That funny little song that Garrison Keillor intones on Prairie Home Companion runs a continuous loop in my mind whenever I cook with, as one of my young student chefs calls it, “that red celery stalk.” That doesn’t happen too often, and it usually manifests in this lively tart dessert.
Adapted from a recipe that I found in the April 2007 issue of Gourmet, it is wonderfully simple and delicious. I have made it for dinner parties with roaring success. We teach this recipe to the kids in our cooking camps, who gleefully bring the cake home to the adulation of their families.
It’s a cross between cake-cobbler-pie-clafoutis; a little gooey, fruit-juicy, and yet cake-crumby, the pudding cake name dubbed by Gourmet is probably its best moniker.
Let me stress its wonderful simplicity. Scan the recipe ingredients: other than the fruits, you’ve got Bakery 101 stuff: flour, sugar, butter, vanilla….one egg! Prep time is an easy 15 minutes. The rhubarb-strawberry pudding cake then bakes for about 30 minutes. So, in under an hour, you’ve got a fresh springtime dessert.
Lovers of rhubarb will be elated. Deniers of rhubarb will be pleasantly surprised. Or not know.
Typically baked in an 8″x8″ square pan, (and later cut into square sized pieces) I chose this time to make it in a 9″ springform pan. I wanted a round shape, with batter and fruit expanded over a slightly larger area, making it not as tall and cakey, but more pie-like. Both ways work well.
You can serve your pudding cake garnished with creme fraiche, or lightly sweetened whipped cream. But it is soooooo good just by itself, enjoyed with a nice cup of coffee.
Rhubarb-Strawberry Pudding Cake adapted from Gourmet, April 2007
Â¼ cup water
1 Â½ teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 and Â½ cups sugar
3 cups chopped fruitâ€”I prefer 2 cups chopped rhubarb, 1 cup strawberries, –
any variation you choose
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Â½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
Â½ cup milk
1 stick butterâ€”melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and put oven rack in the middle position. Butter an 8â€x8â€ ceramic or glass baking pan. Stir together the water, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar in a saucepan and heat. Stir in the rhubarb, if you are using itâ€”but not the strawberries. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about three minutes. Remove from heat and add the strawberries.
Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, and the remaining Â½ cup sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: egg, milk, butter, vanilla.
Now add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir in until well combined. Do not overbeat.
Coat the bottom of the baking pan with Â½ of the fruit mixture. Spread the batter over that, then dollop the remaining fruit mixture on the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpickâ€”if it comes out clean, itâ€™s done!
Allow to cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. This can be served warm or served later at room temperature. Wrap and refrigerate leftovers, if there are any.
Makes 8-10 servings.