At this time of year, I’m typically working through my stash of frozen rhubarb as the new crown starts to unfurl again in the back yard. I’ve already used it up during the past month, but managed to squirrel away bags of frozen raspberries and blueberries before grocery shopping became a Big Thing.
I’ve been making this crumb cake, or something like it, for decades—it has become my go-to when I want a buttery, not-to-sweet sort of a cake, layered with whatever fruit happens to be in season (or in the freezer). It’s perfect with rhubarb in the spring, berries in early summer, stone fruit (peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines) in late summer, and apples or pears in the fall. You can mix up the fruit, play around with citrus zest or spices in the batter or crumble, and make use of the last of the yogurt or sour cream. It’s the sort of cake you’ll get to know from memory and mix up whenever you need one, which is quite regularly for me. It’s altogether the epitome of a useful recipe.
Besides its utility, I love the contrasting textures of cake, fruit and crumble, and that I don’t have to decorate it, and that it’s as reasonable to eat with coffee for breakfast as with ice cream for dessert. It’s a weekend brunch cake and an afternoon working in the garden cake, a portable cake (if you happen to be going somewhere), and the kind of cake you leave in the pan on the counter and trim off a nibble of every time you pass by. Since we’re all in baking mode, but aren’t running out to the farmers’ market or grocery store as much as we used to, this is a solid recipe to have in your repertoire.
We’re lucky to have some of the best wheat (and thus flour) in the world here in Canada, particularly on the prairies. I love that everyone is baking together in a way, warming up their houses with the smell of bread in the oven, learning the art of sourdough and pastry, feeding and comforting each other in such a basic way. These skills, learned or honed, will stick around for a lifetime.
The Alberta Wheat Commission is running a contest right now – you could win a stand mixer, and some Canadian wheat flour to bake with! To enter, share your baking photo by tagging #LifesSimpleIngredient. The contest is open until May 21. You can find all the contest details here!