Of all the fruits, rhubarb retains the most magical nostalgic quality for me. Back when I was very small, it grew gargantuan each spring around the farmhouse. My mom always made terrific rhubarb desserts. Sweet-tart. Spicy. Distinctly rhubarb-y.
What's funny is that rhubarb isn't actually a fruit. It's a stem, making it technically a vegetable... but who eats rhubarb as a vegetable? No, rhubarb is the vegetable that found its true calling in the fruit world.
And I used to be such a purist about it. None of that strawberry blending for me. Rhubarb was dandy on its own thankyouverymuch.
These days I see the value in marrying the two. They both mature at the same time. My CSA delivers them at the same time. Why shouldn't I cook them at the same time? And what a delight they are together!
For my Dessert Corps project this week, the theme is rhubarb, so I'm contributing a strawberry-rhubarb upside-down cake.
For this cake, I begin with rhubarb compote. But for my day-to-day life, that's generally where I end. Compote. With yogurt. For dessert. It's sweet-tart tangy, creamy, cool... really divine.
But since my humble yogurt and compote dessert doesn't seem dressy enough (or portable enough) for sharing with the soup kitchen... today, I go beyond compote and into the slightly more complicated world of cake.
Upside-down cakes are an interesting topic on their own. I wrote an article on them a couple of years ago and discovered that flipped cakes were probably born of historical necessity, skillet cakes having been easier to make than standard cakes for those without ovens.
But I digress... On to the cake!
Strawberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake (Makes an 8" x 8" cake)
2 stalks rhubarb, cut 3/4" thick
15 medium strawberries, quartered
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup white or brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup AP flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick butter (6 Tbsp), softened
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp buttermilk (or plain yogurt + milk)
For the Compote: Combine rhubarb pieces, strawberry pieces, water and sugar in a saucepot. Gently simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the fruit is tender, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat.
For the Cake:
1. Grease an 8" x 8" round or square cake pan with butter and preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla.
3. In a larger mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Blend in the butter until well incorporated and then stir in the buttermilk. (It will be sticky.)
4. Add about half the egg mixture into the larger mixing bowl, stirring until smooth (about 20 seconds) then stir in the rest of the egg mixture. Incorporate well.
5. Spread the rhubarb mixture evenly across the bottom of the greased pan. Spread the cake mixture evenly over the top of the rhubarb mixture and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
6. Remove cake from the oven when done, cool for 5 minutes on a rack, then loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a knife, place a serving platter face-down atop the cake pan and invert the cake onto the platter. Some of the fruit may stick in the pan. Scoop this out and replace it atop the cake.
Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream, or cool and serve slices with coffee.