I’ve made a lot of complicated recipes in my time. Being human, I, just like any other woman entering her prize winning jelly in the state fair, enjoy bragging about what she’s made just a little. I very rarely bake the same recipe more than once. But there’s one recipe which I make more than any other recipe which will never go up on Instagram.
There’s no way I can ever apply enough Instagram filters to make this cake look beautiful. It’s impossible. Desserts which require nine by thirteen pans are not pretty desserts, and so are made and consumed in secret. Instagram never knows about them, unless they are brownies or lemon bars which have been taken out of the pan, placed on a vintage plate and garnished with powdered sugar. But strawberry rhubarb pudding cake demands to be served in a bowl, because just like mashed potatoes, strawberry rhubarb pudding cake is that dessert which you eat when you feel like life is spinning out of control.
This is the recipe you make when you are seriously considering skipping dinner because you want to hide from the world in your bed. This is what you make when you feel sad about an argument you had with someone you love, when you’re contemplating life changes, or feel exhausted and just want to sit in silence with the cat. And best of all, this is the recipe which has enough vegetables in it you don’t have to feel guilty about calling it your dinner or breakfast. That is probably the reason it survived the mid century and was passed down to me.
The very name of the dessert makes people look at me funny while I rave to them about this recipe. I was skeptical too. Rhubarb isn’t popular anymore, and most people couldn’t recognize it if you waved it in front of their nose. But the friend who gave me the recipe swore it would change my life, and change my life, it did.
The recipe is as straightforward as you can get. All you have to do is take a stick of butter, an egg, a cup of sugar, a half teaspoon salt, two teaspoons baking powder, a cup of flour, and a half cup of milk. Dump it all into a bowl, and stir it up. Pour it into a greased nine by thirteen pan, and then over the batter sprinkle three cups of chopped rhubarb, and one cup of strawberries. Over the fruit, sprinkle a cup of cinnamon sugar. Finally, pour one cup of boiling water over the entire pan, and bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
There’s absolutely no technique required for this, or secret method. There’s no double boiler, minimal clean up, and none of the patience which cookies demand from a baker. Anyone can make this. If rhubarb isn’t in season, change it to berries. If it’s wintertime, use frozen fruit.
When you take it out of the oven and put it in a bowl, it begins to resemble slightly pinkish bread pudding. That doesn’t matter, because the liberal amount of cinnamon makes it smell like home. Cinnamon saves this recipe, and is what makes people stop judging it long enough to try it.
Strawberry rhubarb pudding cake is the girl who you always say has a great personality but it’s a shame about her face. Curling up with a bowl full of pudding cake is as comforting as curling up in my grandma’s recliner with her soft blue plaid flannel blanket.
I still love making outlandish things like whiskey buttermilk ice cream and orange creamsicle tarts. I am still the girl who will put on a full face of makeup on my day off merely because it makes me feel like a functioning human being. But life is not all about appearances, and so sometimes the dessert that will never be served in a fancy restaurant wins. The most photogenic fondant will always taste like crap, and no matter how beautiful it looks in pictures you still know you don’t want to touch that with a ten foot pole. At the end of a long day, instead of googling the recipe that takes about four hours to complete, I’m going to find the recipe that makes the world seem a better place, no matter what it looks like.