I realize that spring is supposed to be all flowers and pastels, lightness and lemon zest, but all of these cool, rainy days in the last month make me crave winter spices, no matter how many tomatoes and herbs I have planted this week (so many, eee) in hopes, despite all historical evidence, that this is the year I excel at container gardening. And so when a teacher at my son’s school brought me a bag of the most gorgeous, deeply red rhubarb (I really am this lucky), I knew immediately that this cake would have buttery, lightly caramelized stripe-y rhubarb topping draped over it. If you’re ever asking yourself if it’s been too long since you had an upside-down cake, the answer is always yes.
I have learned over the last couple years that there are people — smart, interesting people that I love very much — who do not care for rhubarb. They are not charmed by its perfect coloration (ranging from shimmery garnet through millennial pink, and straight through to mossy green), its tart flavor (that sings against vanilla and lemon and anchors the sometimes cotton candy-sweetness of strawberries so you can better taste them), or by the fact that unlike anything else in my real life (hair, clothes, apartment), it’s incapable of looking bad. They do not see rhubarb as a sign that we’re near done with last winter’s vegetables and that berry season is nigh. They find it jammy or stringy or too wet or depressingly gray once cooked.