Cooking is more than a job to me, it’s a way of life. When I’m sad, I cook. When I’m bored, I cook. This little cake came from an evening where I cooked because I was really happy. I was cooking for a date, with the most talented and beautiful woman I’d ever met.
I have a little dating tradition. After a couple dates, I like to have what I call the “dinner date”. I plan a little menu, usually about 5-6 courses, nothing too crazy. I make sure to plan the meal around things my date would like, making sure to ask questions here and there a couple weeks in advance. “Do you eat meat?” “What type of sweets do you like?” “What’s your favorite kind of fish?” Days before hand, I come in early to wherever I’m working, buy some ingredients, and prep things for the meal, which is typically on a Sunday since Saturday nights are a no-no in kitchens.
You might be thinking since I work in a kitchen, I naturally wine and dine women. Yes, and no. The meal functions as much as a way for me to show a woman I have a skill as it does for me to interview them. Did she remove the skin of the fish I carefully crisped in a pan? Did she turn green when I talked about how good frog legs can be? Or worse yet, did she say: “no thanks I’ll pass on the morel sauce, I don’t like mushrooms”.
Romantic dinner interviews aside, this was an interesting one. My date had a number of dietary restrictions: no gluten, no dairy (although butter is ok) no green beans, peppers, raw allium of any sort, and she fancied the “paleo diet” meaning that she eats mostly meat and vegetable centered dishes.
For the most part, it’s pretty easy for me to tip-toe around restrictions like these, but, since I’m not a pastry chef, dessert was going to be challenging. I knew I wanted to use rhubarb, since it was spring, and since gluten was a no-no, I thought I’d incorporate hazelnut flour into a sort of cake. What I came up with was a soft, buttery cake made from hazelnut meal and butter cream, speckled with rhubarb and topped with some simple macerated rhubarb and a little scoop of spruce tip ice cream. Needless to say, It didn’t suck, but, being a little absent minded, I forgot that she couldn’t have the ice cream….d’oh! Here’s the recipe.
Rhubarb-Hazelnut Cake, With Spruce Tip Ice Cream
- Ice cream maker
- 1 cup rhubarb diced 1/2 in, plus an additional 1/4 cup sliced on the bias as thin as possible to garnish
- 1 cup light brown sugar plus 3 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 2 egg plus 4 egg yolks
- 8 oz unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- A pinch of kosher salt
- 1 tsp powdered ginger
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground cardamom
- 1 tsp fresh grated orange zest
- 2 cup hazelnut meal almond meal, or another nut flour
- 1 recipe spruce tip ice cream
- Toss the sliced rhubarb with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar and reserve. Preheat the oven to 325. In a mixing bowl or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very fluffy, about 4-5 minutes, then incorporate the remaining ingredients well. Lightly butter 6 four oz ramekins, then dust the sides with white sugar. Spoon the batter into the ramekins, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until just set. Allow the cakes to cool.
- To serve the cakes, gently reheat them in an oven at 300 or so until just warm, then run a paring knife around the sides of each ramekin and un-mold onto a plate. Top each serving with a scoop of the spruce tip ice cream, garnish with the macerated rhubarb, drizzling some of the sauce the rhubarb released over each cake and serve immediately.