Although summer does not officially start until June 21, many people think of Memorial Day as the beginning of our summer season. For me, it’s when I pick my first strawberry from my backyard garden. That date will be June 1st this year. I was weeding last night and out of the corner of my eye, there was a glimmer of red. Yes, due to the warm weather I think I am going to get an early crop of strawberries. It’s almost as exciting as getting a handwritten letter in the mail (which has become a rarity, right?).
There is nothing better than a fresh picked slightly warm strawberry. It’s candy from the garden. I am thrilled that I still have rhubarb to pick as well because the flavor combination of rhubarb and strawberry is one of my all-time favorites. I have adapted a easy and comforting recipe for a crumb cake that can be enjoyed anytime during the day. Is it healthy? I say yes, because it includes a generous layer of local strawberries and rhubarb. Remember — everything in moderation!
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumb Cake
One batch of Buttery Crumb Topping (see recipe below)*
About 3 cups of rhubarb, chopped into ½-inch pieces
About 3 cups of strawberries, cut in half or quarters depending on the size
(Note: you can make this with any proportion of the fruit. If you prefer to just use one fruit this recipe will work. I have made this recipe with blueberries and raspberries.)
1 cup + 3 tablespoons granulated natural sugar
7 tablespoons butter, softened
Freshly grated zest of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Generous pinch of salt
¼ cup milk
Confectioner’s sugar, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously grease the sides of the pan. You can line the pan with parchment paper if you have some.
Prepare the crumb topping, and set it aside in the fridge until ready to use.
Put the rhubarb and strawberries in a small bowl, and toss with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
In a separate small bowl, add the butter and beat until creamy, 30 seconds.
Add the remaining sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the egg, lemon zest, and vanilla, Beat until fluffy and well mixed, 1 minute.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and milk. Beat on low until just mixed, then increase speed to high for 15 seconds.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Evenly spread the rhubarb and strawberries on top.
Sprinkle the crumb topping over the fruit.
Bake for 1 hour, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean of batter (there might be some sticky fruit-like jam on it).
Let the cake cool completely, preferably all day, or overnight.
Dust generously with confectioner’s sugar before serving.
*Buttery Crumb Topping
1 ¾ cups flour
¼ to ½ cup sugar
8 tablespoons (unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of salt
Add all of the ingredients to a medium bowl.
Use a fork to stir together until the butter is fully absorbed, and forms a wet, sand-like mixture.
The crumb topping should clump easily when squeezed together.
Use immediately, or transfer to a covered container, and store in the fridge for up to 1 week, or the freezer for up to 2 months.
Enjoy the fruits of the season and remember to pick up what’s local in the market!
— By Deborah Binder
Deborah Binder is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at email@example.com.