strawberry rhubarb baked alaska (& 8 years of tentimestea)

strawberry rhubarb baked alaska

Wait! Before summer is over! I’m a bit late, I know, but I still need to say something –

Well, actually… eight years of tentimestea… and it feels like I have less to say than ever!

But we’ll try anyhow. Around this time last year I was pondering what has stayed the same, but I suppose this year I found myself thinking more of what has changed.

Here’s one thing: my blog dwells happily in the comfortable depths of obscurity. But this year during rhubarb season, 99% of my traffic starting coming through pinterest for a single recipe. To be clear, minuscule traffic and hardly anything relative to what a popular blog would receive, but it was still a bit nerve-wracking! It was a recipe I was happy with and had tested a couple times. People on the internet that made it and told me about it were happy. Still, it did remind me that any recipe has the (slim) potential to be seen and made by others, and that there is a some responsibility that comes with that. I haven’t been trying to share nonsense recipes of course – but I will certainly never be doing that now.

Admittedly, up until the last couple of years, there were some old questionable recipes lying around. When I first started tentimestea – as a still-somewhat-teenager! that excuses everything, right? – it was to keep track of what I baked. That included disasters, which at the time were quite relishing to post given how terrible descriptions are much more exciting to write than good ones. I transitioned sharing more proper recipes years ago, but there were still those legacy recipes lying around. The posts remain, but the super old recipes I felt unsure about have been redacted to avoid anyone innocently coming across a recipe for disaster fully recorded in all its gory detail. (Well, you can still read the gory details, you just can’t replicate it!)

But all this talk of traffic and responsibility aside – first and foremost, the blog is still about having fun with baking – because that’s what has kept me around for eight years.

strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska

onto the recipe: baked alaska!

As is sort of-semi-tradition-esque-ish, I make an annual (out of season) rhubarb cake. This year it’s baked alaska, a suitably retro recipe for an aging blog like mine. I made mine with a strawberry rhubarb sorbet layered over a vanilla elderflower semifreddo, all seated on an almond cake base, covered in meringue and some roasted fruit.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this cake! It’s fruit and cream (and yes, some rather sweet meringue) all stacked together in a refreshing slice. The amount of work is makes for a decent project: multiple components, but none too tricky, and a relatively fuss-free assembly. You could also use this recipe as a template for whatever adaptations you want to make – another fruit sorbet, infuse some different flavours into the semifreddo, and so forth.

strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska

components:

  • strawberry rhubarb sorbet: This is probably my favourite component of the cake – I would definitely eat it on its own! Made from strained rhubarb juice and strawberry puree, it’s the refreshing fruity counterpoint in this dessert. Sorbet usually needs a certain amount of sugar for texture, but it’s not overly sweet given the tartness from the rhubarb. I also helped keep it soft and sliceable a little splash of elderflower liqueur (more on that below).
  • vanilla elderflower semifreddo: I knew I wanted to have a bit of alcohol in the cake if only to keep it a bit softer and sliceable. Even better if it’s part of the flavour profile! I used a slightly lemony elderflower liqueur, St. Germaine, to go along with the fruit and vanilla. You can certainly use whatever alcohol you prefer (or leave it out entirely for an alcohol free version – it will just be a bit harder and may need to sit on the counter for a few minutes to soften before slicing). Semifreddo is a foamy parfait made of whipped eggs and cream, making it a lot airier than ice cream and also a bit more manageable to eat when it comes to a generous slice. I also like using semifreddo as a component in layered frozen desserts as it doesn’t need to be churned; it can save a bit of time if you use a freezer canister which needs to be washed and refrozen for each churn.
  • almond financier base: I found that the texture of frozen financier is quite good – chewy and toothsome, but certainly still soft enough to bite – from this ice cream. Here it was recruited as the base for the cake.
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
  • meringue: I usually don’t care much for meringue, but I discovered it’s surprisingly suitable for frozen desserts! Not only do you get to dramatically toast it for contrast with the cold filling, but meringue doesn’t harden when frozen (unlike, say, whipped cream) and also helps to insulate the cake to prevent it from melting too quickly on the counter. While I used raw egg whites, there are alternatives for food safety to reduce salmonella risk. I’d suggest trying something like an Italian meringue, in which boiling sugar is whipped in beaten egg whites, or Swiss meringue, in which the eggs and sugar are heated together before whipping. These methods can be a bit trickier though, so depending on what you’re comfortable with, simply whipping egg whites and sugar together is easiest.
  • roasted strawberries and rhubarb: I sort of modeled the look of my baked alaska after a pavlova, and so to finish it off, a garnish of roasted strawberries and rhubarb.
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska
strawberry rhubarb baked alaska

