Rhubarb Shortcake ~ the combination of flaky pastry, juicy tart fruit, and sweet cream is unbeatable. One taste of this easy and elegant spring dessert and you’ll never settle for strawberry shortcake again!
A fruit shortcake is a classic spring dessert that everyone needs to know how to make. As a bonus, the components for these rhubarb shortcakes can be prepped ahead of time, making it a perfect recipe for spring entertaining. But it’s totally easy enough for everyday family meals, and if you’re cooking for one or two, the extra biscuits and compote can be frozen for later.
One of the earliest recipes I ever posted on this blog was for a peach shortcake that I discovered one summer when I was in college. We drove out into the New Hampshire countryside in search of a diner that was famous for its local peach shortcake. That freshly made biscuit, topped with super juicy sliced peaches and mounded with whipped cream was truly one of the most memorable foodie experiences I’ve ever had. This rhubarb version might just give it some competition. Oh my word this is good.
This rhubarb shortcake recipe is a combination of 3 elements:
- vanilla bean scones
- rhubarb compote
- whipped cream
The shortcakes for this type of dessert are usually biscuits or a sponge cake, and I much prefer the biscuit version. Scones are closely related to biscuits, but a little sweeter and richer. They’re the perfect base for this rhubarb shortcake. Split them in half with a fork, just like you would an English muffin, along the natural breaking point where it has risen. That way it will stay light and fluffy.
What’s the difference between a scone and a biscuit?
Both are ‘quick breads’, leavened with baking soda or baking powder…. Scones are “shorter” (higher ratio of fat to flour) than biscuits. Scones sometimes contain eggs, while biscuits don’t.
Scones are usually sweet, and served with jam or clotted cream, while biscuits are savory, and served with butter.
The slender stalks of spring rhubarb are my favorite, and it really doesn’t matter if they’re deep red, or a mix of pale green and pink. The flavor of both are wonderful.
Be sure to freeze some rhubarb this spring so you can enjoy these delicious shortcakes all summer long. (I like to mix rhubarb with blackberries or peaches later in the season.)
To freeze rhubarb ~
Wash and dry the stalks.
Thinly slice them into about 1/2 inch pieces.
Lay the fruit out in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Put the pan in the freezer for an hour. The fruit will be hard.
Quickly transfer the fruit to heavy duty zip lock freezer bags, label, and put back in the freezer. Push out any excess air before zipping closed.
They’ll last 6 months to a year.
Use the fruit straight from frozen in recipes.
A little sugar, a splash of water, and just a short simmer on the stove top creates the most luscious compote that is sweet/tangy and gorgeously colored. It just takes a few minutes for the rhubarb to release its juices and soften up. The resulting sauce is spooned over a split scone to allow the juices to sink into the scone and become something impossibly delicious.
The combination of the flaky pastry, the juicy tart fruit, and the smooth cream is unbeatable. This dish is perfect for Mother’s Day, or any type of elegant brunch, luncheon, or spring get-together.
Rhubarb Shortcake (make ahead!)
- 3 cups 426 grams all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup 56 grams granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 6 ounces 170 grams cold butter, cut in pieces
- 1 large egg 50 grams
- about 3/4 cup 172 grams heavy cream, measure as directed below, plus more for brushing
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 and 1/2 pound 650 grams trimmed and thinly sliced rhubarb, about 6-7 cups
- 1 cup 225 grams granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- sweetened whipped cream
- Preheat oven to 400F Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor until combined.
- Pulse in the cold butter until it's well dispersed, about 30 pulses.
- Crack the egg into a glass pint measuring cup and add enough cream to make 1 cup. Add the vanilla paste and whisk to combine.
- Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and add the liquid, mixing just until the dough comes together, it will still be crumbly. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to bring it together into a flat disk. Knead until no dry flour remains. Note: if your dough is too dry, add a touch more cream.
- Roll out the dough gently to about 3/4 inch, and cut 8 scones, reforming the dough as necessary. I used a 3" biscuit cutter.
- Place the scones on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile put the sliced rhubarb (it will be about 6-7 cups) and sugar in a saucepan, and add 1/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let the mixture gently bubble until the rhubarb releases its juices and softens, stirring often, about 5-8 minutes. I like to keep the lid loosely on the pan to retain the moisture. If the mixture seems dry, add a little more water. Stir in the vanilla paste at this time and set aside.
- Brush the tops of the scones with a little cream, and bake for about 15-17 minutes, just until they've risen and are starting to turn golden. Don't over bake.
- To serve, split the scones with a fork, and spoon some of the compote over one half, being sure to get some juice along with the fruit. Top with whipped cream, and the other half of the scone.
- The shortcakes can be served warm, or at room temperature.
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