter in pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, done when a cake tester comes out clean. Serve warm with ice cream or cold as a snack cake.