a note on sizing…

I’ve described the bowl I used to make this in the recipe below (i.e. 900mL volume and 19cm top diameter) but this recipe can be amenable to whatever bowl you have on hand. If your bowl is bigger, the baked Alaska may just not fill the bowl the whole way. If your bowl is smaller, just layer in part of the sorbet and then part of the semifreddo. Put the remainders in separate containers and freeze to eat later. As necessary, trim the cake base so that it is the right size. Or, you can also multiply the recipe as needed if you want a larger baked Alaska.

To get an idea of how it might turn out, you can check the volume of the bowl you plan to use and compare it to what I used. The easiest way is to fill it with water and weigh how much it can contain (1g = 1mL). In this recipe I used a 900mL bowl with a top diameter approximately 19cm (7 1/2″). It may not sound that big, but it makes for quite the cake once it is covered in meringue. It can definitely serve eight or more very generously.

strawberry rhubarb baked alaska

strawberry rhubarb baked alaska

  • Servings: probably about 8
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Financier adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery, sorbet free-handed, semifreddo adapted from Stella Parks’s recipe, meringue adapted from classic ratios.

equipment: I made this in a bowl about 900mL in volume and with a top diameter of about 19cm/7 1/2″. But you can definitely use whatever size you happen to have on hand – please see the note on sizing in the blog post above. I also used a 8″ diameter cake tin to bake the cake base.

1. bake the financier base

  • 75g butter
  • 45g finely ground almonds
  • 30g all-purpose flour
  • generous 1/8 tsp salt
  • 60g granulated sugar
  • 75g egg whites
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 425F. Butter a 20cm/8″ diameter cake tin and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Place the butter in a small pan and heat until melted. Cook, stirring, until the butter solids brown and the butter is fragrant. Immediately transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool while you make the rest of the batter.

Stir together the almond flour, flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the egg whites and vanilla, and mix until a thick batter is formed. Whisk in the browned butter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan in an even layer.

Place in the oven and turn the temperature down to 350F. Bake about 10 minutes or until springy to touch or an inserted skewer is removed clean.

2. make the strawberry rhubarb sorbet as the first layer of the baked alaska

  • 350g chopped rhubarb
  • 150g fresh strawberry puree
  • 45g simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar)
  • 1 tbsp St. Germaine (or other elderflower liqueur to taste; elderflower cordial could be an alcohol-free alternative)

Place the chopped rhubarb in a small saucepan along with a spoonful of sugar and a splash of water (enough for 1-2cm on the bottom). Together, the sugar and water should help draw the juice out of the rhubarb. Cook over medium allowing the rhubarb to release enough juice to mostly cover the rhubarb pieces. Let simmer until the rhubarb is tender and cooked through. (If it’s looking a bit dry it helps to put the cover on while cooking to generate more liquid. The resulting rhubarb juice will be less concentrated, so it will just need to be boiled down more in the following step.)

Transfer the cooked rhubarb to a jelly bag set in a sieve over a bowl and allow the rhubarb juice to drain in the bowl. Once cooled, squeeze the bag to extract as much juice as possible. (Discard the fibrous contents in the jelly bag.) With the cover off, I got about 170g of juice, and cover on, about 260g of juice. Exactly how much you get out will depend on how much water already cooked off. To make whatever amount you get consistent, place the rhubarb juice back into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook down until it is reduced to about 120-130g.

Let the rhubarb juice cool. Stir in the strawberry puree, simple syrup, and St. Germaine. Adjust the simple syrup to taste. Chill completely.

When ready to churn, line a bowl with plastic wrap. Churn the sorbet in an ice cream maker, then spread into the bottom of the bowl and place in the freezer to freeze completely.

