I keep seeing rhubarb in the shops at the moment and decided to buy some to bake with. The only way I've ever really had rhubarb in the past is in crumble and not for years and years. For some reason I can't recall, I had convinced myself that I didn't really like it very much. It seems that's not really true!
The rhubarb I bought is the outdoor variety (the forced kind having gone out of season months ago) so the colour is more towards green rather than the pretty bright pink kind you see in the winter/spring months, but the flavour is still good.
Reduced rhubarb syrup - pretty in pink
I decided to make rhubarb cupcakes from one of my less-used baking books, The Primrose Bakery Book, which is the second from the Primrose Bakery (yes, I do have the first one too, and have actually made quite a lot out of it!). I can't find a legitimate copy of the recipe on the internet, but it involves chopping and stewing the rhubarb first to cook it and then draining the cooking syrup. This is then reduced to make a thick sticky syrup to add to the buttercream. The stewed rhubarb is added to the cupcake mixture. The only change I made to the recipe was to omit the 1tsp ground ginger called for and replace it with 1tsp vanilla extract. I found that after the specified 25 minutes the cakes were pretty much cooked but because I'd been a numpty and set my oven too low they weren't coloured at all (note to self: check oven temp) so I turned the oven up and left them a bit longer to colour. This meant that I was a little concerned they'd be dry and so used some of the reduced rhubarb syrup as a glaze.
Glazed cupcakes before buttercream
The buttercream recipe wasn't my most successful attempt. The recipe in the book calls for 110g butter and 500g icing sugar, along with the reduced rhubarb juice from stewing the rhubarb. I thought this sounded unbearably sweet and started out with 110g butter and about 200g icing sugar. Unfortunately the buttercream split slightly when I added the rhubarb juice and a little warm water to slacken the mixture, I'm not quite sure why.
Buttercream in the making
I ended up trying to rescue it by adding more sugar (to about 300g total), whisking like mad and I also added about 30g melted white chocolate (as the chocolate is supposed to stabilise the fat/sugar emulsion). It worked out in the end and the buttercream didn't split again but it was too sweet for my tastes. I think I'll add more white chocolate and less sugar next time. Because the rhubarb syrup is added to the buttercream you get a natural, very pale pink colour.
These were ok, not the best thing I've ever made - the cakes were on the moist/heavy side and as above the buttercream wasn't my favourite. I also found I couldn't really taste the rhubarb but I did discover that I like the smell of rhubarb cooking, which is a good thing!