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Food and Drink

This layered rhubarb dessert goes perfectly with sunny spring afternoons

  • Author: Kim Sunée
    | Alaska cooking
  • Updated: April 22
  • Published April 22

Rhubarb pick-me-up (Photo by Kim Sunée)

When I first imagined this recipe — a spring-forward sweet trifle of ladyfingers layered with cream and rhubarb — it started out in the English countryside to enjoy with tea or after a light meal. Once I got in the kitchen, I realized the trifle needed to go to finishing school in Italy, hence the tiramisu — Italian for pick me up/lift me up. Campari, or crème de Cassis, and crushed, freeze-dried strawberries replace coffee and powdered cocoa on top. The result is a luxurious, bright-tart twist on two classics. This is easy to whip together, but make sure to plan to make it at least four hours and up to 24 hours ahead to allow the ladyfingers — or pound cake — plenty of time to soak up the rhubarb and mascarpone mixture. And let it sit out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before enjoying. This is my new go-spring treat for sunny afternoons and porch-chair traveling.

Rhubarb pick-me-up

2 pounds rhubarb, tough peels removed and cut into 1-inch pieces (if using frozen, thaw a few hours in fridge)

1 scant cup sugar

Fresh-squeezed juice from 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)

Pinch salt

1 to 2 tablespoons crème de Cassis or Campari

1 cup / 8 ounces vanilla yogurt

1 cup / 8 ounces mascarpone, room temp

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar

7 to 8 ounces ladyfingers (about 22) or pound cake or angel food cake

1 ounce freeze-dried strawberries, crushed, for dusting

Place rhubarb, scant cup of sugar, lemon juice, and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Let cook, stirring occasionally, eight minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Stir in crème de Cassis, if using; set aside to cool.

Place yogurt, mascarpone, and vanilla in a bowl and whisk mixture to combine. Taste and depending on how sweet you prefer, add one to two tablespoons sugar. To assemble: place a single layer of ladyfingers or — poundcake slices — in the bottom of a 9-inch glass or ceramic dish, breaking up ladyfingers as needed to fit. Spoon half of rhubarb and syrup over in a single layer. Top with half of mascarpone-yogurt mixture; top with another layer of lady fingers, and spoon remaining half of rhubarb and syrup over; top with remaining mascarpone-yogurt mixture and smooth top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours and up to 24 hours. About 30 to 45 minutes before serving, remove dish from fridge. Crush freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor — or in a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin — and dust top of rhubarb trifle. Cut slices or spoon into serving dishes and dust with more crushed freeze-dried strawberries, if desired.