3. make the vanilla elderflower semifreddo and pour over the sorbet

  • 3 large eggs
  • 35g granulated sugar
  • 185g whipping cream
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or substitute 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste for both seeds and extract)
  • 2-3 tbsp St. Germaine (or other elderflower liqueur to taste; elderflower cordial could be an alcohol-free alternative)

Set a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water – or other double boiler set up. Whisk together the eggs and honey in the bowl. Mix continuously with a rubber spatula until the eggs appear syrupy and reach about 160-165F – though if you’re getting close to temperature (i.e. 155+) and you start noting any clumping, immediately remove from the heat and stop there. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until the bowl feels cool to the touch and the eggs have quadrupled in volume – and in the words of Stella Parks (original recipe) “thick enough to briefly mound up like soft-serve ice cream when dropped from the whisk.” This may take 5-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip up the cream with the vanilla seeds and extract. Whisk in the St. Germaine at the end (use more or less depending on your taste). Add half of the whipped cream to the eggs and whisk in until combined. Add the remaining cream, folding it in gently with a rubber spatula. Pour the semifreddo over the sorbet in the prepared bowl, leaving just enough room for the financier. You will have extra semifreddo if you use the same size bowl as me – put the leftovers in a container and freeze as a dessert for later.

Trim the financier base as necessary so it can fit into the bowl and place over the semifreddo. Return to the freezer and allow to freeze completely.

4. (optional) roast the fruit as an optional garnish, and chill until use

  • 50g chopped rhubarb
  • 50g chopped strawberries
  • 1 generous tsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a small baking pan with parchment paper. Combine the 50g each of chopped rhubarb and strawberries with a bit of sugar and transfer to the pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, mixing partway through, until the fruit is tender. Chill completely until ready to use.

5. make the meringue and cover the baked alaska

  • 90g (3 large) egg whites
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 90g granulated sugar

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip until frothy and sprinkle in a pinch of cream of tartar. Beat until the egg whites and foamy before gradually adding the sugar. The continue to whip on high speed until firm peaks are formed. (I find you get a smoother swoopier meringue if you stop at firm peaks rather than stiff. Peaky, yes, but still nice and soft.)

Take the bowl out of the freezer and turn out onto a tray or upside down-baking tin. Remove the plastic. Cover with meringue and then use the back of a spoon to draw meringue up the sides. Use the spoon to make a nest in the top to hold the roasted fruit.

At this point, you can either torch the meringue or do a quick bake in a very hot (500F) oven until the meringue is browned. If you’re not ready to serve right away, the cake can be put back in the freezer until ready. Top with roasted fruit just before serving.

for posterity – past tentimestea birthday rhubarb cakes

strawberry rhubarb & poppy seed coffee cake

strawberry rhubarb poppy seed coffee cake
strawberry rhubarb poppy seed coffee cake
strawberry rhubarb poppy seed coffee cake

it is my favourite season: rhubarb season! I haven’t actually baked anything with rhubarb yet this spring, but I do have this cake from last year – a fruity, crumbly take on a coffee cake made with a yoghurt poppy seed cake, chopped strawberries and rhubarb, and a topping of spiced almond crumb.

The wonders of coffee cake: it’s dessert and it’s breakfast! Also okay for lunch! Honestly, any meal!

strawberry rhubarb poppy seed coffee cake
strawberry rhubarb poppy seed coffee cake
strawberry rhubarb poppy seed coffee cake

This cake was inspired by Brown Bear Bakery, a bakery I would love to one day visit! I am always excited by the combination of strawberry, rhubarb and a whole grain streusel – I love using this combination in one way or another as another homage to the strawberry rhubarb crumbles (aka the number one and also only dessert) that I grew up with.

strawberry rhubarb poppy seed coffee cake

strawberry rhubarb & poppy seed coffee cake

  • Servings: 8-inch square cake
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Cake inspired by Brown Bear Bakery. Crumb adapted from Epicurious. Cake adapted from the sour cream coffee cake recipe in A Good Bake by Melissa Weller.

spiced almond crumb

  • 85g butter, melted
  • 40g brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 100g whole wheat flour
  • 25g finely ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds

poppy seed & yoghurt coffee cake

  • 120g all-purpose flour  
  • 60g whole wheat
  •  1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 12g (about 1 tbsp + 1 tsp) poppy seeds
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 225g greek yoghurt (or sour cream)

fruit

  • 140g rhubarb, chopped
  • 140g strawberries, chopped
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp tapioca starch

For the crumb, melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the sugar, spices and salt and stir to combine. Then add the flour and ground almonds and stir until combined. Break up into lumps and toss in the flaked almonds.

For the cake, preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8″ square tin and line with a parchment paper sling.

Whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds. Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a standmixer and cream until light and fluffy (or by hand with a wooden spoon). Add the vanilla and egg and beat until combined. Finally, whisk in the yoghurt. Add the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Dollop into the bottom of the prepared tin and spread into an even layer with an offset spatula. The batter will be thick.

