I think it’s safe to say that St. Patrick’s Day 2020 will go down in history as the saddest/strangest/quietest St. Patrick’s Day in modern times. No parades, no drunken bar crawls, and a sickly feeling that celebration is slightly inappropriate. I had a dinner party with friends planned, ingredients for creative desserts￼, and my general enthusiasm for celebrating the Emerald Isle all ready to go￼– bring on the green sprinkles!￼ But then as we barreled toward March 17th, day by day, and sometimes hour by hour, things became more grim in the world. On Friday the 13th (can’t make this stuff up), it was announced that the school district where I work would close for the next several weeks. Weekend dinner party￼ guests slowly withdrew, and it ended up being canceled altogether; no one really knew what to do￼. Come Monday, the San Francisco Bay Area was put under a coronavirus shelter-in-place￼. Needless to say, by the time Tuesday the 17th came around, I wasn’t much in the mood to celebrate. I had the makings for Irish dinner, but I didn’t have it in me to cook that day; sagging on the couch watching the increasingly depressing news was all I could muster. But finally by that Friday I rallied to make Irish dinner as well as this fabulous green dessert. Truth be told, I usually roll my eyes at using mint or matcha or pistachio for St. Patrick’s Day, because exactly zero of those are actually popular ingredients in Irish cuisine.￼￼￼ Buuut this gorgeous Rhubarb Matcha Pudding Cake from Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes in London serendipitously floated into my Instagram feed, and being that I stared at it for a good two minutes, I took that as a sign that I was meant to make this dessert that particular week. Plus, ￼I had bought some rhubarb on one of my panic-shopping trips the week prior, and I still had matcha powder from my Almond Green Tea Cupcakes, so it was pretty much meant to be. Then I was like, what’s the point of posting a green dessert after such a somber St. Patrick’s Day? But… we’re stuck at home, I don’t even know what day it is half the time, let alone the actual date– all I know is it’s still March, so why the hell not, amiright?
I didn’t even think I would like matcha desserts, but the above-mentioned Almond Green Tea Cupcakes totally changed my mind. And what a beautiful combination with rhubarb, both visually and deliciously. It also comes together very easily, which was handy, given my lackluster motivation for grand kitchen projects that week. No mixer needed, no pre-cooking the rhubarb, no finicky ingredients. The one thing I substituted was Greek yogurt for the plain yogurt called for in the recipe, which is much thicker. The recipe says the batter should be poured into the cake pan, but mine was quite thick (requiring scraping, not pouring), which could have been due to the thicker yogurt, or perhaps regional differences in other ingredients. Also, the cake is supposed to bake in 40-45 minutes, but mine took closer to 60 minutes; I might have done well to pull it out about two minutes earlier to retain more of a “pudding” texture, but the very center of the cake was quite stubborn in cooking thoroughly. The baking temperature in Celsius is 170°, which converts to 338°F; I went with 340°F, and next time I would just bake it at 350°F, which would hopefully take care of the center-baking issue.
Regardless, this cake was ethereal, especially with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream! I loved the soft texture and matcha-vanilla flavor in the cake, balanced by the tartness of the rhubarb– it is one of my favorite things that I’ve baked in recent memory. Oh– as you can see from my photos, I completely spaced about sifting the confectioners’ sugar/matcha powder on top of the cake, but hey, I’m sure that would’ve been pretty!
So although this year’s celebration of all things GREEN came and went in such muted fashion, it’s fine to keep baking for whatever holiday we want, at least according to these people. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.
Green Tea Rhubarb Pudding Cake
Adapted from Claire Ptak in The Guardian
Yields 12-16 servings
This is a British recipe that was written with weights only. I have added volume measurements for convenience, but I strong recommend using weight to portion out your ingredients.
For the pudding cake:
- 350g (3 cups minus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons matcha powder
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 200g (1 cup) superfine sugar
- 300g (about 1⅓ cup) full-fat Greek yogurt or plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- 220g (2 sticks/16 tablespoons/8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
For the fruit topping:
- 500g (about 4-6 stalks) rhubarb
- 100g (½ cup) superfine sugar
- Zest and juice of 1 medium blood orange 1 (regular orange is fine if you don’t have a blood orange)
For the garnish/serving:
- 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon matcha powder
- Vanilla ice cream or crème anglaise
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center. Grease and line the bottom of a 9″ springform with parchment paper. (I actually used a 10″ parchment circle which I pressed up the sides about a ½”, which helped prevent any batter leaking.)
Whisk together the flour, matcha powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth, then add in the yogurt and vanilla until combined. Stream in the melted butter gradually while whisking, until a smooth batter forms.
Pour the wet mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir everything together gently with a wooden spoon.
Pour/scrape the batter into the prepared pan, using a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Smooth the batter with a small offset spatula to the edges of the pan.
To make the topping:
Trim the ends of the rhubarb stalks, then cut them in half lengthwise, then cut these into 2″ batons; collect them in a medium bowl. Add the blood orange zest and juice; toss the rhubarb and orange together, making sure all of the pieces are covered, then pour in the sugar and mix again. Allow the fruit to macerate for 5 minutes and give it a final mix. Arrange the rhubarb spears on top of the cake batter in any pattern of your choosing. (I had a couple handfuls of rhubarb pieces left over.)
Bake the cake for 45-60 minutes, or until springy to touch. Be sure the center is cooked through before pulling it from the oven. Transfer the cake pan to a wire cooling rack and let it cool for at least 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to serve the cake, gently release the clasp of the springform, loosening the cake with a knife if needed (mine did not stick to the sides at all). Whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and matcha powder, and sift it over the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or crème anglaise.
Cover the cake tightly and store it at room temperature for up to two days, refrigerate beyond that for another few days.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2020.