Metro-East Living

Spring is the best time to make these perfectly sweet and sour desserts

Strawberry-Rhubarb Dump Cake can be made in a skillet, pie pan or square cake pan. Serve with ice cream.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Dump Cake can be made in a skillet, pie pan or square cake pan. Serve with ice cream.

Strawberries and rhubarb are the ying and yang of food. One is naturally sweet; the other incredibly mouth-puckering. Yes, you can eat them separately (as long as you add a lot of sugar to the rhubarb), but together they form a most perfect dessert union.

And the time to eat them together is now. There is a brief window of opportunity — three to four weeks usually — to enjoy locally grown strawberries, which are sweeter and juicier than those bred for shipment.

Rhubarb is a rare perennial vegetable (asparagus is the other) that spends most of its time masquerading as a fruit. It’s one of the first “fruits” to sprout out of the ground in the spring.

For the best quality in cooking or freezing, use freshly harvested stalks, says If that’s not possible, keep cut rhubarb stems up to one week in the refrigerator, although crispness diminishes with storage. You can refresh crispness by standing stored stems in water before using; however, the flavor will be slightly diluted.

You’ll find a mix of strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb recipes here. For those who don’t like the sweet-tart combo, most of these recipes can be adapted to just using strawberries.

A few tips on both:

straw chiffon cake1
Strawberry Rhubarb Chiffon Cake

Remember to shop with your nose for strawberries. Always pick the plumpest and most fragrant berries. They should be firm, bright and fresh looking with no mold or bruises, and fresh, bright green stems, says (Mold on berries spreads quickly; never leave a moldy berry next to a good one.) And while we see a lot of giant-size berries dipped in chocolate, the best-tasting ones are usually medium to small in size.

Like peaches, strawberries do not ripen after they have been harvested, so don’t expect to bring them home and think they will taste better a couple days after purchase.

straw yogurt cake
Strawberries and Cream Yogurt Cake

If you’re buying rhubarb at the supermarket, look for the reddest stalks; they’re usually sweeter. But, there are green varieties of rhubarb, which are great to eat, too.

Leave the stems on the strawberries until ready to eat or use in your recipes. For rhubarb, remove leaves immediately and dispose of — they’re toxic.

straw tart
Easy Fruit Tart with Pecan Cookie Crust can be topped with fresh strawberries, berries and even curled slices of mango.

Moisture is the enemy when it comes to storing strawberries. For best flavor, do not wash the them until you are ready to eat or use them.

You can see more tips at

Freezing these fruits

Dry-Sugar pack: Halve, quarter or slice clean berries into a bowl or shallow pan. If desired, berries may be crushed rather than sliced. Sprinkle sugar over berries, using 1/3 to 3/4 cup sugar for each quart of fruit. Gently turn berries over and over until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Package and freeze.

Syrup pack: Make a syrup using 1 1/4 cups water to each 1 cup sugar. Dissolve the sugar in either cold or hot water; if hot water is used, be sure to chill the syrup before using. Use about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of syrup for each pint container. Place whole or sliced berries in containers and cover with cold syrup. Package and freeze.

Unsweetened pack: Pack whole, sliced or crushed berries in containers. Cover whole or sliced berries with water or berry juice. For better color retention, add ascorbic acid to the water, berry juice or crushed berries. Cover crushed berries with their own juice. Package and freeze as discussed earlier.

Rhubarb: Chop stems and freeze the pieces in a plastic freezer bag.

Easy Fruit Tart with Pecan Cookie Crust

This gorgeous dessert has a nutty tart shell inspired by pecan sandies and a lemon curd–spiked whipped cream filling. The fruit topping can be as simple or complex as you like; simply sprinkle berries on top for an easy finishing touch or arrange strawberry or mango slices in a rose-like pattern to create a stunning presentation.

3 1/2 cups vanilla wafer cookies (about 55)

1 cup pecans

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup homemade or store-bought lemon curd

Berries, mango, and other fresh fruit (for serving)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse cookies, pecans, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor until finely ground.

Add butter and pulse until dough sticks together when squeezed with your fingertips. Transfer dough to a 10-inch fluted tart pan and press into bottom and up sides of pan. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Transfer pan to a rimmed baking sheet and bake shell until golden, 18-20 minutes. Let cool.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, whip cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Fold in lemon curd and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, then whip on medium-high speed until medium peaks form.

Spoon lemon curd mixture into tart shell and top with fruit. Chill 15 minutes to set, then serve.

Do ahead: Tart shell can be baked 3 days ahead. Let cool, tightly wrap with plastic, and store at room temperature.

Katherine Sacks, Epicurious, April 2017

Strawberry Rhubarb Chiffon Cake

If you don’t want to make the chiffon cake, buy an angel food cake and follow the directions starting at step 4.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

6 egg yolks

10 strawberries, pureed in blender or food processor (about 3/4 cup)

22 drops red liquid food color

6 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


1 cup frozen cut rhubarb, thawed, drained or chopped fresh rhubarb

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 1/2 cups quartered strawberries

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar until blended. Add oil, egg yolks, pureed strawberries and food color. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed about 2 minutes or until blended; set aside.

2. Wash and dry beaters. In medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute 30 seconds or until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk batter gently but thoroughly. Fold in remaining egg white mixture. Pour into ungreased 10-inch angel food (tube) cake pan. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.

3. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately turn pan upside down onto heatproof bottle or funnel. Let hang about 2 hours or until cake is completely cool.

4. Filling: Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, heat rhubarb, lemon peel, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the water to boiling over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until soft and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside to cool, about 30 minutes. Stir in quartered strawberries.

5. In medium bowl, beat 1/2 cup of the whipping cream and 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in 1/2 cup of the cooled strawberry-rhubarb mixture. Reserve remaining mixture for top of cake.

6 Place cake top side down on serving platter. Cut 1-inch layer off top of cake; set aside. Cut tunnel into cake 1-inch deep and 1 inch wide; discard tunnel scraps. Fill tunnel with strawberry-rhubarb cream mixture. Replace top of cake.

7 To make glaze, stir together remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream and remaining powdered sugar (almost 1 1/2 cups) in medium bowl until smooth. Spoon glaze over top of cake, letting it run down side. Top with reserved strawberry-rhubarb mixture just before serving. Serves 20.

Strawberries and Cream Yogurt Cake

2 containers (6 ounces each) strawberry yogurt

1 1/2 cups plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 eggs

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup strawberry jam

1 1/4 cups quartered fresh strawberries

Powdered sugar, if desired

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray.

2. In large bowl, stir together yogurt, 1 1/2 cups of the granulated sugar, the melted butter and vanilla until well combined. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until smooth.

3. Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly. Stir strawberry jam until smooth. Drop by teaspoonfuls on top of batter. Sprinkle with strawberries and remaining 2 teaspoons granulated sugar.

4. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Storage: Refrigerate this cake during humid weather or in humid climates. If stored at room temperature, this very moist cake may form mold.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Dump Cake

6 cups of strawberries, hulled and quartered

2 stalks of rhubarb, sliced (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dump the strawberries and rhubarb into a 9-inch skillet, pie dish or a square baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with sugar and cornstarch.

In a small bowl stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit mixture. Dot with the butter pieces, making sure they are evenly places over the dry mixture.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbly and thick, and the topping is golden and slightly crisp. Serve warm with ice cream.