For the fruit, toss together the fruit, sugar and tapioca. Scatter over the batter.

Finally, scatter the crumb overtop of the cake. Squeeze a bit of the crumb mixture in your hands so it holds together in lumps and then break it up over the top of the cake.

Bake at 350F for about 40 minutes (do a first check at 30 minutes) or until an inserted skewer is removed clean or with just a couple crumbs clinging to it. Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into squares.

earl grey roll cake with strawberry rhubarb jam

strawberry rhubarb earl grey roll cake
strawberry rhubarb earl grey roll cake
strawberry rhubarb earl grey roll cake

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strawberry rhubarb earl grey roll cake
strawberry rhubarb earl grey roll cake
strawberry rhubarb earl grey roll cake

The nonsense I make up in order to avoid writing a blog post…

This is another quick and simple roll cake, made with an earl grey chiffon, strawberry rhubarb jam, and earl-grey infused cream. This cake is light, tart, creamy, and moist. It is no surprise that jam and cream is wonderful together!

The part I am most excited about is the earl grey-infused cream. In the past I’ve attempted tea-infused whipped cream, but would find that it did not whip up very smoothly, something which I attributed to heating the cream and the tannic content of tea. Lately I’ve been doing more cold overnight infusions, the key benefit being that you can infuse the cream without heating it up. When applied here, it also it means that the infused cream whips smoothly!

strawberry rhubarb earl grey roll cake

earl grey roll cake with strawberry rhubarb jam

  • Servings: 1 roll cake which can be sliced into 6-8 pieces
  • Print

Sponge cake recipe adapted from Rice ‘n Flour.

earl grey cream

  • 150g heavy cream
  • 5g earl grey tea

strawberry rhubarb vanilla jam

  • 140g chopped rhubarb
  • 90g chopped strawberries
  • 30g granulated sugar
  • 2cm length of vanilla bean
  • optional: a few chopped cherries, for boosting the colour

earl grey roll cake

  • 1 tsp loose leaf earl grey tea
  • 3 eggs, split
  • 45g sugar
  • 30g whole milk
  • 30g oil
  • 1 tsp houjicha powder or cocoa powder whisked with 1 1/2 tsp boiling water, optional (see note at end)
  • 22g corn starch
  • 23g a.p. flour
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cream of tartar

filling & assembly

  • about 2 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar to sweeten the filling, or to taste
  • 60g whipped cream whipped with 1/2 tsp sugar for piping on top
  • sliced strawberries for garnish (alternatively, try poached rhubarb like here)

For the earl grey-infused cream, combine the cream and loose leaf tea in a container. Place in the fridge to infuse overnight. The next day press through a sieve – you should get around 120g of infused cream out. It will be a bit bitter now, but we’ll add sugar later when we whip the cream for the cake.

To make the strawberry rhubarb jam, toss the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together in a small saucepan. (If you’re adding cherries for colour, add them now as well – especially if your rhubarb is more on the green side.) Split the length of vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the middle and add to the mixture. Add the pod as well.

Warm the mixture over gentle heat until juices are released from the fruit. Then bring the mixture up a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the fruit breaks apart and the mixture thickens and resembles a jam, about 20 minutes. Look for a dollop of jam dropped from the spoon to roughly hold its shape.

Transfer to a container and chill completely.

To make the roll cake, preheat the oven to 350F. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper (I recommend the method in the original source recipe video for ease and nice sharp edges on the cake).

Grind the loose leaf earl grey in a small spice grinder until ground as fine as it can get – pass through a sieve and discard any larger pieces of leaves. Set aside.

To make the cake, whisk together the egg yolks with the oil and milk. Optionally, for colour, whisk 1 tsp of houjicha or cocoa powder with 1 1/2 tsp boiling water until smooth, then add it to the egg yolks and whisk in. Sift the flour and cornstarch over top, add the salt, and whisk in until completely combined. Whisk in the ground earl grey tea leaves.

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until frothy, then sprinkle in the sugar and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Fold one dollop of the egg whites into the batter completely before adding the remainder and folding in lightly. Scrape into the prepared pan, level with an offset spatula and tap to release any large air bubbles.

Bake around 15 minutes or until lightly browned, springy, and an inserted wooden skewer/toothpick is removed clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

To fill and assemble, begin by whipping the earl-grey infused cream. Whisk in about 2 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar, or sweeten to taste.

