Wednesday, August 7, 2013

No - Berry Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

This year has seen the development of a love/hate relationship between the human "inside" members of my family and the "outside" pseudopets that are the rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks living in the backyard. For some reason, we have seen nothing but trouble from the normally adorable and harmless furry weed-whackers - the early growing season saw them breaking open our bird feeder, noshing on my mom's pea vines and burrowing for flower bulbs, and now we've discovered the total decimation of our hostas (which we had to re-plant after a similar bunny banquet last year), marigolds and columbines as well as the uprooting (and eating) of all my heirloom carrots and beets! We knew it would only be a matter of time before the wildlife got hungry for our produce, but when we came across little baby Peter (or Petra, who knows) in the strawberry patch it was the last straw.

In the Berry PatchI put my foot down against my stepfamily's initial plans to serve rabbit for dinner (as much as I don't like what they're doing to the garden they do deserve to live), so eventually we jury-rigged some chicken wire cages around the most appealing veggies. Unfortunately it was too late to save the peas, beets, carrots and most of the strawberries... I hope the bunnies and squirrels had a good feast, since next year they won't be so lucky!

I was really disappointed by the disappearance of the strawberries - while they aren't my all time favourite fruit (that honour goes to both peaches and cherries), I did like their ever-present availability right outside the back door. Last year, when we first started growing the "day-neutral" strawberries in a small patch of dirt between rows of grapevines, they became the perfect snack during a break from weeding. I had great plans for the (new, expanded) patch this year - pies, jam and this cake, to name a few - especially since we also have a rhubarb plant that adores the Summer heat! I did buy a couple baskets from the farmers' market to make the preserves I planned on, but with no berries to be found for my cake I figured I'd just have to freeze the extra rhubarb and cut my losses.

Luckily, as I was getting out the bags for my chopped rhubarb stalks, I discovered a couple boxes of vegan Jell-O that I had bought downtown earlier in the year on a whim and forgotten about. I vaguely remembered seeing a cake recipe online with Jello as the principal flavouring agent, and decided to give it a go with this stuff (which for what it's worth tasted eerily like the "real deal").

(No-Berry) Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

What came out of the oven smelled like the strawberry or cherry-chip boxed cakes I remembered from childhood, and looked just as candyland-like. Lightly pockmarked by the dense bits of rhubarb and with a hint of texture from cornmeal, the crumb itself is bright pink with a vibrant fruity sweetness. I thought the "gel" factor of the powdered mix would cause a "gummy" problem in the final product, but neither I nor any of my taste testers detected one - rather, the crumb was light, moist and fluffy, staying that way for several days. The added sweetness from the dessert mix got tempered by the relatively sour rhubarb, making it agreeable for both childlike sweet teeth and more "adult" palates. Not only did it find favour as a plain "picnic cake", but when I drizzled a few pieces with dark chocolate for my mom to pack in her lunch I was told it was "dangerously good". I even re-purposed the very last bits of it by turning them into chocolate-filled sandwich cookies!

Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

No-Berry Strawberry Rhubarb Cake
Makes one 9x13" pan, 24 pieces
¼ cup vanilla sugar
1 cup low fat strawberry yoghurt
1 can (1 ⅓ cups / 10.5 fl oz) evaporated 2% milk - NOT sweetened condensed
2 eggs
½ cup melted butter
3 cups Nutri Flour Blend™ (by Robin Hood) (if you can't find it, white whole wheat flour is the same thing)
½ cup fine-ground cornmeal
2 (4-serving) packages Natural Desserts Strawberry Fruit Jel Dessert Mix
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
7 packets PureVia Stevia (or your favourite stevia)
1 lb chopped rhubarb (about 3 ¾ cups)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9x13" pan. 
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the vanilla sugar, yoghurt, milk, eggs and butter until well blended.
  3. Add the flour, cornmeal, dessert mix, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and stevia, beating to combine. 
  4. Fold in the rhubarb.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 157.3
Total Fat: 5.6 g
Cholesterol: 29.8 mg
Sodium: 62.1 mg
Total Carbs: 23.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Protein: 3.9 g