Preheat the oven to 350°F
Three textures offer a triple taste surprise in this vintage treat. Slightly tart and creamy rhubarb custard forms the middle layer, sandwiched between a crisp cookie crust and a fluffy vanilla meringue crown. This rhubarb delight serves 15 guests and is easy to make. The recipe requires 6 cups of rhubarb and six eggs. Historically, both were plentiful on most farms in June and July.
There are many variations of this recipe in old cookbooks. Some home cooks add cream of tartar to the meringue. I refrigerated this dessert overnight, and the meringue remained stable without cream of tartar. I also froze leftover Rhubarb Surprise, and it held its shape. I eat this dessert cold from the fridge or at room temperature. If you aren't feeding a crowd, half the recipe for an 8" square dessert.
To Make the Base:
2 cups flour
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
I usually add the sugar and salt to the flour and cut chilled butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter. Press the crumbs into a 9" by 13" cake pan.
Bake the crust at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes. Don't overbake the crust because it will continue to cook during the next baking phase.
To Make the Custard Filling:
1 cup evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups granulated sugar
6 egg yolks, beaten (keep whites for topping)
Mix the above ingredients and add 6 cups of rhubarb. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the base and bake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes or until the custard is set.
Create a Meringue Topping:
6 egg whites
6 teaspoons of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Spoon the meringue on top of the rhubarb custard and return the dessert to the oven to bake until the meringue is golden brown, which usually takes 10 to 15 minutes.
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