Custard has always been an incredibly important food for me. Growing up pretty much every meal was followed by a pint of Bird’s custard, dolloped over pie, eaten with weetabix, spooned over banana. Rhubarb and custard is another one of these magical pairings that I can’t get enough, and as now is forced rhubarb season I couldn’t resist the temptation to combine them both in a bake again.
This tray bake combines chunks of poached rhubarb in a simple sponge, with a thick layer of custard, followed by more rhubarb and cake. If I was going to take this tray bake one step higher, I could have added an extra custard layer, followed by a crumble topping …but I will save that for next time. This month has been incredibly hectic for me, and so as Easter approaches, nothing makes me happier than sitting down with a brew and a nice slice of this tray bake.
For the cake
125g unsalted butter
250g self-raising flour
125g light brown sugar
6 sticks of rhubarb
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
Icing sugar for dusting
For the custard
3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
- The first step needed is to poach the rhubarb. Preheat the oven to 180•C. Wash and dry the stalks, then cut into small chunks ~ 2cm in length. Place in a roasting tray then drizzle in about 1 1/2 teaspoon of water, and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Cover the roasting tray with foil to protect the rhubarb from too harsh a heat, then poach for ~ 30 minutes until soft and tender. Leave to cool and then drain thoroughly.
- The second important step it to make the custard. This is actually much simpler than people make it sound, the key thing is just to give it your full attention. Shut any pesky cats/ children/ men in another room. Whisk together the yolks of 3 eggs with 75g of caster sugar. Place the cream in a saucepan over moderate heat, along with the vanilla pod sliced lengthways, and wait until scalding.
- Tip half of the cream mixture into the whisked eggs, and stir thoroughly. Tip this back into the cream, and continue to heat gently whilst stirring continuously. Add the cornflour at this stage, as it will help the mixture thicken but you also want it to cook.
- Once the custard is relatively thick (i.e. there is some resistance to your spoon), fish out the vanilla pod and place in a bowl. Once it has cooled slightly, cover and place in the fridge. Stir occasionally to prevent a skin forming.
- The oven should be preheated to 180•C to make the cake.
- Grease and line a square (doesn’t have to be square) tray bake tin.
- Soften the butter, then cream together with the sugar until lighter in colour and smooth.
- Break the eggs in a separate bowl and lightly beat. Next add the milk.
- Measure the flour, then alternate between adding part of the liquid mixture and part of the flour to the creamed butter and sugar. Beat thoroughly until you have a smooth cake batter.
- Next add 2/3 of the drained rhubarb and stir through.
- Spoon half of the cake mixture over the base of the tin, levelling out lightly with a spatula. Next add the custard. Try to evenly dollop the custard over the top of the cake mixture. You don’t want to interfere to much with how it is spread, as this will disturb the layering of cake and custard, so resist the urge to scrape across with a spatula if you can. Pour on the rest of the cake mix, and sprinkle the remaining rhubarb on top. Push the rhubarb into the mixture slightly to stop it charring.
- Bake for 35 minutes. You may need to give the cake a tinfoil hat if it browning too quickly on top.
- Once cool, slice into squares, sprinkle with icing sugar and eat.