Kate Clarkson of YORKCakes and YORK Cookery School pays her own tribute to a great actor with a tasty seasonal treat
There are going to be some people to whom Richard Briers means a lot less than to those people from my own generation. His passing in February filled me with a sense of nostalgia that I’ve come to expect every time an actor or famous face from the seventies or eighties passes on.
Richard Briers himself was not famed for cooking or growing his own veg but his character in The Good Life, Tom Good, held self-sufficiency at the very top of his priorities!
More and more of us are returning to “growing our own”, whether it’s in our back gardens or on an allotment. Is it mere curiosity or is it, indeed, a need to go back to a simpler way of life? Could it also be our diminished trust in supermarkets and where they source their food? I believe it’s all of these, in different measures.
Regardless of our motives, it’s with this in mind that I present the humble rhubarb. And not just rhubarb but custard too. A classic and very British combination; one very reminiscent of my own childhood. Not only is it British but, as Yorkshire folk, we would argue that it’s a very Yorkshire vegetable (and yes, it is a vegetable!).
The Rhubarb Triangle of Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford would attest to this with some of the very best rhubarb you will ever eat.
We’re out and about representing YORK Cookery School at lots of events including the Harrogate Spring Flower Showlast month and the Malton Food Lovers Festival in May. In order to satisfy the brief for my half-hour demo slot in Harrogate, I wanted to bring seasonal, home-grown produce to the table. But how to do this with cake?
Aside from the obvious fruits which are either not quite yet in season (strawberries, raspberries etc) or fruits that I know I can’t grow easily in this country (lemons, oranges), what could I use? Rhubarb, of course!
Oldroyd’s is one of the names associated with rhubarb and it’s their forced rhubarb I’ve chosen to use. Bright pink and amazingly sweet, it works a treat for this month’s recipe.
So, bringing together these nostalgic ingredients, and in tribute to the late, great Richard Briers as the voice of the cartoon with the same name, I give you the Roobarb & Custard cupcake! Give it a go – it’s scrumptious!
Roobarb and Custard cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
140g caster sugar
140g slightly salted butter
2 large eggs
30g fresh rhubarb, finely diced.
140g self-raising flour
For the rhubarb compote filling:
200g rhubarb, leaves removed
70g caster sugar
For the custard filling:
2 egg yolks
280ml (1/2 pint) of milk
30ml single cream
20g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
For the buttercream:
70g soft, slightly salted butter
240g icing sugar
70g custard (from recipe above)
(For best results make the rhubarb compote and custard first so they have chance to cool.)
For the rhubarb compote:
Cut the rhubarb into 1cm chunks and place into a saucepan. Add the sugar and, over a low heat, bring to a simmer and cook for at least 2-3 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender. I prefer my rhubarb to retain some structure so I prefer to not overcook it.
Leave to one side in the pan to cool.
For the custard:
In a large bowl, add the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour and whisk so the egg yolks start to go a little paler.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the milk and cream to the boil, removing it from the heat the minute it starts to bubble up.
Whisking continuously, pour the hot milk and cream onto the egg yolks and then return to the saucepan.
On a very low heat, gently stir the mixture continuously. It will gradually thicken – it takes time so be patient! When thickened, pour into a clean bowl and leave to cool.
For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 170ºC or (160ºC fan).
Line a deep cupcake/muffin pan with 12 cupcake cases of your choice.
Mix the butter and sugar with a hand-mixer or in a stand-mixer until it is very pale and fluffy – this can often take five minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time whilst mixing until each egg is thoroughly mixed in. Take time to scrape the bowl down to ensure it’s mixed well.
Finally, fold in the flour and then divide the mixture evenly between the cupcake cases (I weigh the mix into each case at an amount of 40g per case).
Bake for 20 minutes or until the cakes have risen and are lightly browned. Leave the cakes in the tin for a few minutes until you can handle them then place on a wire rack to cool.
For the buttercream:
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer blend the butter and half of the icing sugar together until quite soft. Add the custard and the remaining icing sugar and beat until soft, pale and fluffy.
Using an apple corer, remove the middles from each cupcake and place a small amount of first custard and then the rhubarb compote into the centre. Finish with a swirl of the buttercream.
Happy baking and enjoy!