Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dorie Greenspan's Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake with Fresh Strawberries and Crème Fraiche

In the annals of Chewing the Fat, never has one cake come close to having a name as long as this one.  However, I could write a new adage: ‘the longer the name, the better the cake’.  Because I’d be hard-pressed to find a salute to Rhubarb and Strawberry season that tasted any more delicious.  Combining tart Rhubarb with the sweetness of Strawberries and the tang of Crème Fraiche is inspired. And the cake itself has the warmth of brown sugar in every bite.   As you can see it’s from Dorie Greenspan in her masterful book “Baking Chez Moi” (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt 1014) . Now I don’t do the baking around here, but if I did, I’d be hard-pressed to find a writer who puts more into recipe directions than Ms. Greenspan. I concede that Baking is a science, and far more exacting than most of my cooking.  So it amused me no end when a writer with a blog called “That Skinny Chick can Bake” wrote about her ahah! moment with this cake: “French cooking does not necessarily mean complicated.  A simple layering of flavors can produce a masterpiece”.  And apparently a word count running into the thousands. 

At the moment, Rhubarb and Strawberries can be found at our Farmstand in great quantities.  They're one of the great joys of the season and together they're an unbeatable combination of tart and sweet.  And the color of the strawberries is a huge help in making this dessert irresistible in color.  “That Skinny Chick” calls the cake “A simple cake topped with glistening rhubarb”.  Simple?  I’ll take her word for it.  And after Andrew had peeled the rhubarb, I concede that things went a lot quicker.  The recipe also was a lot simpler once I’d cut Ms. Greenspan’s directions down to size. Here is the recipe:

Recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake with Strawberries and Crème Fraiche.    
30 Minutes Prep. 25 Minutes Baking Time. Total Time 55 minutes. Serves 8.

For the Rhubarb “Topping”:
About 1¼ to 1½ pounds rhubarb trimmed and rinsed
¾ cup sugar (1/2-cup for rhubarb, ¼ cup for caramelizing)
1½ tbsp unsalted butter

For the Cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of fine sea salt
3 large eggs room temperature
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the Glaze:
Left over rhubarb syrup
Strawberry jam

For the Strawberries and Crème Fraiche: 
2 cups of Strawberries, hulled and cut in half.
8 oz. Crème Fraiche

First make the Rhubarb Topping:
1. If your rhubarb is not young and thin, peel it. 

2. Cut the stalks into 1 inch lengths and toss them with ½ cup sugar and set aside for 30 minutes.

3. Drain the rhubarb and reserve the syrup to make the glaze.
Butter a 9 inch round cake pan with sides at least 1½ high.

4. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat then stir in the sugar.

5. When the sugar has melted and is JUST changing color add the rhubarb.
Stir sparingly for about 3 minutes or until the sugar is slightly caramelized.

6. Scrape the rhubarb and syrup into the cake pan and leave to cool.

Next, make the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
In a large bowl whisk the eggs and brown sugar together until thick and smooth.

2. Whisk in the zest and vanilla.
Pour in the butter in 3 additions. Whisk well.
Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions whisking gently.

3. Scrape the batter into the pan over the rhubarb and put the pan onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake the cake for about 25 minutes, rotating it after 12 minutes.

4. Bake until it is golden brown, springy to the touch and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let rest for about 2 minutes, then run a table knife around the sides of the cake.

5. Place the serving plate over the cake and turn the cake over onto the platter.
Wait for a minute then lift off the pan.

6. Finally, make the Glaze:
Bring the reserved rhubarb syrup to a boil then reduce to a simmer until it reduces and becomes syrupy.
Add a few spoonfuls of strawberry jam and stir well.
Gently spoon the glaze over the top of the cake. 

7. To serve the cake, add strawberries to the cake plate, dollop with Crème Fraiche and serve.


  1. You've made me hungry for rhubarb cake! Dorie does have a way of explaining her recipes in detail, doesn't she? Thanks for the mention, Monte!

    1. Don't mention it! I sometimes wonder if Ms. Greenspan is paid by the word...