Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Tall Cake

Rhubarb syrup and filling
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1-in pieces
2 whole star anise
8 medium basil leaves
3 3-in thin strips of lemon zest
1/4 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups sugar
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla

1 pint fresh strawberries, divided
8 oz. crème fraîche
2/3 cup heavy cream

Prepare the rhubarb:
Combine the sugar and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Add the remaining ingredients except the vanilla. Return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb is soft. Strain the solids, reserving the syrup. Return the syrup to the pan bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes, or until the volume is reduced to about 1 1/3 cups. Add the vanilla. Cool to room temp and then refrigerate.

Remove the whole spices from the rhubarb solids. Puree the solids in a food processor. Refrigerate.

Prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease 2 9-in round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.

Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla in a small dish. Add 1/3 of the buttermilk mixture to the butter mixture and mix until liquid is absorbed. Add 1/3 of the flour mix. Mix just until combined. Alternate buttermilk and flour for 2 more additions ending with the flour. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans and level.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks. Cool completely.

Assemble the cake:
Cut 3/4 of the stawberries into thick slices. Add 1/3 cup rhubarb syrup to strawberries and stir to coat.

The remaining 1/4 of the strawberries can be halved or left whole as they will be decoration for the top of the cake. Combine the halved strawberries with 2 T - 4T (enough to coat the berries) rhubarb syrup.

Once the cakes are cool, cut the cakes in half horizontally with a serrated knife to create four layers.

Whip the crème fraîche and heavy cream. Gradually add about 1/3 cup rhubarb syrup. Taste the cream and add a little more syrup if necessary. Whip the cream until firm but not stiff peaks form.

Place the bottom of one of the cakes onto a plate. Layer 1/4 of the cream, 1/3 of the pureed rhurbarb, and the 1/3 of the sliced strawberries and syrup on top. Add the next layer and repeat filling layers. Add the third layer and repeat filling layers. Add the top layer. Evenly spread the remaining cream on the top layer and decorate with syrup coated halved strawberries.

Refrigerate until ready to server. Let stand at room temp for 20-30 minutes before serving.

This cake is best eaten the day assembled. The rhubarb syrup and puree can be made up to a couple of days in advance. The cake can be made a day ahead, cooled, and wrapped.

Extra rhubarb syrup can be used in beverages, on ice cream, etc.