There is a tradition that in the spring you take a tonic to give yourself a boost after winter deprivation. Since we now have oodles of things in the market all winter, there really is no deprivation. Still, a blast of tonic of some sort is great. One old fashioned one is rhubarb. It certainly has a robust taste, but if you cook it, it becomes more civilized.
Rhubarb looks a lot like red celery stalks when you buy it at the market. They have usually trimmed off the chard-like leaves, which is good because you shouldn't eat the leaves. The perfect companion for rhubarb is strawberries, another spring favorite.
I already had some strawberries when I saw the rhubarb at the store. When I got home I couldn't decide how to use them together. Jam is always wonderful. Strawberry-rhubarb pie is a favorite of mine, but I was feeling more like muffins or cake.
In The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham I found Buttemilk Lemon Pound Cake.
That provided the perfect base for a lovely Strawberry Rhubarb Pound Cake. It is light but rich, with a golden crust and sweet-tart tang from the buttermilk as well as the rhubarb and strawberries. A slice is the perfect thing with a cup of tea on a spring afternoon.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pound Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pans.
Combine 3 cups of the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; sift them together onto a large piece of waxed paper. Reserve the last 1/4 cup of flour for the berries and rhubarb.
Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until it is smooth and creamy. Slowly add the sugar, beating constantly. Continue beating until smooth and well blended. Add the eggs all at once, and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Combine the berries, diced, and the rhubarb, diced, in a bowl. Sprinkle with the flour and toss to coat. Add the lemon zest and toss to distribute the zest. Set aside.
Sprinkle the butter and egg mixture with about half of the flour-leavening-salt combination and beat until well blended. Stir the lemon extract into the buttermilk. Beat half the buttermilk mixture into the batter. Add the remaining flour and buttermilk mixtures and beat until the batter is smooth and well blended. Fold in the strawberry-rhubarb-zest mixture gently but thoroughly to distribute the fruit throughout the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes, or until they test done. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn out onto the rack, turn them right side up and allow to cool completely on the rack before serving. Makes two loaves.