Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake, and Other Memories of My Dad

I’m back from Boise.  I know I promised you pictures of all the City of Trees has to offer, but my trip home turned out to be much different from what I’d planned.

I arrived in Boise on the 7th, and I knew the minute I saw my father that his health had declined precipitously since I’d last seen him, in October.  He hadn’t been in good health generally for the last five years, but this change was different.  He didn’t seem like himself at all, and he clearly didn’t know who I was–though that was something I’d expected.

So I wasn’t completely taken off guard when, on the third day of my visit, we discovered that he was hardly strong enough to get out of bed.  We called the hospice nurse while he ate breakfast and drank some coffee.  After she’d examined him, she suggested that we put him back in bed.

That was Saturday.  He didn’t get out of bed again. On Tuesday, July 12th, at 9 a.m., he passed away with my sister and I standing beside his bed, telling him we’d all be okay.

My dad was 84 years old, a veteran of two wars and a survivor of three combat injuries.  He’d been a smoker since he was 12, and he had his first heart attack before he turned 50.  He was suffering from bladder cancer, heart disease, emphysema and dementia.  All things considered, it was a miracle that we had him in our lives as long as we did.  Still, there are no words for how much I’m missing him.

I just arrived back home in Texas a few days ago, and I’m slowly trying to create whatever will be my normal life now.  I’m thinking back on the last few days I spent with my dad–difficult days, to be sure, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything–and feeling grateful that one of the last things he ate was a piece of this Rhubarb Upside Down Cake that I’d baked for him.  I was so excited to find the rhubarb still growing in his garden that I got busy in the kitchen not long after I arrived.  My dad enjoyed it so much that my mom and I went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for a second cake, although that one didn’t get baked.

This is my mom’s recipe for a dessert I remember well from my childhood.  I’ll think of my dad every time I eat this cake–and, probably, every time I hear a stalk of rhubarb calling my name.  He was a man of simple tastes:  fruit from his garden, cake from a box.  It didn’t take much to make him happy.  I’m so glad I got the chance to do that one last time before he moved on.



Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake


4 cups rhubarb, sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 small box strawberry Jello
1 cup miniature marshmallows
3 T. butter, melted
1 yellow cake mix
Additional ingredients as specified by the cake mix


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray. Add the sliced rhubarb to the pan; sprinkle the sugar, Jello, and marshmallows over the rhubarb. Pour the melted butter over this mixture.

Prepare the cake mix as directed on the box. Pour the prepared cake batter over the rhubarb mixture. Some of the marshmallows may float to the top, but don't worry about them. They'll sink as the cake rises.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is set at the center. Allow the cake to cool half an hour before serving; invert the whole cake (or individual pieces) so the rhubarb mixture is on top, and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.



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One Response to “Rhubarb Upside Down Cake, and Other Memories of My Dad”

  1. 1

    Beth — July 26, 2011 @ 2:07 am

    Sorry for your loss, Pam. It is lovely that you have this special Foodie memory with him.

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