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Touring Wisconsin Food

Springtime Recreation in Wisconsin: Devil’s Lake With A Rhubarb Cake

This recipe for rhubarb cake is a favorite of Darlene Kronschnabel, writer, farm-woman, and Wisconsin chef. Her Seasons In A Country Kitchen Cookbook showcase some of Wisconsin’s best, hand-me-down-and-pass-me-around recipes for foods raised and cooked on Wisconsin farms in winter, spring, summer and autumn. Her stories entertain with warm and humorous descriptions of rural Wisconsin life as it once was, and in some parts of Wisconsin, still is. For Darlene, rhubarb holds a special place of honor in the garden because it heralds the arrival of springtime. After the long, frigid Wisconsin winter, Darlene and her family called rhubarb “A country-style spring tonic”. Stalks from my own rhubarb plant were ready to harvest this weekend, and in they went to Darlene’s rhubarb cake! Click on ‘Continue reading…’ for the recipe.

As soon as the cake was baked, the kids, dog, and I hit the road for some Wisconsin, springtime recreation. We pointed our mini-van north on Highway 12 and high-tailed it to Devil’s Lake State Park. This pristine lake nestled within wooded hills and high rocky bluffs is a favorite site for Wisconsin vacations. It’s a Mecca which beckons southern Wisconsinites at least once a summer for recreation. Rock climbers test their skill on the steep cliffs while below children swim in the lake, parents picnic, and fishermen fish. It’s THE get-away place for Wisconsinites fleeing computers and concrete .

May 2 was still chilly at Devil’s Lake. Winter’s departing breezes nipped the children as they tried to play in the lake. On the hiking trail we could never decide whether to wear or carry our sweatshirts. But no one complained. We were too heady, still enjoying the release from our cabin-fever winter into a glorious, springtime at Devil’s Lake.  After hiking, we picnicked. After eating our “good food” (as that super-ego mother refers to it), we ate cake; rhubarb cake; Darlene Kronschnabel’s rhubarb cake. YUM. So, if this May’s beginning is a sign of fun, food, and recreation to come, we’re going to have one great summer!

Here’s Darlene’s rhubarb cake recipe as seen in her book, Seasons in A Country Kitchen Cookbook.

  • Nonstick spray coating
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups finely-cut rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, for topping
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick spray coating and lightly flour. In a large mixing bowl, cream brown sugar and butter until light. Beat in egg and salt. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk. Stir in vanilla. Add to cream mixture alternately with flour, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in rhubarb, mixing only until well-coated. Pour into prepared baking pan. In a small bowl, mix together granulated sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over cake batter. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes about 18-24 servings.

Cristie’s notes: Okay, I admit it, after a few successful culinary improvises, my muse is getting cocky. For better or worse, she can’t keep her hands out of a recipe, -even a recipe as tried-and-true and excellent as this one. Here’s how she insisted I alter it. But not to worry, my altered cake was delicious. I’ll probably make it again with these minor changes because they suit my family’s particular tastes.

First alteration: no nonstick spray. I grew up on Pam, that original nonstick spray coating. I did my time with Pam and life’s too short to continue the relationship. Sure I know Pam is healthier than coating a pan in butter, and if Pam’s not the one for me, other nonstick sprays wait to be tried. So go ahead, try them and be healthy. I’ll stick to greasing my pan with butter the way Helen Myhre did on her Wisconsin farm. Like Helen, I’ll then coat the butter in a thin layer of flour and call my baking pan ready to receive batter.

So I guess I have a grease-tooth, not a sweet-tooth. Like most recipes I prepare, I reduce the sugar. I used only 3/4 cup of sugar in the batter and only 1/8 cup of sugar for the topping. The cake was plenty sweet for me, my family, and the friends with whom we shared it.

But it was likely sweet enough because I only used 2/3 the amount of rhubarb called for. Rhubarb requires lots of sugar. But my rhubarb plant is still small, so I only felt comfortable harvesting one cup. I would have liked to have used all 1 1/2 cups, but I didn’t want to kill my favorite springtime plant. So I substituted 1 cup of sliced strawberries for the 1/2 cup of rhubarb. Yes, the proportions don’t match up, but my muse can’t measure. As you can bet, that cake was moist AND sweet. We loved it.

Does it really feed 18-24? Well, in my view, you’d disappoint your guests by serving them such small slices of heaven. I cut that rhubarb cake into hearty pieces of 12. After all, we are Wisconsinites, with hearty appetites for the good life. And picnicking at Devil’s Lake in the springtime is just our style.

1 Comment

  1. We all want to fish in the lake as happy playing! Lake is beautiful! Is also a great

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