We went berry picking this weekend and hauled in a huge amount of sweet, flavorful gorgeous berries. There’s nothing like the taste of berries fresh from the field. Invariably, when you get them home to hull and clean them, you find that many on the bottom are mashed and soft. Here is a perfect way to use up those sublimely sweet and tart berries in a dish that won’t show their imperfections. Rhubarb and strawberry is a classic fruit combination and in this dish, and the addition of the orange is an unexpected surprise. You could also make this a bit later in the summer with a combination of blueberries and blackberries, paired with lemon instead of orange.
The cake is almost like a soufflé it is so light and airy, and the cornmeal adds a really nice and unique texture. Southerners will recognize it as a sweet spoonbread! This dessert definitely benefits from being eaten warm with something creamy, like whipped cream or good quality vanilla ice cream…or both. A little indulgent, but worth every calorie!
Juice and Zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup corn meal
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) light butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp turbinado or raw sugar
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 400°F. Spray an 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Zest the orange and set aside. Juice the orange into a ¼ cup measure. Fill the ¼ cup measure with water if the orange does not produce ¼ cup of juice.
Stir together the juice / water mixture, cornstarch, and about ½ of the sugar in a small saucepan, then stir in the rhubarb. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, for about 3 to 5 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the strawberries and orange zest.
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and remaining sugar in a medium bowl.
Whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter, and vanilla in a large bowl, then whisk in the flour mixture, just until combined.
Reserve 1/2 cup fruit mixture, then add the remainder to baking dish and pour batter over it, spreading evenly. Drizzle the reserved fruit mixture over the batter. Sprinkle the raw or turbinado sugar on top. Put the baking dish on a cookie sheet to catch drips and then bake for 30 – 35 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. Cool in the dish on a rack for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and/or fresh whipped cream.
This recipe makes about 6 servings. You could easily double it and use a 13x9 casserole dish, but you’ll need to adjust the cooking time. Enjoy!