Simple Rhubarb Cake with a Sakura Syrup

I thought today I would take some time to talk about my little budgie, Joey. Looking back on my blog posts over the last year or so, I’ve noticed that I’ve never mentioned her until about a week ago. It seemed rather strange actually, considering that she has been an important part of my family for about 8 years this coming October.

Although this is no excuse, for the last year or so, Joey had been living with my late-grandmother, who had lost her beloved cat, Rosie, and was in dire need of some company. Since, at the time, I was going to work from 7.30am to about 9pm at night (and on weekends), it seemed only logical that Joey would benefit from this companionship as she is usually out of her cage from the moment I wake up until she decides she’s ready to go the sleep (but only if I am around to keep an eye on her). Being away for a majority of the day was quite saddening for such a free spirit and I felt more and more guilty about it. Joey was, initially, only supposed to stay with my grandmother for a couple of weeks, but ended up staying approximately a year, as my grandmother couldn’t bear to part with her. Now that Djamo works from home and I am usually back home by 4pm (with weekends off), she is back to the old routine of running around the apartment and enjoying her lovely social life with us.

If the days are warm enough, we take her to the park to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. If it’s too cold, we settle for a preening session in which Djamo and I are subject to extensive work. Either way, I like to think she sees us both as part of her little flock.

Funny enough, I had only been at university for a little over a month when we crossed paths. A friend of mine and I decided to enter a local pet shop to have a look at the fish and other little creatures they might hold in there. Initially, we were plotting to attempt a coup d’état and release all the animals and birds out into the wild or, if that seemed infeasible, create a sanctuary for them (I don’t believe we had ever got so far as to decide how we were going to achieve that, but hey).

As we moved past all the colourful budgies in the cages, my eyes caught a sight I will never forget. A tiny, little budgie (no more than 5 weeks old, according to a veteran budgie-keeper I met not too long after taking her home), with the tiniest little wings and tail feathers, all of which were browned and filthy, but later turned out to be white. She lay at the bottom of the cage, in a slump, with no strength or energy to lift herself up, and there was no way she could reach the water or food bowls higher up in the cage. Needless to say, I took her home, then and there, gave her a good clean and hand-fed her, until she was strong enough to eat from a bowl on the ground of her cage without support.

One of my earliest memories of her was her attempting to climb the sides of the cage to reach her wooden perch, only just after she had found herself able to climb onto the the little bowl to drink and eat. It took almost a week of continuous repetitions before she was able to achieve her goal. Once I had realised what her intentions were, I had bought her a hamster ladder. The ladder and I were, however, shunned as she continued to attempt climbing vertically up the cage. Once this was achieved, any easier routes were much appreciated.

I even had a fluffy green piece of cloth that she loved to sleep on at night, wings outstretched, mouth wide open. In fact, my mother used to like tucking her in at night. Joey never fussed over this, instead she seemed to look forward to this ritual and would fall asleep with a little tissue blanket over her, until she awoke the next morning, ready to be released from her cage.

Ten Fun Facts About Josephine

  1. She loves to jump in spaghetti bolognese. Or pretty much anything with a stainable colour.
  2. Subsequently, she hates baths and will attempt to avoid these at all costs.
  3. On the subject of food, if you don’t share with her, be prepared to have your food spat on.
  4. She cannot fly. Never has been able to. Period. Quite a fast little runner though!
  5. She loves to kick her favourite ping-pong ball, Allan, around like a football.
  6. I am almost certain she is Nina Simone re-incarnated (the cantankerous part, though, not so much the singing).
  7. She loves ripping books to shreds and thinks it’s a game.
  8. She wolf whistles and says “bless you” 3 times when you sneeze.
  9. She’s (sadly) not a fan of opera music. Or Miley Cyrus (I will accept this).
  10. She loves running up and down our keyboards (I think she thinks typing is a chasing game).

Rhubarb Semolina Cake

Cooking time: 1+ hour
Makes: 1x9inch cake

This recipe is actually (loosely) based on a sweet called Basbousa (Just a Kiss) which is a Middle Eastern semolina cake. It is usually flavoured with coconut, topped with a blanched almond and cut into diamonds. It is also drenched in syrup, which is sometimes flavoured with orange blossom or rosewater, making this not only an aromatic cake, but an incredibly moist one. Here, I decided to play with the flavours a bit, bringing in the tartiness of rhubarb to pair with the salty-sweetness of the cherry blossoms. I think they are a match made in heaven.


1 cup plain flour
1 cup fine semolina
1tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
zest of 1/2 lemon
1tsp vanilla paste
1/3 cup yoghurt
5 rhubarb stems, cut to desired size

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan-assisted) 350ºF.  Cut the rhubarb stems to the desired size (mine were approximately 12cm) and set aside. Separate the eggs and measure and sieve out the flour, semolina and baking powder and place these dry ingredients into one bowl.

Place the sugar and butter into a large mixing bowl and whisk until creamy and light. Add one egg yolk at a time, whilst continuing to whisk. Add the yoghurt, lemon and vanilla and continue to whisk. Slowly, sieve the dry mixture into the wet ingredients and continue to mix until thoroughly combined.

Whisk the egg whites until peaks are formed before placing one tablespoon of this into the thick batter. Mix until the batter loosens. Then slowly fold the rest of the egg whites into the bowl, being very gentle as to not push any air out of the egg whites. Once combined, pour into a prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

Whilst the cake is in the oven, you can prepare the sakura syrup. When the cake is ready, take out of the oven and immediately pour all the syrup over the cake and leave to cool completely. Eat within 2-3 days.

Sakura Simple Syrup

Cooking time: 5 minutes plus cooling time
Makes: 2 cups approximately

1 cup water
1 cup caster sugar
20 pickled sakura blossoms
2 pickled sakura leaves

Wash the sakura and the leaves under running water, washing most of the brine and salt out. Place in a saucepan along with the sugar and water. Stirring occasionally, allow the syrup to come to a boil for 1 minute, before turning off the heat and placing a lid on the top. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or until needed. When ready to use, simply strain the liquid, discarding the sakura and leaves (if desired, as they are quite tasty) and pour over the cake.

Thank you for reading.
Enjoy x


  1. May 1, 2017 / 5:27 pm

    What a lovely story about Josephine she is obviously a real character. I dont think ive seen a pure white budgie before she is beautiful as is this rhubarb cake. x

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