Made with strawberries, rhubarb and mint from the farm, this Gluten Free Rhubarb Cake was a local celebration for the birthday man himself, my Rustbelt Farmer.
For the past six months or so, I’ve been working on something big, something scary, something that has broken me, built me and flipped me every which way. I’ve missed summertime traditions, family gatherings, and missed seeing lots of my friends, but there was one day I couldn’t miss: my Rustbelt Farmer’s birthday!
My love, my farmer, is very nonchalant about his birthday, but I’m a glutton for birthday celebrations. A birthday guy or gal should feel special and loved always but especially on his or her birthday.
On his actual birthday, I brought home a roasted chicken, potatoes, some nice wine and those dainty little cakes they sell at Whole Foods. We ate on the porch, surrounded by my neighbor’s floral handiwork. Though the meal reminded me of Parisian street vendors, with storefronts of rotating chickens, with the grease and fat drizzling over the potatoes below, it was not on par with my normal birthday affairs. It wasn’t particularly thoughtful, thematic or homemade. It was merely a decoy.
As the Rustbelt Farmer settled into his “Jesus year,” the big 3-3, Julep, farmer Maria and I had a little mischief up our paws and sleeves. Armed with a Gluten Free Rhubarb Cake and hard cider, we surprised the Rustbelt Farmer at the farm where he works. It was time for a little country shindig with his farming pals. We shared a fresh-picked salad, a bacon-laden potato salad (thanks Jack!), burgers, drinks and finally, the homemade cake made just for him.
Fittingly, many of his birthday cake ingredients came from the organic farm (I blogged about the farm in fall here). It was a Gluten Free Rhubarb Cake with layers of whiskey whipped cream. The strawberries were small and sweet, the kind of variable fruit you only find in the wild, not stuffed into plastic clamshells and displayed under artificial light. The farm’s mint was especially fragrant. I can always tell the days the Rustbelt Farmer has been collecting the sweet bundles as the scent lingers with him long into the evening.
Of all the places where we could have celebrated, I wanted to meet the Rustbelt Farmer there, at the Kretschmann’s farm, to show him how much I appreciate and respect the hard work he does. His farming journey has not unraveled as he expected it would, or as he had hoped, but he’s made such a resilient effort to work at something he believes in.
And selfishly, I wanted to celebrate at the farm because it had been so long since I had seen my Molly girl. Remember when she was just a lil’ pup?!?
In my haste of baking and trying to leave our hot kitchen on time, I completely forgot birthday candles, but between the skewers from my food styling kit and a brown paper bag, we proceeded to celebrate without skipping a beat.
The Rustbelt Farmer and Maria, one of the owners of the farm, have been experimenting with hard cider, so I brought them some competitor cans for taste testing- a noble cause!
It wouldn’t have been a true farm party without a little action…
There was a swarm to capture!
Bees swarm for several reasons, all of which are better explained by the Rustbelt Farmer (feel free to leave questions in the comments), but what I can tell you is there is an incredibly calming effect to being in the midst of a swarm. There’s a steady hum of their buzzing and a need to be still. What I find the most inspiring though, is the beekeepers’ discourse. There are so many factors, variables and lessons learned along the way. Beekeeping is a constant conversation in search of the best plan for the time and place.
Zipped, tucked and meshed in protective gear, Maria shook the tree branch with the thick swarm of bees and guided them into an empty super.
If you are curious about bee swarms, here’s a helpful explanation.
All in all, it was a simple affair, but I hope it did a birthday boy good. He really is quite special.
Gluten Free Rhubarb Cake with Strawberries & Whiskey Whipped Cream
About this Recipe: Lightly sweetened, whole grain, gluten free and speckled with chunks of rhubarb and strawberries, this is a wholesome cake created for summer celebrations. If you don’t want to make a layer cake, half the recipe and use a 10-inch round cake pan instead.
2 cups coconut sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 cups Greek yogurt
3 lemons, zested
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups brown rice flour
1 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped rhubarb (about ½” chunks)
1 cup hulled & chopped strawberries
Whipped Cream Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 Tbs maple syrup
½-1 Tbs pure vanilla extract, to taste
1 Tbs whiskey
For the Cake: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch and 6-inch springform pan. Set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat 2 cups of the sugar and the butter on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs in one at a time, mixing after each addition. Then beat in the yogurt, lemon zest and the extracts.
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and salt.
Add these dry ingredients to the cake batter, adding in about one-third at a time, mixing on low speed until no more white streaks remain. Fold the rhubarb and strawberries into the batter, then pour into prepared pans.
Transfer the cake to your pre-heated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake form the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, run a knife or offset spatula around the outer edge of the cake and release the sides of the springform pan.
For the Whipped Cream: Combine the chilled whipped cream, maple syrup and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until soft peaks form. Add the whiskey, and beat until thick and fluffy.
To Assemble: Transfer the 9-inch cake to your serving plate. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and smooth into an even layer. Cut the 6-inch cake into two layers horizontally. Add the bottom layer, then top with whipped cream, and repeat. Garnish with fresh mint and strawberries, and keep chilled until right before serving.