Learn to make cake with ribbons of in-season rhubarb

Vicky Fry of Fry Farm in the north Walton County community of Bethlehem has been gardening since she was a kid growing up in Walton County. When her dad retired, she recruited him to help her accomplish her dream of farming. Eleven years ago they began selling their vegetables at the Suwanee Farmers Market.

These days you can find Fry Farm at the Heritage Sandy Springs Farmers Market when they open on Saturday, April 14, the Suwanee winter farmers market also on April 14 and at the new Dunwoody Farmers Market when it opens on May 5. The farm also offers pick up on the farm beginning in mid-May. Check the farm’s website for details. 

One of the mainstays of Fry Farm’s produce each spring and summer is rhubarb. It’s something our northern cousins look forward to as the first fruit of spring, but rhubarb is a tough crop to grow in the humid summers of Georgia. The Frys have figured it out though.

“In places where the summer is not so difficult, it’s a perennial. But we grow it as an annual. We start it from seed twice a year. In August we can plant it directly in the ground, giving it some protection from the heat and keeping it irrigated. It grows through the winter and we should be harvesting that rhubarb in mid-April. We also start transplants in the spring that we can keep rhubarb growing into the summer.”

The Frys grow Victoria, a green variety that has worked really well for them. It’s the stalks that are harvested and the Frys cut off all the leaves since the leaves contain a high level of oxalic acid which can be poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

And when they eat rhubarb at home, they usually enjoy it in desserts. “Strawberry-rhubarb crisp, strawberry-rhubarb pie, those are our favorites. But I’ve put it in muffins, too. I hear from our customers that they dip the raw stalks in honey and nibble on them that way. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but rhubarb has a lot of complex flavors besides the tartness and it’s actually pretty good.”

Rhubarb Ribbon Cake

This gorgeous cake from “The Perfect Cake” from the editors of America’s Test Kitchen (Penguin Random House, $35), would, yes, make a perfect cake for Easter and a colorful change from your traditional coconut dessert. 

The frosting is tinted a pale pink from the pureed rhubarb and the peeled rhubarb baked into the top layer make a pretty pattern. 

A few tips from our testing the recipe: To get pretty strips of rhubarb, insert the blade of the peeler in a cut end of the rhubarb stalk and firmly slide the peeler down the stalk. To get pretty slices of cake, use a sharp knife to cut neatly through the pattern on top of the cake. And the frosting recipe makes a lot. You might want to cut it in half. If you do, save the cup of leftover rhubarb puree to use as a sauce with your slices of cake.

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