two birthdays | strawberry rhubarb cornmeal cake

Today is my birthday, and about a week before my big day three years ago, I started a blog. I've described some of my journey here before, how I learned to cook in college after determining that grilled cheese sandwiches and frozen curly fries weren't sufficient, long-term solutions to hunger. How I blackened the ceiling in my first apartment trying to fry mozzarella sticks. (Or maybe I didn't tell you, but there it is, mistakes happen).

When Andrew and I were in Santa Barbara last month we ate our last meal of the week at Mattei's Tavern in Los Olivos. Early in the evening I overheard a server rattle off the dessert specials, and my mind was decided the moment upside down rhubarb cornmeal cake was on the menu. It was drizzled with blueberry sauce and served a la mode. It was one of those perfect endings, and when I looked down at my empty plate, swirled with melted ice cream and nothing but crumbs left, I was blissfully happy.

It turns out that even little 4-inch springform pans are too big for one person, so they're easily shared. With ice cream melting over its side, the cake looks like a hot, drippy mess, but that's something I love about it. Nothing fancy about appearances here, just utter contentment. 


Recipe adapted from SmittenKitchen via Bon Appetit

For the fruit
1 pound rhubarb, chopped
1 pint strawberries, sliced
2 tablespoons each unsalted butter and extra-virgin olive oil

For the cake
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup skim milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour 4 miniature springform pans (4-inch round). In a large saucepan, melt the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the fruit and cook until softened and their juices thicken, about 7 minutes.

To make the batter, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Cream butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add vanilla, then add eggs one at a time and mix until combined. Add a third of the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk and continue mixing until just combined.

Divide the fruit evenly among the pans and gently spread to cover the bottom. Divine the batter evenly among the pans and gently spread over the fruit with a small icing spatula. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and cake is light golden brown.

Cool for at least 10 minutes, then invert each cake onto a plate and slowly release from the pan. Serve warm or room temperature, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.