To assemble, place the cake right side up (i.e. with the bottom of the cake facing down to become the outside of the roll) on a piece of parchment paper. Spread with a thin layer of jam aside from one strip along a short side. You may not use all the jam. Dollop the whipped earl grey cream overtop of the jam and spread into an even layer.

Use the parchment paper to help you roll up the cake into round log. Roll tightly, but not so tightly such that the filling is squeezed out. Wrap and chill for at least an hour to allow everything a chance to firm up.

When ready to serve, whip the remaining 60g of whipped cream and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe 6-8 dollops of cream on top of the roll cake, depending on how thick you want the slices to be. Top each dollop of cream with a slice of strawberry.

Note on houjicha/cocoa powder: I like to have a greater contrast in colour between the cake and filling so I like to add a tsp of either houjicha or cocoa powder. It makes the cake a light brown tone, which is reminiscent of the colour of tea. It will affect the flavour a bit though, so to avoid any distractions, leave it out!

lemon verbena & rhubarb fraisier (& tentimestea turns 7!)

lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier

Today, somehow, tentimestea turns seven!? Is it time for me and my blog’s seven year itch? (I’m not feeling it yet – but…)

Over these seven years, definitely a number of things of have changed (like the fonts – what a reversal from serif to sans) – and a few other things have stayed the same. For instance, I’ve had the same rather prescient blog tagline since I started my blog: tentimestea is indeed primarily about food, my cautious instinct was correct that there really ended up being no books, and the pretentious writing is right on point. Likewise, I’ve kept the same totally irrelevant about page mostly intact.

In this manner my blog has come to be a mish-mash of nostalgia and sentimentality folded in with the newer fonts and occasionally properly exposed photographs – SEO and proper blog form be darned! Because after working on something for seven years, I suppose you do start to get attached to all the idiosyncrasies and random html widgets that were added into the sidebar which now, years later, I don’t have the heart to delete. It’s legacy! For posterity! or so I tell myself.

And so? One more year? Shall we?

lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier

I’ve been thinking about making a fraisier for a while (i.e. about three years). I’m so glad I finally did – it’s not nearly as scary as I thought it would be! Perhaps my biggest fear was the ring of strawberries along the edge not staying in place, or even worse, not being able to pull off the cake ring at the very end. Neither of those events came to pass as you can see (and on the ring removal side, it just takes a bit of warming up via blow dryer.)

Fraisier is a cake named for it’s fruit (la fraise) usually made of two layers of sponge enclosing cream and strawberries, and then topped with a layer of marzipan. It’s most recognizable for the ring of exposed strawberry halves.

This fraisier is a bit of a riff off of the original. Starting with the cake, I went with joconde, an almond sponge, instead of genoise. It’s one of my favourite base cakes – it’s stronger, moister and has a wonderfully rich taste, and in lieu of the marzipan, it provides a gentle almond flavour. For the filling, I infused the creme diplomat with lemon verbena and thyme for a fresh herbal taste, and packed the centre with tart roasted rhubarb. And as hinted, I skipped the marzipan – I love marzipan, but I do think the more-cream-on-top approach, one which I’ve seen a number of times (like here!) is a lovely balance of flavours.

For the ambitious, Tamal Ray recently shared a frasier recipe in the Guardian with a double strawberry ring, while the blog Freddy’s Harajuku has a full on double-decker frasier.

As for me, I can’t wait to try this again in different flavour variations!

lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier
lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier

past tentimestea birthday rhubarb cakes:

lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier

lemon verbena, thyme & rhubarb fraisier

  • Servings: one 6-inch cake
  • Print

Creme diplomat and general assembly features from A Baking Journey, joconde from Mary Berry via BBC, and the finishing step of spreading more creme diplomat on top from Ruth Tam via Instagram.

special equipment: cake ring 6″ in diametre and 3″ tall

joconde

  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 15g sugar
  • 100g ground almond
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 30g flour
  • 30g butter, melted and cooled

roasted fruit

  • 120g chopped rhubarb (chop into about 1.5cm dice)
  • 80g chopped strawberries (chop into about 1.5cm dice)
  • about 2 tsp sugar (or more to taste)

creme diplomat

  • 320g whole milk
  • 3 large sprigs lemon verbena
  • 3 large sprigs thyme
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 20g granulated sugar
  • 20g cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp gelatin, bloomed in 1 tbsp water
  • 180g heavy cream, whipped

assembly

  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp grand marnier (or kirsch)
  • strawberries
  • whipped cream

joconde

Preheat the oven to 425F. Butter two 9-inch cake tins and line the bottom of two 9-inch cake tins with parchment paper. Flour the sides.

