After a few weeks waxing lyrical about conscious eating and how a respect for the seasons and the people who grow and raise what we eat has a significant affect on our physical and mental wellbeing, I thought it worthwhile reminding ourselves that while all that stuff's important, food is also about fun, so it—at least in the eating of—should never be taken too seriously.
So, in a moment of sheer folly, I upped and made a big pink strawberry rhubarb cake - a 1950's middle-American classic that has 'packet mix' written all over it. Atop token fruit was spread layers of jelly crystals and marshmallow, and there was so much sugar in this recipe I submit that it should actually be classed as a confection.
But alongside being surprisingly tasty it was also big, and it was silly, and it was fun. And sometimes, that's precisely what you need...
- 115 g butter
- 190 g caster sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 215 ml milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 290 g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1-cm pieces
- 1 cup strawberries, hulled and diced into 1-cm pieces
- 90 g sugar, extra
- 1 packet strawberry jelly crystals
- 3 cups miniature marshmallows* (see recipe below)
Cream together the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and creamy then add the eggs, milk and vanilla, a bit at a time, until fully incorporated. Fold through the flour, baking powder and salt until fully combined and set aside.
Grease and line a 23- ╳ 33-cm pan and preheat the oven to 175°C. Sprinkle the rhubarb and strawberry pieces evenly over the base of the pan, followed by the extra sugar, jelly crystals and then marshmallows. Spread the cake batter evenly over the whole surface, not worrying too much if some of the marshmallows poke through (it's a reasonably thin layer). Bake for around 60 minutes, until the cake is set, then allow to cool. To serve, dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar.
- 14 g gelatine sheets (gold strength)
- 120 g egg whites (approximately 3 eggs)
- 40 g honey*
- 230 g sugar
- 2-3 tsp vanilla extract, to taste
- 2 Tbsp each icing sugar and cornflour, to finish
Line a 20- ╳ 20-cm baking dish with parchment. In a medium bowl, soak the gelatine sheets in cold water, to soften, and have the egg whites ready in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Combine the honey, sugar and 90 ml water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar then keep at a simmer for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the gelatine sheets (first squeezed to remove any excess water) and stir to dissolve. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
Beat the egg whites to a soft peak and then slowly add the hot syrup in a steady stream, whisking continuously until the mixture cools to just above room temperature. Fold through the vanilla and then pour into the prepared tin. Cover lightly with parchment, without pressing on the surface, and leave somewhere cool for 24 hours.
To finish, place a sharp knife in a jug of hot water and lift the parchment to remove the marshmallow from the pan. Cut into squares and toss, three at a time, in the cornflour/icing sugar mixture. Transfer to a plate or wire rack and leave to dry for a few hours. The marshmallows will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days.
** While the freshly-made marshmallows were delicious they did tend to melt throughout the cake, and since I suspect they're intended to add a chewy texture you may want to try it using a harder, commercially-available variety.
** The flavour of the honey tends to dominate, so if you're making plain vanilla marshmallows be sure to use a variety that has a mellow flavour.