Why yes, I did make myself a cake last weekend. (I shared. A mother’s love is selfless, right? ) The affair with rhubarb continues so I made rhubarb compote and sandwiched it between two cake layers plus lots of whipped cream, with extra whipped cream and compote on top to gild it all. It was a dream of a cake, not too sweet and very fluffy from all that whipped cream. Happy Mother’s Day to me.
I’ve been hankering after a strawberry cream cake since I had too many slices of one — just picked up at Marks & Spencers but oh so decadently good — during our trip to England in January. It was proper winter weather, ice, rain and very cold, a real respite after Saudi, so why I bought a cake that seemed better suited to spring garden parties doesn’t bear analyzing. Cream and fruit is advisable at any time of year, I suppose. I decided to recreate it at home, but with roasted rhubarb for the strawberries (though I still included a swipe of strawberry jam). Simple is as simple does but that’s sort of my cooking mantra.
Everyone not in the Southern Hemisphere could make this cake beginning now through the summer months and it would be lovely savored with a glass of cold bubbly with the windows open or even better on a deck or packed along on a picnic. As we’re being blessed here with lovely fall weather that allows us to enjoy many warm sunny days out of doors an otherwise spring-y cake feels just fine.
Sometimes on Mother’s Day I reflect on what it means to me to be a mother, how my life has changed since having one and now two little ones, but this year I didn’t do much of that. These days I feel a bit too in the thick of it to parse things over much. I will say that having children has grounded me in a way I’d never experienced previously and their needs — oh, their incredible needs! — serve to anchor my world in a way that I have found unexpectedly soothing. I was talking to a friend the other day and reflected that even though I may have had more energy in my 20s if I’d started having babies then I’m glad I waited until my 30s. I’ve done the work thing. Traveled a lot (also with children, but that’s another tale). Had adventures, run marathons, lived in two beautiful cities, worked on my career, had major life experiences. Life is a lot quieter and much more pared down now (yes we are living in an amazing city but more often than not our weekends consist of family park visits and swimming and getting gelatos rather than going on tourist excursions) and I don’t mind it at all. It’s actually a bit of a comfort to be focusing on someone else (or two someone elses). No more time for navel gazing and isn’t that a relief! I do think a lot about how my girls are growing up and wonder what kind of people they will become but their lives are literally still in infancy. It’s too early to even begin to speculate. So I try to nourish and snuggle and read and ply with fresh air and clean water gently nudge them towards daily kindnesses and considerations while staying as much in the moment as possible.
I also treat myself to huge daily cups of coffee, homemade cookies, and cake. CAKEcakecakecakecake. It keeps me sane; it’s good for the soul. No regrets.
I don’t sweeten my whipped cream but I know some like to do so – it’s up to you, but I like that this cake is slightly less sweet.
Makes one 8-inch cake.
1 pound rhubarb trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup honey
Heat oven to 350 F. Place cut rhubarb in a baking dish, drizzle over the honey, and mix to combine. Roast until soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, mix to fully break down the rhubarb, and set aside. You’ll need about 1 cup of compote for this recipe. Use the rest in yogurt, on toast … etc.!
Cake, adapted from Martha Stewart
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper. Butter and flour paper and sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in 3 parts and milk in 2, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, split cake in half horizontally; place bottom half, cut side up, on a serving plate.
1 cup cream, whipped
1/4 cup strawberry jam
Spread the bottom cake layer with the jam, then top with 3/4 cup of the rhubarb compote. Spread half the whipped cream over and top with the other cake layer. Spread the remaining 1/4 cup rhubarb over the top layer and spread the remaining whipped cream over in an even layer.