Place the 3 egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and sugar and beat until firm peaks are formed. Transfer to another bowl and set aside.

Place the almond, icing sugar and 3 whole eggs in the stand mixer and beat with the whisk on medium-high speed for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Sift the flour overtop and fold in. Fold in the melted butter. Dollop a large scoop of egg whites over top and fold in to lighten. Then add the remaining egg whites and fold until incorporated.

Evenly distribute the batter between the two tins and spread into an even layer.

Bake for around 5-10 minutes or until golden and springy. Let cool, then store, covered, until ready to use.

roasted fruit

Preheat the oven to 375F. Toss the strawberries, rhubarb and sugar together on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring once at the 10 minute mark, or until the fruit is tender and has released juices. Let cool and chill completely.

creme diplomat

Heat the milk until steaming. Coarsely chop the lemon verbena and thyme, and add to the milk. Cover and let cool, then transfer the milk to the fridge to continue infusing overnight. The next day strain the milk, pressing to extract the milk from the herbs. Weigh the strained milk and top up to reach 320g.

Transfer the milk to a medium-small saucepan. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt. Heat the milk until steaming, then slowly pour into the egg yolks while whisking constantly to temper them. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Cook for at least 1 minute (whisking vigorously) then immediately remove from the heat. Pass through a sieve into a bowl to remove any lumps and whisk in the butter and bloomed gelatin until both are melted. Cover and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, whisk the pastry cream until smooth. Whisk in a dollop of the whipped cream to lighten, then fold in the remainder. Use soon.

assembly

Mix together the milk and grand marnier.

Use the 6″ cake ring to cut a 6″ round from each joconde. Place the cake ring onto a plate (it is convenient to place it on your intended serving plate). Put one circle of joconde down and brush with the milk/grand marnier mixture. Line the ring with halved strawberries, cut side against the ring. I needed about 13 strawberry halves, but it will depend on the size of your strawberries (mine varied from 4-6cm tall; try not to exceed 6 or so cm to ensure that the cake doesn’t get too tall!).

Transfer the creme diplomat to a piping bag fitted with a round tip (I used Wilton 2A, about 1cm in diameter). Pipe the creme between each strawberry and then pipe in a spiral to cover the bottom of the cake. Spoon the roasted fruit into the cavity created by the cream and strawberries, and then pipe more cream overtop to cover it. Spread flat and top with the second circle of joconde. Brush with the grand marnier/milk mixture. Finally, spread a final layer of creme diplomat over top and smooth out with an offset spatula.

Cover with plastic and chill overnight to allow the cream to set. The next day, if the cake is not already on your designed serving platter, move it – you can likely lift it up via the ring, but use a wide flat spatula on the bottom for additional support.. Then run a blowdryer (or even a blowtorch, if you have access to one!) along the outside of the ring for several seconds to slightly melt the cream and loosen the ring. Lift up the ring. I garnished with some piped whipped cream, strawberries, lemon verbena and thyme (as well as a single white begonia – they are edible! – the sole output from our struggling balcony plants).

lemon verbena and rhubarb frasier

cardamom-poached rhubarb & browned butter almond tart

poached rhubarb almond tart
poached rhubarb almond tart
poached rhubarb almond tart

It seems just as quickly as rhubarb was here, with elephantine leaves and strikingly red stalks, it’s starting to slow down and fade. Though that means it’s just the beginning of the rest of the garden, so I’ll temper my disappointment with dreams of peas! And lettuces! Maybe even a zucchini or too? But until then, we obviously need to cram in as much rhubarb as we can!

This time I made a mild riff on a rhubarb and almond tart, using a browned butter almond cream and thick lengths of cardamom-poached rhubarb. It is sort of an updated version of this old tart, one of the recipes I posted in my early years of blogging. I was surprised how well the browned butter comes through in the almond cream – it bakes up buttery, cakey, and fragrant, interrupted with super tender tart rhubarb.

poached rhubarb almond tart
poached rhubarb almond tart

This recipe is pretty much the classic almond and fruit tart, with an extra bit here or there. While it’s not strictly necessary, I think gentle poaching the rhubarb before baking in the tart makes the rhubarb particularly tender. I prefer making this tart with thick rhubarb if you have access to it – the sort of hefty stalks that are an inch or more in diametre. I find they handle the poach and baking best. When I tried with thinner rhubarb, while still good, the stalks do wither in the oven and remain a bit stringy.

