Somewhere–lurking among all the storage boxes, motorcycle parts, and old tapestries in the shop–I have a collection of Grandma H.’s recipe boxes. At the age of 90 last fall, it was time for Grandma to transition to a retirement home. During the downsizing I acquired her collection.
Those boxes are treasure chests full of yellowing paper and fading ink, little pieces of history told through butter, sugar, and flour.
Each card contains a memory. Often marked with the name of the person who gave Grandma the recipe, the cards make me wonder about the stories told and the memories created over a particular cake, salad, or casserole. For example, did Grandma’s friend give her a recipe for her rhubarb cake because they had shared a couple of slices together at a sewing circle or party?
The memories are fleeting, perhaps, and certainly not passed down to later generations, myself included. But somehow, hints or reflections of those memories are preserved through those handwritten notes.
Old-fashioned rhubarb cake
Inspired by recipes for Norwegian rhubarb cake from The Transplanted Baker and Cooking Books, I flipped through the cards in Grandma’s boxes, hoping she would have a recipe. Sure enough, she did. This is an adaptation of it.
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups raw rhubarb, sliced lengthwise and then into half-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and brown sugar in a stand mixer. Add milk and eggs and mix to combine. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together, then add to the batter, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in rhubarb. Pour into a greased 9-inch pan and sprinkle with pearl sugar and cinnamon. Bake for 45-55 minutes.
*The original recipe called for vanilla, but with no mention of amount. I omitted it this time, but will try about a teaspoon the next time I make it.