I’ve noticed that couples often begin to appear more and more alike over time, perhaps dressing in a similar style, or subconsciously picking up facial expressions, mannerisms, sayings and the like. While it might be that we are drawn to others who are similar to ourselves (including appearance to some degree), these nuances are only amplified with time spent together. Naturally, I’d assume that this applies to long-lasting friendships as well.
This theory became particularly apparent to me yesterday after spending the better part of my night at a favorite neighborhood bar - Madrone. I was there with a group that included Ally, who is one of my oldest friends (we’re coming up on 10 years of friendship, in fact). At one point in the night, she rejoined the group after talking to a new acquaintance who had asked if we were related. Now, I may not be the most skeptical person around, yet this still sounded a bit suspiciously like a pick-up line to me, but at the same time it got me thinking; if this comment was based in truth, was it our similarity in appearance (we look somewhat alike, but not startlingly so), or more an observation of the more subtle and hard to pin down similarities that we may have gleaned from each-other over the years? Regardless of the motivation behind his observation, it was a good reminder to appreciate not only the length but the breadth of our friendship. I’m lucky enough to have a close group of friends (Ally included) that have known one another since early high school (and some of us from before that). So, in many ways, we’ve become more a family than simply friends. We all have our quirks and differences, and that’s a large part of what I love these girls for.
What does this have to do with cake, you ask? Well, this is the sort of cake I would (and have) bring/brought to a gathering of close friends for two reasons: 1. It is DELICIOUS, 2. It sounds a bit weird,* share this with those who will trust your good taste. Believe me, they will be pleasantly surprised.
*”Strawberry rhubarb pie? But, I thought that was a pie filling…”
I hesitate to call this a “cake” as the crumb is different than what I’ve come to expect, it’s denser and extremely moist, and holds up remarkably well to the addition of chunks of fruit. It reminds me in some ways of a clafouti, but it’s not quite that either texturally. Regardless of name, this is a crowd-pleaser; both times I’ve made this after the initial skepticism it was devoured quickly and with great gusto. Try swapping out the fruit for other combinations, I imagine this would be amazing with peaches and blackberries, or raspberries and plums, feel free to let your imagination run wild.
Yield: 1 cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups (7.5 ounces) all purpose flour
½ tablespoon baking powder
scant 1 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 2 oranges
1 large egg, at room temperature
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
≈ ½ pound strawberries, hulled and halved/quartered (depending on size of berries)
≈ ½ pound rhubarb, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
1-2 tablespoons muscovado sugar (or other coarse sugar)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 ½” pie plate.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, granulated, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the egg, cream and vanilla to the butter mixture, and mix until combined. In two additions mix in the dry ingredients until combined. Pour the batter into the pie plate; it will be thicker than most cake batter, so you may need to spread it out with a spatula.
Arrange the rhubarb and strawberries on the surface of the batter in one layer (there will be a bit extra, try to fit them as tightly together as you can). Sprinkle with muscovado sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake until golden brown and springy, somewhere between 35 and 50 minutes (check at the earlier time and go from there).
Allow to cool, slice and serve with whipped cream, sorbet, or keep it plain and simple – all options are delicious.