I adore rhubarb. I probably consume about 10 pounds of it all by myself every spring. When it finally appears at the market in April, I stock up for the year, filling whatever precious freezer space is available.
It is partly because of my preference for sweets on the tart side – I would take lemon over chocolate any day. But it is mostly because the appearance of these shiny red stalks provides the welcome first whiff of warm weather markets. When rhubarb surfaces, the promise of strawberries is right behind it.
(These strawberries sadly aren’t local… not there yet).
My favourite way to eat rhubarb is simply cooked down with sugar into a compote – stewed rhubarb, my mom would call it. For breakfast when I was a kid, she and I would butter a stack of whole wheat toast and pile it thickly with stewed rhubarb. The sticky juices would run down my hands as I greedily gobbled it up.
Just chop your rhubarb, pile it into a big pot with a splash of water, and cook it until very soft. Add sugar to taste. Sometimes simplest is best.
If not with toast, I savour the thick, tart compote with creamy greek yogurt for breakfast; as an accompaniment to pork chops with dinner; swirled with whipped cream as a rhubarb fool for dessert; or on its own with a big spoon, anytime.
A pudding cake is one that bakes with its own sauce. In this one, the rhubarb and strawberries bubble into a sweet, sticky mess beneath it. It’s like every spoonful is accompanied by a bite of strawberry rhubarb pie filling.
The sauce will thicken up if you’re patient enough to let it cool a bit before you attack. What you’re seeing is piping hot, 30 seconds out of the oven.
The cake is wonderfully moist and tender. Mascarpone cheese added richness to mine, but you may substitute with cream cheese and it will work perfectly. I would even suggest you do use cream cheese instead, as mascarpone is expensive and you really won’t be able to tell the difference.
I just happened to have a large tub needing to be used up – leftover from strawberry-mascarpone stuffed french toast that I will be sharing with you in time for Mother’s Day brunch…
- Strawberry-Rhubarb Pudding Cake
- Yield: 6-8 servings.
- Serve warm or room temperature, with whipped cream or ice cream.
- 4 cups (1 lb) chopped rhubarb (from about 5 medium stalks)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 4 cups (1 lb) strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 1¾ cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup cream cheese or mascarpone
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 tbsp sugar, for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a baking dish (mine was an oval 10" x 8" x 2" 1.5 qt/1.4 L capacity, but you may use any dish that fits; the cooking time will vary so watch carefully).
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine chopped rhubarb, water and sugar. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar is bubbling and rhubarb has softened slightly. Stir in strawberries. Spread in buttered baking dish. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after each. Beat in mascarpone and vanilla extract.
- With mixer speed on low, add ⅓ of the flour mixture, beat to combine, then add ½ of the milk and beat again. Repeat, finishing with the flour mixture.
- Spoon cake batter over top of strawberry-rhubarb mixture, smoothing surface with back of the spoon. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar, and bake 45-55 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick inserted in top inch of the centre comes out clean.