Monday, April 5, 2010

Everyday - Everyday Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

The days slipped away from me, and I failed to notice that this blog just had its one-year anniversary on March 25th! That baffles me. I can't believe how quickly this year has flown by. So, thank you for reading, and even better if you tried something off of here that you liked!

I've been noticing lately how time seems to speed by faster than ever. As a kid, the minutes, hours, and days tended to drag on forever; the clock painfully ticking down the endless seconds till recess, till the weekend, till summer. Now, it seems I simply blink and an entire month has gone by. What I wouldn't give for a Saved by the Bell style "time out!"

I keep thinking about the play Our Town, by Thorton Wilder. For those of you who aren't familiar, the play consists of three acts: the first centers around the day-to-day lives of the community of Grover's Corners, highlighting two families who have a son George, and a daughter, Emily.

In the second act, George and Emily fall in love, and eventually get married. In the final act, Emily has died in childbirth, but revisits the town of Grover's Corners as a ghost. She is allowed to relive one day of her past. She chooses her 12th birthday, though other ghosts caution her not to go, as it will be too painful. When they cannot convince her, they advise her to, at the very least, chose an unimportant day to visit, "for the least important day will be important enough."

As Emily watches, unnoticed and unseen by her living family members, her Mother prepares breakfast, her Father reads the paper at the table, and the sights and sounds of what used to be everyday occurrences rush by her. Emily becomes more and more distraught and overwhelmed by all she took for granted. The pain quickly becomes too much and she says, "I can't go on. It goes so fast...I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed."

When Emily returns to her grave, she asks the narrator of the play if anyone ever realizes life while they live it--life as it is, "every, every minute."

"No," the Narrator says, "Saints and poets maybe--they do some."

I've read this play so many times over the years. I've seen several productions, but it wasn't until two years ago at the 2008 Oregon Shakespeare Festival production, that I finally started to understand. I found myself sitting in the outdoor theatre on a warm night, under the stars, with tears streaming down my face. I could hardly stand to see anymore. It was all so bittersweet, so uncontrollable, and much, much too fast.

It feels like the older you get, the more true it becomes. Time speeds up and slips away before you know it, and it's a struggle to simply live in the moment and appreciate everything for what it is.

Everyday Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
adapted from the Busy Day Cake recipe by Edna Lewis
compote adapted from Smitten Kitchen

This cake's official title is the "Busy Day Cake." It's nothing fancy, it comes together in about half-an-hour: an everyday type of thing. I called it the "Everyday Cake" when I couldn't remember the official name, and for me, it has stuck. I couldn't be happier that rhubarb is back in season. This combination is very much like a Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake. Is there anything better than the smell of baked rhubarb? If so, it's hard to imagine.

For the Compote
1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb strawberries, hulled and rinsed
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
2/3 cups sugar

Cut up the rhubarb and strawberries. Reserve about half of the cut strawberries and set aside. Put the remaining strawberries and cut rhubarb into a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat with the lemon juice, zest and sugar.

Let the mixture bubble and simmer for about five minutes. The juices will extract quickly. Stir from time to time to help everything breakdown. The rhubarb will fall apart and the whole thing becomes a beautiful fuchsia color. As soon as the rhubarb has broken down and become soft, remove from the heat, add the reserved strawberries and set in a bowl to cool to room temperature. Once the mixture has cooled, place in the refrigerator. It will keep for a couple weeks, covered. Makes about 3-4 cups.

For the Cake
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 good pinch nutmeg, freshly ground
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375. Beat the butter and sugar together until lightly fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter about 1/4 at a time and beat together. Add about 1/3 of the milk, and continue to alternate combining the milk and flour until all well incorporated.

Butter a 9x9 pan, and spoon the batter in, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! And I have a new appreciation for Our Town now! I used to think it was just cliched and boring musical. Cake looks yummy, I love rhubarb.

    Congrats on the one year anniversary!