Spring and rhubarb are in the air

It was around…oh…January when I started thinking about things to make with rhubarb.  Despite the fact that winter never really showed up in Southern California,  I was already dreaming of the smell of fressia on the air and the delicate spoils of early spring.

Then, in late March, “catastrophe” hit: the oven died.  This wasn’t entirely unexpected.  In fact, I’ve been waiting patiently for what seems like years for the stock appliances in our kitchen to gracefully go to the Best Buy in the sky.  We tried to revive it, really, we did.   But the appliance dude diagnosed an issue that would cost almost half of a new oven.  The choice was easy: buy new.

But of course, that would take research…and another two weeks passed, leaving me, the baker, without my instrument.

So I took to the stove with some fresh rhubarb and sugar.  It’s like I always say, “when life gives you a broken oven, make a cocktail.”  In some languages, this saying also translates into “sometimes it’s okay to drink your dinner.”  Language and culture are funny that way.

And, that’s how the “Oh Rhubarb” came to be.  Pimms #1 was the most English spirit I could conjure up.  The result is sort of a rhubarb Pimm’s punch.  Don’t let the seemingly low alcohol content of this libation fool you, at 25% proof, the Pimms will sneak up on you.

Oh Rhubarb!

For Rhubarb Syrup


  • 10 ounces fresh rhubarb, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 1/4 C water


  • Using a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, stir together sugar and water until sugar dissolves.  Add rhubarb and turn heat to high.
  • Allow to come to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer mixture until the rhubarb falls apart (about 20 minutes).
  • Strain the liquid from the rhubarb.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

For the Cocktail (makes 1 cocktail, multiple by 6 or 8 for a punch)


  • 1 1/2 ounces Pimms #1
  • 1 ounce rhubarb syrup (more to taste)
  • 4-6 ounces dry sparkling wine
  • Orange and cucumber wedges to garnish


  1. Using a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine Pimm’s and rhubarb syrup.  The syrup will be heavier than the Pimm’s so this helps the two stick together.
  2. Pour into a high-ball glass filled with ice.
  3. Top with sparking wine, give it a mix.
  4. Garnish with an orange wedge or two and a tall wedge of cucumber.

Dee-lich-chus Cake

I think I’ve talked about our adventures in cake-tasting and the beautiful but epic fail of a wedding cake that came out of them.  Thinking of that 100 degree day in San Diego combined with the smell of buttercream across many bakeries still make me cringe a little.

Let’s say the average wedding cake tasting consists of seven samples.  If my memory holds true, we visited four bakeries that faithful summer day.  A little air arithmetic, carry the one and it comes to about 28 different taste tests.

And after biting into each morsel, TD would say, “that’s dee-lich-chus cake.”

About a dozen samples in, my curiosity (and annoyance) got the better of me and I asked what the hell he was talking about.

The details were a bit fractured (probably all that sugar) but what I gathered from his story is that there was a wedding, an elderly woman, some loose dentures and a cake that was decidedly not “dee-lich-chus.”

In my witness, every times he’s eaten cake since, he says the same thing: “that’s dee-lich-chus.”

It only took nearly ten years to wonder, if “dee-lich-chus” cake was a flavor, what would it be?

I decided a cake of this caliber would start with a buttermilk base.   In to which roasted strawberries would be gently folded.

And accessorized with clouds of pillowy pink strawberry and balsamic buttercream.  Stay with me here.  Adding balsamic to strawberry is like adding coffee to chocolate.  You don’t actually taste the extra ingredient, it just really enhances everything.

And so was born dee-lich-chus cake.

Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Cake with  Strawberry Balsamic Buttercream

cake adapted from Joy of Cooking, frosting adapted from The Foodies Kitchen

for the cake


  • 4 C fresh strawberries
  • 2 1/3 C cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking sode
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs at room temp.
  • 6 ounces (10 TBS or 1 stick plus 2 TBS) butter
  • 1 1/3 C sugar (I use superfine)
  • 1 C buttermilk, at room temp.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Gently wash and cut strawberries into quarters. Place berries on a cooling rack, seeds-side-down over a sheet pan. Bake until strawberries are partially dried, about 45 minutes. Let cool, the chop (they’ll be sticky).  Divide into 3/4 and 1/4 portions.  Set aside 1/4 for the frosting.
  2. Grease (use your use butter wrapper) two 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
  3. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set Aside.  In a small bowl (I also like to use a 2 C pyrex liquid measuring cup), whisk together eggs and vanilla.
  4. Using a mixer  (standing or hand) on medium speed, beat the butter until creamy.  Beat-in the sugar slowly over the course of 3-minutes.  Beat- in egg-and-vanilla mixture one egg-at-a-time.
  5. Reduce speed on mixer to low and mix-in flour and buttermilk in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour.
  6. Gently fold-in strawberries by hand.  Distribute batter into pans and bake in middle rack of oven for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes up clean.
  7. Once out of the oven, allow cakes to cool on rack for 10 minutes.  Carefully un-mold and allow to cool completely.

for the frosting 


  • remaining chopped roasted strawberries from cake recipe
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 C plus 2 TBS sugar (superfine)
  • pinch of salt
  • 16 ounces (1 pound, 4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar


  1. Add balsamic vinegar to reserved strawberries, puree mixture and set-aside.
  2. In the heat-proof bowl of a stand-mixer, combine egg-whites, sugar and salt.  Set over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly by hand until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved.  The temp on an instant-read thermometer should read between 150-160 F.
  3. Attached the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Starting on low speed, and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, beat until the mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cool (you can tell by touching the side of the bowl).  Process will take about 10 minutes.
  4. With mixer on medium-speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at-a-time, mixing well between each addition.  At some point the frosting will start to look curdled.  Don’t worry, just keep on going.
  5. Switch to the paddle attachment.  Add-in vanilla and strawberry puree and incorporate with paddle on low. Scrape-down sides and mix until frosting is completely smooth.
  6. Frost cake as desired. Enjoy and try not to think about how much butter is in the frosting.