Of course, the size of your rhubarb will determine how many lengths of rhubarb are needed along the tart – whether just eight or so, as in the case of mine, or double that number (hence about 2/slice). Try arranging the pieces in your tart pan to determine how many you need. And be sure to poach a couple extra, just in case.

poached rhubarb almond tart

cardamom-poached rhubarb & browned butter almond tart

  • Servings: one 13 by 4-inch rectangular tart
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special equipment: 13×4″ rectangular fluted tart tin

cardamom-poached rhubarb

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 medium green cardamom pods, cracked open
  • about 250g rhubarb, cut into 9-10cm lengths

pastry

  • 200g flour, half all-purpose and half whole-wheat
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg

brown butter almond cream

  • 75g butter
  • 5g milk powder (optional)
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 75g finely ground almonds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • generous pinch salt
  • 75g egg
  • 16g flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp dark rum

poached rhubarb

Place the water, sugar and cardamom pods in a saucepan. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Add the rhubarb pieces, presentation side up (sometimes the skin on the bottom side can crack a bit when simmered). Adjust the heat as needed to warm the syrup back up to a simmer (but not a boil!!). Then remove from the heat, cover, and allow the rhubarb to cool in the syrup. This way we can gently poach the rhubarb, but avoid overcooking it – be all the more careful to avoid overcooking if you’re using small rhubarb. If not using the same day, gently transfer the rhubarb and syrup to a container and chill completely.

pastry

Place the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Then add the egg and process for about 30 seconds or until the dough comes together. Press into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill completely.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick. Drape over a 13×4″ rectangular tart tin, press into all the corners and trim any excess. Patch any tears that form with scraps of dough. Cover and chill completely.

almond cream

Place the butter in a small pan with the milk powder and cook, stirring, until the butter solids are golden brown and fragrant. Immediately transfer the butter to a heatproof bowl and set aside to cool completely until it re-solidifies.

Cream together the cooled butter, sugar and salt. Add the ground cardamom and almonds, then mix in the egg. Next stir in the flour followed by the vanilla extract and rum.

assembly

Preheat the oven to 350F. Dock the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry appears to lighten and dry. Let cool.

Spread the almond cream in an even layer in the bottom of the tart tin. Drain the poached rhubarb and arrange overtop. Return to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the almond cream is lightly browned.

Let cool and dust with icing sugar (not because it needs additional sweetness – this is purely for aesthetic so feel free to skip!) just prior to serving.

strawberry rhubarb cheesecake bars

strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars

An admission: maybe I don’t really like gardening. I do love the idea of it and so I like to pretend it’s a hobby of mine, despite that I’ve been avoiding any gardening work for ages. The realization that perhaps I am not as much of a garden fan as I had thought/wistfully dreamed happened while I was doing some weeding this weekend and was forced to come to face with the fact that I am very floppy and useless from spending all day inside.

Of course maybe I’m just sulking because right now gardening is 90% weeding with minimal harvest. But as for what we are harvesting: that is primarily rhubarb! Not to mention that the rhubarb is pretty simple, self-reliant and hardy (all the better to balance my floppiness and uselessness with).

strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars

This has been one of my favourite recent rhubarb bakes: thick, creamy cheesecake squares dotted with strawberries and rhubarb and a brown sugar and oat crumble.

These bars were inspired by a recipe from Ed Kimber and my mum’s strawberry rhubarb crumble. It took a few tries to get them to where I wanted them: switching the base and crumble to an adapted version of my mum’s crumble recipe, thickening the layer of cheesecake and adding additional fruit. I did try flavouring one version with rosewater, but that was quickly discarded in favour of going full force with my mum’s crumble flavours: cinnamon in the crumble and just vanilla in the cheesecake.

For another strawberry rhubarb crumble inspired bake, there is also this ice cream. And if you’re feeling hung up on the rosewater, I do love the pairing in these cream puffs!

strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars

strawberry rhubarb cheesecake bars

  • Servings: 16-25 squares
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Crumble based on my mum’s recipe, while the cheesecake filling and overall bar concept and structure is from these raspberry cheesecake bars by The Boy Who Bakes (and is also a recipe from his book, One Tin Bakes!).

base & crumble

  • 112g butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 43g brown sugar (1/3 cup, lightly packed)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 125g whole wheat flour (about 1 cup)
  • 33g rolled oats (1/3 cup)
  • 33g quick oats (1/3 cup)

cheesecake layer

  • 420g block cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 70g greek yoghurt
  • 20g heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

fruit

  • 115g chopped rhubarb
  • 115g chopped strawberries
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp tapioca starch

for the base, preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8″ square baking tray and line with a parchment sling.

