You may recall last week I set out to make strawberry rhubarb cobbler, but alas was thwarted in the quest for rhubarb, and so we made a scrumptious blackberry cobbler instead. Well, what do you know, but I go to do my weekly grocery shopping and lo and behold, bright red stalks of rhubarb sit innocently in the produce section like I hadn’t just spent hours scrounging around for them just the week before. Punk rhubarb.
Well, I couldn’t just let them sit there being all punk like that. So I bought a bunch. And by a bunch, I might mean 4 pounds. And 2 pounds of fresh strawberries.
I foresee a lot of strawberry-rhubarb dishes in the near future.
But the whole cobbler idea seemed a bit stale, seeing as how I’d just made a fat dish of it last week. So what could I do with all these strawberries and rhubarb?
I took a vote, and me, myself, and I made a unanimous decision to go for cake. I had visions of chocolate cake with a strawberry rhubarb filling, slathered in butter cream frosting. Something that looks like this:
Right. So here’s what you need:
For the cake: 2 cups sugar, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 cup butter, 8 tablespoons cocoa (I know Nesquick is pictured, but use Hershey’s cocoa if you can. I did…but didn’t keep the box for the photo.), 1 cup water, 1/2 cup milk, juice of 1 small lemon, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 eggs beaten, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
For the filling: 3 cups strawberries cut in quarters, 1 1/2 cups rhubarb cut in 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 of a large stalk), 1/2 cup sugar, and about 1/4-1/2 cup of water.
For the frosting: 1 pound powdered sugar, 1/2 stick of butter, 8 oz. cream cheese, and 2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract.
(Note: If you buy a pound of strawberries, you’ll have extra for garnish.)
Forethought and planning. I don’t have it.
Anyway, here’s what you do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start with the cake batter. Mix the sugar, flour, and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the butter, cocoa, and water in a saucepan; bring almost to a boil, but do not boil. Pour over sugar mixture and mix well. Add milk, vanilla, eggs, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the fresh squeezed lemon juice and mix well. Grease two 8-inch cake pans, and split the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
2. While the cake is baking, prepare the fruit filling. In a saucepan, put the strawberries, rhubarb and sugar. Add a little bit of water, just enough to keep the fruit from burning as you heat the fruit on medium heat. Add more water as necessary, but no more than 1/2 a cup. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer, stirring continuously, until you have a thick liquid and the fruit has all dissolved. Take off heat and let cool.
3. When the cakes have cooled completely, slice the rounded top off of one of the cakes and discard (Or eat, covered with jam. Not saying I would do such a thing. But then, I’m pretty sure throwing good cake away into the trash is bad for the environment). And here is my little secret: sprinkle or squeeze the remaining lemon juice delicately around the open top of the cake you just beheaded lopped off you just cut. Then spread the strawberry rhubarb filling on it. This adds a little hint of citrus and helps make the cake nice and moist. Then what I did was sliced about 4 strawberries nice and thin and littered the slices on top of the filling. Then I put the second cake on top, rounded side up.
4. Mix the frosting ingredients until they’re all smooth. Then with a butter knife, slather it all over the cake. You’ll most likely end up with a wee bit too much frosting, so feel free to go to town as much as you like. I suppose you could calculate 3/4 of the recipe and that’d probably be about perfect. Or you could just have extra frosting that you could use on something else (like dolloped on strawberry rhubarb waffles…). It’s really good frosting.
5. Garnish with the rest of your strawberries. A sprig of mint would look nice too, if you have it.
And this is what the final product looks like:
See right there, all that chocolatey-goodness with that yum-yum strawberry rhubarb filling just oozing out?
Ohhh yeahhh. That’s what I was dreaming about.
Though I should warn you, that filling is slippery, so serve with care. I suppose I might have added some gelatin or something to make it less slippery. But all that pure flavor was just too good to mess with.
You might be wondering why it’s called Scarlet Letter cake. The hubby suggested when I make up my own recipes I should give them a name. I decided to let literature be my inspiration. And all that dark chocolate brown, luscious red, trimmed in stark white called to mind The Scarlet Letter.
And the taste… the chocolate and strawberries call to mind passion; a passion simultaneously sinful in nature, yet innocent at first blush. Not too sweet and rich, or heady like a ganache…just light, moist and fleeting, with the hint of citrus to add an element of surprise. An element of je ne sais quoi, like the draw of a sexy man just at the edge of your reach.
This is a cake for dessert in bed. For weekend getaways and summer flings.
(Fleeting, cuz that’s how fast you’ll eat it.)