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Strawberry Rhubarb Cornmeal Sheet Cake: Oil-Based

Strawberry Rhubarb Cornmeal Sheet Cake: Oil-Based
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Strawberries and rhubarb (a classic combination) pair with a sweet cornmeal sheet cake for the easiest, tastiest, dessert or snacking cake you can make for Summer gatherings. This sheet cake has a great texture from the cornmeal, and is made with olive oil rather than butter to keep it from drying out, giving it the perfect “crumb”.

Strawberry rhubarb sheet cake in white baking dish.
Strawberry rhubarb sheet cake

Jump to: RECIPE | Ingredients & Substitutions | Illustrated Step by Step | Oil for Butter | About Cornmeal

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Ingredients and Substitutions

Basically any fruit can be used in this oil-based cornmeal sheetcake. For visual appeal, you can’t beat sliced strawberries with honey-colored cornmeal.

Ingredients for strawberry rhubarb sheet cake.
Ingredients for strawberry rhubarb sheet cake.

Fruit Substitutions

Other fruit options that would pair well with cornbread could include:

  • sliced peaches
  • sliced plums
  • blackberries
  • raspberries
  • apricots or nectarines
  • blueberries

Herbs, Spices or Extract Additions

In the recipe below I used some almond extract along with vanilla as that is my favorite flavor combination for cakes.

There are many wonderful additions or substitutions you could use with a cornmeal cake however. Here are some popular ones:

  • rose water
  • orange blossom water
  • rosemary or thyme
  • lime zest instead of lemon
  • fresh basil
  • ginger or cardamom

For Savory Toppings

A cornmeal cake can also be enhanced with savory toppings rather than fruit. My favorite savory topping or filling is green tomatoes. We seem to end up with an abundance of green tomatoes in Fall on the farm and this cornmeal-tomato pairing is a classic.

Other ideas for savory toppings include:

  • bacon
  • cheddar cheese
  • apples and onions
  • peppers (sweet and/or hot)
  • pickles (or pickled vegetables)

Butter or Oil for Cornmeal Cake?

I chose olive oil simply because I find it easier and the cake recipes I tested always seem to turn out better. I find olive oil adds a nuanced flavor to baked goods and keeps them moist.

If you do want to use butter instead of oil however, a general rule of thumb is to substitute three-quarters of the butter in a recipe with olive oil. In other words: If a baking recipe calls for a stick of butter (8 Tablespoons), for example, use 6 tablespoons of olive oil.

For more details on substituting butter for oil, check out this information on how to substitute olive oil for butter in baking.

About Cornmeal

When using cornmeal in cooking, recipes will often tell you to use cornmeal, but they don’t always specify which kind of cornmeal. Cornmeal can refer to many nuanced types, ranging from fine cornmeal, coarse cornmeal, corn flour, polenta, or even masa harina. It can become pretty confusing!

In the end, they are very similar ingredients, sometimes exactly the same by a different name. Here are a few of the differences that would make a difference in your final recipe:

  1. Color: Cornmeal can be yellow or white. You will often see yellow cornmeal used in Italian cooking where it is referred to as polenta. White cornmeal is often used in the US when making Southern grits.
  2. Texture: Cornmeal is referred to as fine or coarse, with corn flour being the finest grain. This is important because it tells you how fast it will cook
  3. Flavor: The “taste” is the most noticeable difference, with the finer the grind the less corn flavor.
  4. Masa, often used in Mexican cooking, is a bit different because it has been ‘nixtamalized.’ Nixtamalization is the process whereby the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution before being washed. The treated corn is then ground into masa. Blue masa harina is also prevalent in Mexican cooking. Nixtamalized masa can be used to form dough products like tortillas, whereas regular cornmeal cannot.
  5. Cornflour is the UK version of US cornstarch, and is very finely ground and pretty much pure starch. It is often used as a thickener because it absorbs liquids very quickly.
  6. Polenta is the Italian version of cornmeal and traditional polenta is very coarsely ground and will take a long time to cook. It is frequently used in savory recipes, or alone as polenta porridge or mush.

