Here's a recipe not for the faint of heart. It's an over–the–top 1950s–era recipe I dug out of a grandmother's collection. This confection combines yellow cake, rhubarb, strawberry jello and marshmallows. If you aren't afraid of that last sentence, then pull up a chair and join me for a slice of "big pink."
Much of mid–century American cooking was about convenience and mechanization. Reading through cookbooks and recipe pamphlets from this time, I'm always struck by the amount of semi–homemade mixes, processed foods, canned goods and such are listed as ingredients. In our current culinary era, where freshness and whole foods dominate the food literature landscape, you'd be hard pressed to find pudding mix incorporated into any "farm to table" experience. But there's certainly a time and place for all types of food, be it from the Earth's soil or from a card board box. This is an instance where we utilize both schools of thought.
This rhubarb cake is a show–stopper. Its electric pink sweet-sour rhubarb and strawberry Jello layer sets off the richness of the yellow cake beautifully. There's a certain yin yang about the whole thing and the marshmallows add a toothsome chew. If you are a texture person, you're going to want to get at a corner of this cake. It's flavor country over there with a chew of the cakey crunch and concentrated strawberry candy–like layer. Each slice can be tempered with a little creme fraiche or ice cream, but it's hardly necessary.
Big Pink Rhubarb Cake
For the yellow cake:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
Yolks of 4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the rhubarb layer:
3 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 package strawberry Jello
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream(for optional garnish)
Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan. Preheat oven to 350°F. First make the yellow cake batter. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter. Add egg yolks, milk and vanilla until fully mixed. Finally add flour, baking powder and salt to the mixing bowl and mix until fully combined. Set aside.
Evenly distribute the rhubarb on the bottom of the greased baking pan. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup sugar and contents of one strawberry jello mix onto the rhubarb. Layer the marshmallows on top of the rhubarb as evenly as possible. Lastly, pour the cake batter over the entire surface of the rhubarb/marshmallow. It's okay if a few marshmallows poke through, it will be a thin layer of batter.
Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes until the cake is set. Allow to cool and sift the powdered sugar through a strainer to dust the top of the cake. Serve with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.
• Related: Spring Dessert Recipe: Roasted Rhubarb Clafouti
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)