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Cast Iron Skillet Rhubarb Raspberry Upside Down Cake

Last night, when I announced to my family that I was in our farmhouse kitchen preparing a cake, they were thrilled.  When asked what type of cake I was making, I replied that I was using the rhubarb that we had harvested from the garden earlier in the day.

At that point, the house became divided.  My daughter and son both love rhubarb.  In fact, they happily twist stalks from the plant and eat them raw.  Only a true rhubarb lover would make it past that first bite.  They eat the entire stalk every time and survey the plants to determine if others are ready to be harvested.

My husband does not share their love of rhubarb.  In fact, I have never known him to enjoy rhubarb in any form.  Yet, I was willing to take a risk as I knew that he would happily enjoy a bowl of vanilla ice cream without the cake if the rhubarb flavor was a deal breaker.

Earlier in the week, I had asked several of my fellow bloggers to share their best rhubarb recipes.  Many of them suggested versions of upside down cake.  Monte from the blog Chewing the Fat shared his favorite.  The Devil’s Food Advocate chimed in with her version of the same recipe.  The original recipe for Rhubarb Upside Down Cake was published in The New York Times in May of 2011.

My favorite upside down cake is based on a David Lebovitz recipe.  I was confident that I could take inspiration from all three recipes and make a cake that would appeal to my whole family.  I added raspberries to round out the fruit flavor and the resulting mixture was even better than I had hoped.

When it came time to serve the cake for dessert, I was sure that my children would approve.  I was less confident that my husband would enjoy the flavor and texture of the rhubarb.  I anxiously watched as he took the first bite.

I’m happy to report that he did enjoy it.  Better yet, he loved the rhubarb.  In fact, we all did.  The flavor was fresh and earthy with the rhubarb’s trademark brightness.

This recipe will definitely become a family favorite.  In fact, it would be a wonderful way to celebrate a special occasion.  Luckily, we won’t have to wait long.  Sunday is Mother’s Day and this cake seems like the perfect way to celebrate!

Cast Iron Skillet Rhubarb Raspberry Upside Down Cake
adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz

I made a few changes to the original recipe.  I like making an upside down cake in the same skillet used to make the caramel.  I use a cast iron skillet and it always turns out perfectly.  I also like to remove 1 Tablespoon of the flour and substitute an equal amount of cornstarch to produce a flour mixture that closely resembles cake flour.

For those who are unfamiliar with rhubarb, take care to discard the leaves.  While the stalks are delicious, the leaves are poisonous.

For the fruit layer:
8 ounces rhubarb, sliced into 1/2″ thick pieces
4 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen
2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the caramel layer:
3 Tablespoons butter, cubed
3/4 cup brown sugar

For the cake layer:
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) All-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, cubed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, combine the sliced rhubarb, raspberries, cornstarch, and sugar.  Allow the mixture to rest as the cake is prepared.

In a cast iron skillet or oven proof pan, melt three Tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar to the melted butter and stir until fully moistened.  Continue to cook while stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture begins to bubble.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Spread the caramel to cover the entire bottom surface of the skillet.

Place the flour in a small bowl.  Remove 1 Tablespoon of the flour from the bowl.  Add cornstarch, baking powder, and salt to the flour.  Using a whisk, mix the dry ingredients fully.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and stir to combine.  Add the eggs and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Add half of the dry mixture and stir just until combined.  Add the milk to the batter and mix until smooth.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix just until smooth.  Take care not to overmix.

Carefully stir the prepared fruit mixture.  Transfer the fruit and its juices to the skillet containing the caramel.  Spread the fruit evenly over the caramel.

Using a spatula, transfer the cake mixture to the skillet,  Gently spread the batter to the edges of the pan, fully covering the fruit layer.  Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven.  I place the skillet on a baking sheet to prevent juices from the fruit layer from bubbling over and burning in the oven.

Bake the cake for 50 – 60 minutes.  The cake is done when it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  When done, the top of the cake will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center will be clean or have small crumbs attached.

Allow the cake to cool for 15 – 20 minutes.   Cover the cake with a plate slightly larger than the skillet.  Using oven mitts, carefully flip the cake.  This should be done while the cake is still warm, otherwise the caramel layer will solidify and stick to the bottom of the pan.

Remove the skillet from the plate.  Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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  1. Missy

    Wow! This sounds amazing, I can’t wait to try it with our rhubarb! Thanks for sharing!

  2. debra@ HOMESPUN

    This looks good! I want to try it sometime soon! My grandmother always had rhubarb and made rhubarb and strawberry pie, which I have made before as well. Never tried it with a cake recipe though…Yum! 🙂

  3. Avis Peterson

    I am all over this one as the rhubarb ripens/matures. Reading this recipe is making me salivate! I am one of those rural raised kids who made rhubarb part of my outdoor playtime snack routine. I had my own salt shaker and would salt every bite!
    Cheers,
    izzi~avis

    1. Jennifer Burcke

      What a wonderful story! My kids love to twist a stalk off of one of our plants and enjoy it plain! I’ve tried it dipped in sugar, but never in salt. I may just have to give that a try!

  4. Debra Neel

    That’s looks so good.

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