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THE COUNTRY COOKBOOK

THE COUNTRY COOKBOOK

by Belinda Jeffery (Lantern Australia, 2010)

I picked this up when I was Down Under earlier in the year, and although it's not right to judge a book by its cover, I must confess it was the knitted-effect spine that made me first take it off the bookshelf. But I certainly like what's on the inside, too, and I've chosen the cake below to show you why.

Rhubarb, Sour Cream & Cinnamon Sugar Cake

This is a lovely cake - simple and homely and all the more enjoyable for being so.  Chunks of tangy rhubarb are studded through the gently spiced cake, with the sugar and almond topping providing just the right amount of crunch.

It really is a cross between a pudding and a cake, and as such it makes a great dessert at this time of year when the weather can be so fickle, for you can serve it warm and scoop it straight out of the dish, or let it cool, turn it out and slice it like a cake.

Ingredients:
Serves 10

2 1/3 cups (350g) self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (330g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (240g) sour cream
4 cups (440g) rhubarb - chopped into 1 cm chunks (you may need 2 bunches for this amount)
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1/3 cup (25g) flaked almonds
cream or vanilla bean ice-cream, to serve

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180C. Butter a 26cm x 6cm round ovenproof dish (I use a glass pyrex one) - and, if you want to turn out the cake to serve it, line the base with buttered baking paper.

Tip the flour, salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon into a bowl.  Use a balloon whisk to mix them together until they are well combined, then set the bowl aside.

Put the butter and brown sugar into a large bowl and beat them with a hand-held electric beater on medium speed for 2 minutes until the mixture looks like wet sand - it won't be creamy at this stage due to the proportion of sugar to butter.  Add the egg and vanilla then beat the mixture again for a minute or so, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice, until the egg is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture looks creamy.  Now mix in the sour cream - don't worry if the batter looks a bit curdled, it will come back together once you add the dry ingredients.  Now add the flour mixture and mix it in on low speed until it is just combined.  Finally, stir in the rhubarb: do this with a spatula as the batter becomes very stiff and you will need to use a bit of the proverbial elbow grease to mix everything together.

Scrape the batter into the prepared dish and smooth it down as best you can.  Mix the nutmeg and remaining cinnamon into the caster sugar.  Sprinkle half this mixture evenly over the top of the batter, scatter the flaked almonds over this, then finish off with the remaining sugar mixture. Shake the pan gently to level out the almond mixture.

Bake the cake for about 1 hour 10 minutes or until a fine skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (or with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it).  Remove the cake from the oven to a wire rack and leave it to cool in the dish until it is barely warm.  At this stage you can serve it straight from the dish as a pudding - or, to turn it out, sit a flat plate on top then invert the cake onto this.  Remove the baking paper, then invert the cake again onto a serving plate so the sugared top is uppermost. (You will find as you invert the cake that some of the sugary almond mixture will drop off, so watch that it doesn't go everywhere.)