In Scandinavia, the arrival of rhubarb signals the close of a long winter. The prolific perennial is used in pies, crumbles, soups, and jams. It is fermented into wine, and its juice is sipped fresh. Purists even eat stalks raw, dipping them in sugar to quiet their bracing tartness. But perhaps the finest celebration of rhubarb is the making of rich butter cakes that are dotted with chunks of the crimson-green stems, perfumed with cardamom and lemon, and speckled with sugar and crisp almonds.
The treat is a far cry from the rustic rhubarb upside‑down cake I enjoyed as a kid in rural Vermont, where the plants grew wild at the edge of our neighbor’s property. No, the flavor of the Nordic cake is more sophisticated—and the texture more intriguing.