Whipped Cream: Soft peaks vs Stiff Peaks

Dollops of soft, creamy whipped cream adds the final touch to this cake. I like to add some vanilla or other flavoring to the whipped cream.

Since the recipe below uses almond extract in the batter, I would add a touch of almond extract to the whipped cream also. I often use a little rose water to the whipped cream when making fruit desserts.

Whipped cream is pretty easy if you have a stand mixer or something comparable. These pictures show you the difference between soft peaks and stiff peaks, if that is something you want to perfect.

Example of soft peaks when making whipped cream.
Example of soft peaks
Example of stiff peaks in whipping cream.
Example of stiff peaks

Illustrated Step by Step

These simple steps will get you a perfect oil-based strawberry rhubarb sheet cake. It’s easy and great for Summer potlucks or garden parties.

Steps 1 and 2: Chop the rhubarb and slice the strawberries thinly. Add them to a bowl and sprinkle with sugar and set aside to macerate while you make the batter.

Chopped rhubarb and sliced strawberries on white cutting board.
Step #1: Chop rhubarb and thinly slice strawberries
Strawberries and rhubarb macerating in a bowl with sugar.
Step #2: Add berries, rhubarb and 2 Tbsp sugar to a bowl, stir to coat, and set aside.

Steps 3 and 4: In a medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and gently combine.

Flour, sugar, cornmeal and baking soda in bowl prepping for sheet cake.
Step #3: Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder & baking soda)
Wet ingredients (eggs, vanilla, sour cream and lemon juice) mixed together in a blue bowl.
Step #4: Whisk together wet ingredients (eggs, sour cream, vanilla and lemon juice)

Steps 5 and 6: Slowly add the oil to the flour-egg mixture, stirring together until the oil is absorbed. Pour batter into baking dish and top with the strawberries and rhubarb. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes.

Batter for oil-based sheet cake.
Step #5: Stir together dry ingredients with wet & then slowly add oil until thoroughly incorporated.
Strawberry rhubarb sheet cake before baking.
Step #6: Pour batter into baking dish & top with sliced strawberries and rhubarb

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Strawberry Rhubarb Cornmeal Sheet Cake

Strawberry rhubarb sheet cake in white baking dish.
This sheet cake is easy and it perfectly pairs the strawberry and rhubarb with a sweetened cornmeal batter for plenty of texture. A great crowd pleaser for Summer gatherings
4.67 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 24
Calories 119

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces strawberries
  • 4 ounces rhubarb
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup cornmeal I used fine grain, but coarse is OK
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 large lemon 2 teaspoons zest and 3 tablespoons juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¾ cup oil I used olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350℉.
    Thinly slice strawberries and chop rhubarb into small pieces, maybe 1/4 inch. Add strawberries and rhubarb to a medium sized bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar
    8 ounces strawberries, 4 ounces rhubarb, 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • In medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup sugar, cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt
    1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together sour cream, eggs, yolks, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and almond extract
    1/2 cup sour cream, 3 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1 large lemon, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently stir until everything is combined.
    Slowly add oil into the batter, mixing with a spatula until all oil is combined.
    3/4 cup oil
  • Pour batter into prepared baking dish (i.e., coated with cooking spray or greased with butter) and arrange strawberries and rhubarb on top of the batter (it's OK if they sink down a bit).
    Bake at 350℉ for 45 minutes, or until outside edges start to turn golden brown. Remove and let cool before slicing
    Serve plain or with whipped cream (see notes for whipped cream directions)

Notes

Directions for whipped cream:
In a stand mixer, add 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar.
Beat until soft peaks are formed. See these photos to distinguish soft peaks from stiff peaks.

Nutrition

Calories: 119kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 2gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 83mgPotassium: 67mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 88IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 1mg
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  1. Karin Hall says:

    This looks good but it’s very confusing
    You say to add 2 Tbsp.of sugar to the fruit, but do not say where or when to add the remaining sugar.
    does it go in with the dry ingredients? I must be missing something here.
    Thanks.

    • You are right, it was confusing. I think I fixed it by separating the sugar amounts in the ingredients. The 2 tbsp sugar was to go with the fruit while macerating and then 1 cup of sugar is to be added to the dry ingredients. It should read correctly now. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

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