There isn’t any rhubarb in California. At least, none that I could find in Los Angeles in June. In Maine, this time of year, you literally can’t give rhubarb away. You can, but it will come back to you threefold. Sometimes you find it under your pillow; when someone shakes your hand you walk away with a palmful inexplicably. Like zucchini in August, it’s obnoxiously abundant. It’s a weedy overgrown patch of wily stalks in your backyard fairly seething at you to come up with new recipes for pies and jams and cocktails. We had some growing in the farm house we rented in Topsham. Lucky for me, a fake Mainer displaced in this shiny Western desert, our terrific contributor Kasey mailed me a package of rhubarb that arrived on my welcome mat with a thud this week.
The strawberry rhubarb sauce I made – super simple, fruit cooked down with sugar, water, and lemon juice – could go on anything. ANYTHING. Vanilla ice cream, lady fingers, ribs. You’ll eat it from the jar with a spoon. Drizzled over angel food cake is kind of a perfect vehicle. It’s tart and the cake is sweet. Angel food, like spun sugar. Springy, sticky, melt in your mouth. It has a gauzy, seraphim quality that is terribly enjoyable as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea. It’s ladylike, demure, but you can also eat it like a boss all by yourself while binge-watching The Tudors after everyone is asleep. Making it requires some patience, but it’s a good way to focus. Cracking and separating eggs, watching the mixer as the whites foam and peak, folding in the flour and more sugar mixture. It’s contemplative. Follow my directions and all will be well. And now it’s summer.
Angel Food Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce
For the cake:
- 12 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon orange juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
- 1 cup rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 325 and move rack to bottom third of the oven.
In a mixing bowl combine flour and 1/2 cup sugar.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat eggs on medium speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Add cream of tartar, vanilla extract, orange zest and juice, and salt, mix another 2 minutes. Pour in 1 cup sugar with mixer running.
Turn up the mixer speed to medium-high until firm peaks form, about 2 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time. Carefully spoon/pour batter into a tube pan. Bake 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
Cool cake in the pan for at least 30 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, drizzle with sauce.
For the sauce:
In a medium saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, 30 minutes. More water may be added to thin sauce if desired.