Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake

Layers of slightly spiced ginger cake smothered with a rhubarb buttercream frosting.  Inside, silky cream cheese filling is rippled with poached rhubarb.  The perfect cake to make when those coveted red stalks of rhubarb begin to arrive at the market!

Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake

I’ve had a life-long dream to live in a city.  Growing up deep into the suburbs but being fortunate enough to travel since a young age, it was established pretty early on that I was destined to be a city girl.  When I’d vacation to different cities, I’d image myself living there – walking to get my morning cup of coffee, picking up groceries at the local market, taking the dog to the park, and enjoying meals out on a terrace somewhere attached to my eclectic yet chic apartment.  Being in the middle of it all, with restaurants, shops, nightlife, and culture just steps outside my door, is where I always thought I’d end up.

New York City has always been my favorite, and after college I assumed I’d end up there at some point – perhaps not permanently, but at least a few seasons.  After getting married and starting up my bakery, I pretty much gave up on my big-city dreams… Instead, we lived in Midtown Sacramento.  Sure there were coffee shops and a few great restaurants walking-distance from our townhouse, but I began to grow impatient of the city’s slow growth and always having to drive everywhere (although my parents still live there part-time, and the city it really stepping it up lately!). 

Like I’ve mentioned time and time again, my husband and I fell completely in love with the city of Vancouver.  We used to come visit a few times a year to enjoy both the city life and the beautiful outdoors. We’d stay at my parents’ place long enough to see ourselves living there and not just being tourists.  Most significantly, we never needed a car and could walk EVERYWHERE!  Eventually, we decided just to go for it and move here. 

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Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake
Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake

Now I know Vancouver isn’t the biggest city out there, but it has turned out to be just perfect for us.  A city made of glass that reflects the water, mountains, and gorgeous parks that surround it.  The best of all worlds, if you ask me.  And unlike NYC, this is the kind of city I could see us living in for a long time. 

Did I mention how much I enjoy walking everywhere?  Now that the weather is clearing up and the sun is staying out much later, I am already finding myself outside a lot more – toddler and pup in tow.  One my all-time FAVORITE activities to do in the city is to walk to the farmer’s market.  While some people might dream of owning a four-bedroom house with a pool, my dream is to be able to push the stroller to a local farmer’s market with my little man from my home. 

Deep into the West End, just about an 8 minute walk away, we have own little local market.  Last year, when Brett had class on Saturday mornings, Everett and I would go there every weekend together. He was just starting to enjoy solid foods around this time last year, so it felt great knowing exactly where his food was coming from.  We would hunt for the freshest berries, juiciest plums, and most vibrant stalks of rhubarb. 

Whenever I see rhubarb for the first time each season, I snatch it up like it’s gold!  You never really know when it won’t be there anymore – or at least not as fresh as the stalks at the local markets.  This cake is the end product of one such haul. 

For this cake, I combined warm, spicy ginger with tantalizing, tart rhubarb.  A small amount of freshly grated ginger packs a deceptive amount of flavour, quickly transforming and elevating a simple butter cake into something a bit more complex and exotic.  The rhubarb is poached in blood orange juice with more ginger and real vanilla bean seeds.  Once cooked down, the tart rhubarb blends perfectly with tangy cream cheese for the filling and is an excellent contrast to the silky sweet frosting.  The vanilla-flecked buttercream becomes beautifully blushed with the natural color of the rhubarb.

Rhubarb Ginger Layer Cake

Ginger Butter Cake
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 ¼ cup whole milk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare three 8-inch cake pans and set aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter until smooth.  Add in the sugar and mix on medium for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.  With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla and egg whites – incorporating one at a time.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

With the mixer on low and in alternating batches, add in the dry ingredients and milk.  Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after all of the ingredients are added in.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake for about 23-26 minutes or until done and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

 

Poached Rhubarb
3 – 3 ½ cups chopped rhubarb (about 350 grams)
½ cup blood orange juice
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

Chop rhubarb into 1-inch long pieces.  Place rhubarb and all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Once the juices begin to boil, reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 15 minutes until rhubarb breaks down and begins to thicken.  Remove from heat.

Strain the rhubarb pulp with a mesh sieve – reserving the liquids separately.  Set both aside.

 

Rhubarb Cream Cheese Swirl Filling
½ cup cream cheese, softened
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup strained rhubarb

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add in the sugar and vanilla.  Mix on low until all of the ingredients begin to come together.  Turn mixer up to medium and mix until smooth.  Stop the mixer and gently fold in the rhubarb.

 

Rhubarb Buttercream Frosting
4 large egg whites
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup rhubarb puree
rhubarb syrup – to taste

Puree the remaining strained rhubarb until smooth.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar.  Place a few inches of water in a medium saucepan and heat over medium.  Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler.  Heat egg white mixture until it reaches 155 F degrees on a candy thermometer – or until hot to the touch.  Once hot, remove the bowl and carefully return it to the electric mixer.  Fitted with the whisk attachment, mix on high until the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature – about 8 minutes.  Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.

With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla and butter – a couple tablespoons at a time.  Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until smooth.  Turn mixer down to medium-low and mix in the rhubarb puree until combined.  Add 1-3 teaspoons of the rhubarb syrup, if desired.

Assembly

Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving dish.  Spread on half of the rhubarb cream cheese with an offset spatula.  Top with the next layer of cake and repeat.  Frost cake with rhubarb buttercream and decorate with sugar peals, if desired.

Recipe as seen in Cake Central Magazine, Sept 2015.