Cream the butter with the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, then mix in the flour and oats until combined and the mixture holds together in clumps. Reserve 1/3 of the mixture for the top crumble. Take the remaining 2/3 of the mixture (about 220g), break it into clumps, and evenly distribute them into the bottom of the prepared tray. Use your fingers or the bottom of a glass (lightly floured if needed to prevent sticking) to firmly pack it down into an even layer. This makes for a thin layer so if needed, you can add a bit more.

Prick the base all over with a fork and pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm and chill. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the bottom crust begins to lightly brown. Set aside to cool slightly.

While the base bakes, begin on the cheesecake layer. In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and no lumps remain. Mix in the yoghurt, cream and vanilla extract. Mix in the eggs. Lastly, sift the cornstarch overtop and mix until combined.

Pour the cheesecake layer over the partially baked crust and spread into an even layer.

Next, prepare the fruit. Stir together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and tapioca starch. Spoon evenly overtop of the cheesecake.

Finish with the crumble and bake. You’ll have 1/3 of the crumble mixture left. Break this up into small crumbs and scatter overtop of the fruit.

Return the pan to the 350F oven and bake for another 30-35 minutes or so, or until the crumble is browned, and the cheesecake layer is mostly set (it’s okay if the middle still has a bit of a jiggle).

Let cool, then refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. Run a knife along the two edges baked directly against the pan to loosen the bars first before removing. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

rhubarb & ginger eton mess (…or what to do with failed pavlova)

rhubarb ginger eton mess

My biggest piece of advice for low sugar baking is: temper your expectations. Decide what tradeoffs you don’t mind! Roll with the punches! Because in some cases, sugar is pretty important… such as in the case of pavlova. I’ve been trying to inch my way down with the sugar (usually I do 1:1, here I tried a cautious 0.67:1), and more recently wanted to give it a try in individual form.

Low sugar pavlova, as it turns out, does not crisp so well. Hence while you’re in the business of trying to achieve a thin, crisp outer layer, mini pavs can become dry all the way through – cooked to styrofoam stage instead of marshmallow.

Another issue with low sugar pavlova is that it develops a bit of a gumminess. It is semi-remedied if you cook it all the way through to the styrofoam stage… and the softening effect of plenty of cream and fruit juices will help re-soften it again too.

Continue reading “rhubarb & ginger eton mess (…or what to do with failed pavlova)”

iced strawberry rhubarb buns

iced strawberry rhubarb jam buns
iced strawberry rhubarb jam buns
iced strawberry rhubarb jam buns

Right now our rhubarb has just started to emerge and crest overground (that, and it just snowed last weekend), so it will be a month or two before there’s enough for baking. Our rhubarb may be dragging its feet, but I’ve been seeing the rhubarb recipes flourishing elsewhere making me excited for rhubarb baking to begin! Hence in my desperation to participate in the more canonical spring rhubarb season, these are some buns are from last summer filled with strawberry rhubarb jam and a more mildly sweetened cream cheese icing over top.

Continue reading “iced strawberry rhubarb buns”

rhubarb danishes with lavender & cardamom pastry cream

rhubarb danish

Earlier in the spring during the pandemic I made a series of posts on bakes inspired by local businesses. Food industry profit margins are notoriously slim (for instance, this article cites an average of 3% over the whole industry) – and the current situation has certainly not helped. It reminds me to appreciate food businesses who work with these slim margins and few guarantees to bring their favourite flavours, creativity and skill to life. Here is one more post about one of my favourite bakeries (and luckily, one so thoroughly beloved in the city that we likely don’t need to worry too much about them) – and another reminder that if we have the means, to look into safe ways to support our local businesses.

Blackbird Baking Co. is tucked in the middle of Kensington Market. A wall of crusty breads, each loaf scored and oven-bloomed, sits along one wall; among them, the multigrain batard is a favourite. The display case in front is where things get most exciting on the dessert and butter front – there is always a sweet and savoury scone pair next to dense chocolate corks, beside which are the croissants and danishes with lamination so precise that the edges look like the splayed pages of a book.

Continue reading “rhubarb danishes with lavender & cardamom pastry cream”