Friday 21 February 2014

Rhubarb And Custard Cake

rhubarb and custard cake

This month's Food 'n' Flix selection is Babette's Feast, which was chosen by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla. It's a 1987 Danish drama with English subtitles which in itself was enough to put me off - but it won the Oscar for best foreign film and was actually very good. The film begins with two elderly Danish sisters who have a French servant/cook called Babette, which we soon realise is strange given the remote location and their frugal lives. The film then goes back to the sisters' youth to explain how this came about and how Babette came to live with them. [Spoiler alert] she is essentially a refugee and spends decades living with the sisters, her only link to France a lottery ticket that a friend in Paris buys for her every year. One day Babette wins 10,000 francs on the lottery, and the sisters expect her to return to France in style and resume her life there. Instead, Babette decides to thank the community that has taken her in and become her friend, by spending the money on a feast for everyone. She prepares several courses of an exquisite French meal, and her friends only discover later that she has spent every centime of her winnings on the food for 12 of her friends. What's more, as they are eating, one diner - the only one who is particularly well travelled, having worked as an attache in Paris - comments that several of the dishes remind him of the famous Cafe Anglais in Paris. He waxes lyrical about the food - which funnily enough cost 10,000 francs for a meal for 12. Babette has successfully made some of the Cafe Anglais's signature dishes and what do you know, the chef at the Cafe Anglais was female and disappeared at the start of the war... I almost gasped aloud when I realised where the story was going and that Babette was of course the chef at the Cafe Anglais. At the end when her friends realise she has spent all her winnings and is now poor again, Babette says: "an artist is never poor".

It really is a lovely film and food takes centre stage; from the austerity of the sisters' lives to the preparations Babette makes for her feast, where the film literally becomes more vibrant and colourful. I wanted to recreate something that Babette makes for her feast, but she doesn't make it easy! She buys a very expensive red wine and makes turtle soup (from real live turtles!), quails in puff pastry, caviar on blinis with sour cream and a decorated bundt cake for dessert.

I started by thinking about what flavours I like, and I have seen a few bloggers recently recreate favourite desserts or chocolate bars in cake form, which got me thinking. I used to love rhubarb and custard sweets, and I had a tin of rhubarb in the cupboard which I bought for another recipe and never used, so I decided to make a rhubarb and custard bundt and decorate the top with rhubarb and custard sweets.

Rhubarb and Custard Bundt - an original recipe by Caroline Makes

This makes quite a big cake - my Nordicware bundt tin is quite large and deep. As it is a bundt rather than a layer cake, there is a layer of custard baked into the middle of the cake.

For the cake:
400g butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
400g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
60g custard powder
50ml milk
539g tin rhubarb in light syrup

For the custard:
4 tbsp custard powder
4 tbsp caster sugar
500ml milk

To decorate:
about 100g rhubarb and custard sweets

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a bundt tin; I used PME Cake Release. First make the custard: whisk the custard powder and sugar with a little of the milk, then mix in the rest of the milk. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring, until thickened. Leave to cool; cover the pan with clingfilm so the custard doesn't form a skin.

For the cake, cream the butter andthe sugar in a large bowl. Gradually add the eggs then fold in the flour, baking powder and the custard powder.

Gently mix in the milk, and 50ml of the syrup from the tin of rhubarb. Spoon half the cake mixture into the bundt tin.

Spoon the cooled custard on top.

Spoon the rest of the cake mixture into the tin, and spread out the rhubarb pieces on top. I had been expecting the rhubarb to sink into the cake when it was cooking, but it stayed on the top -which of course will be the bottom of the cake.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Cover with foil if the top is getting too brown.

Allow to cool in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  I love the swirled effect from my Nordicware bundt tin.

I bought some rhubarb and custard sweets, which I originally intended to crush and sprinkle over the top, but try as I might, I couldn't make so much as a dent in them! I didn't want to use my food processor in case it damaged the blades. So then I had another idea...

... melt the sweets in the microwave! This worked really well, though you do have to be very careful as the sugar reaches boiling point.

Use a teaspoon to drizzle the melted sweets over the top of the cake. The sugar cools very quickly and forms very thin strands which looks pretty and gives a crunchy texture without eating large pieces of sweets.

 Here's a side view of the finished cake so you can see the shape

And here's the view from the top

 The best thing about this cake is that it really does recreate the flavour of the sweets. You can see from this cross-section that the rhubarb is at the bottom, and there is a distinct layer of custard in the middle, which has kept its texture despite being baked in the oven, and the melted sweets give a sweet and sticky crunchy topping.

rhubarb and custard cake

Here you can see the layer of custard a little better, running through the middle of the cake.

 I am sending this to Food 'n' Flix, hosted by Culinary Adventures with Camilla.


  1. Very, very nice! Thanks for cooking for Food'N'Flix. I'll round up the entries soon.

  2. i recomend this cake----it was really nice.

  3. Wow! That's a spectacular cake. Bet it was a treat to eat.

  4. Quite a wonderful original idea. I love your technique of putting the custard in the cake and see lots of applications for your candy-melting, cake-topping idea. Great and creative post!

  5. Such a yummy cake, love the rhubarb. How appropriate you had a Nordicware bundt tin :-)

  6. Wow, yum. Custard and rhubarb? Count me in!

  7. I saw the movie years ago and didn't appreciate it as much as I did this for this FnF viewing--it's such a lovely film. What a great cake--I love that you have the rhubarb and custard in the cake and the creative candy drizzle on top. ;-) Wonderful job!


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