Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Cake
My Mom loves upside-down cake and I remember eating it as a kid; that sweet, syrupy tart/tangy brown-sugar cake. I’m excited to chat more here about where upside-down cake came from; it has some fun Americana history. In the meantime, I wanted to make my own but in a more modern way so I cut down on the sugar and boosted up the fresh, natural flavors and health benefits of seasonal strawberry and rhubarb in this Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Cake.
While this recipe may scream: Spring! Summer!, you can actually make it anytime of year. Frozen foods are as healthy – or MORE healthy – than fresh and they retain their flavors very well. If you want some strawberry rhubarb goodness anytime of year, just use frozen and that will be a perfect replacement.
Upside-Down Cake origins
Upside-down cake is a recipe most likely to be recognized by anyone who grew up in the 1950s-70s. Early advertisements indicate that pineapple upside-down cake was first popularized in the 1920s. Pineapple was once considered a trendy ingredient (think the avocado toast of today’s standards). Pretty soon, people were making upside-down cake using apricots and peaches as well. And now I’m making it with my favorite fruit in this Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Cake.
Upside down cakes became a popular all-American comfort food in part because they’re so simple to make. It’s a one skillet dessert that isn’t intimidating for beginner home cooks. This recipe is a healthy twist on a classic dessert, incorporating anti-inflammatory ingredients while maintaining the comforting qualities.
This recipe was really easy and fun to make. It creates a perfect dessert or even a breakfast or snack if you pair it with yogurt for added protein. I added my favorite low-sugar, high protein yogurt – Siggis – to this for breakfast and it was such a perfect way to start the day. The fiber and nutrients from the strawberries and rhubarb were a perfect combination.
Highlights for Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Cake Ingredients
Rhubarb is a plant well-known to gardeners in the Northeast and Northwest regions of the US. Rhubarb requires cold winters to grow and is known for its sour taste. Rhubarb contains tannins that enhance digestion by stimulating digestive secretions. Emerging studies suggest that rhubarb helps our detoxification system by providing support for the liver. It’s a really unique food but just make sure to steer clear of the leaves; they’re actually toxic!
Citrus foods are a good source of vitamin C and lemon juice is no exception. Vitamin C is essential for immune system function. Lemons also contain a group of antioxidants known as flavonoids which can reduce inflammation in the body. Citrus flavonoids have also been shown to improve glucose tolerance and fat metabolism when consumed regularly. I love using lemon juice and zest in my recipes to boost flavor and nutrition, too.
This recipe swaps out the traditional maraschino cherries, which often contain added sugars and artificial colors, for fresh strawberries. Strawberries provide vitamin C, manganese, folate and potassium. Manganese is a trace mineral that helps with collagen production. Collagen is important for the health of our skin and joints and it does decline with age. Strawberries are also a good source of antioxidants called polyphenols that benefit heart health and promote balanced blood sugar levels.
You know that I’m all about the anti-inflammatory ingredients so, while this cake isn’t a “health food”, it does have a lot of healthy aspects.
Making the Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Cake
There are several parts of putting this cake together. You’ll need a stand mixer, a round 8’inch cake pan, a saucepan and a couple mixing bowls.
Mix the fruit and lemon juice first, then set it aside to soften. While that’s happening, you’ll prep your brown sugar and butter so that the top of the cake is nice and rich and gooey. Once that’s done, you’ll have a few minutes while it cools to whip up the wet and dry ingredients separately. Beating the sugar and oils together makes for a fluffy cake texture. You’ll beat the dry into the wet and then simply pour it over the sugar and fruit mixture that’s in the bottom of your cake pan.
Once it’s baked, put a platter or plate on top and flip it over that way. I had no trouble with the flip whatsoever and it turned out perfectly for me.
If you love the idea of this recipe, try my other cake recipes:
- 2 cup fresh rhubarb, cut into ¼ inch pieces
- 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided
- 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup canola or grapeseed oil
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup plain dairy or non-dairy yogurt or sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350℉
- Toss the rhubarb, strawberries and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl and set it aside
- Heat ¼ cup of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat, stirring constantly until the butter has melted and the mixture starts to bubble, about 2-3 minutes. Set it aside and let it cool for 5 mins.
- Coat the sides of a round 8’inch pan lightly with cooking spray. Pour your sugar mixture into the pan then top it with the strawberry-rhubarb mixture and set it aside
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set it aside. In another medium bowl or the bowl of a mixer, beat the remaining brown sugar, remaining butter and oil on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Beat in the eggs then add the yogurt/sour cream and vanilla and beat until the mixture is smooth. Add the flour mixture while mixing on low speed just until it is incorporated and the batter has formed. Spread the batter over the fruit.
- Bake the cake until it pulls away from the sides slightly and the top is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let it cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and carefully invert the cake onto a serving platter.
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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