black pepper honey rhubarb cake trifle with strawberry jam and yogurt


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

black pepper honey rhubarb cake trifle with strawberry jam and yogurt | A Brown Table

Truth be told, I ignored rhubarb this year or maybe it ignored me. Flat out! I couldn’t find it at any of the farmer’s market and the one time I did, it wasn’t very good. Considering it is really easy to grow and is a hard plant to kill (and unless it is a geography/climate thing) it should have been easier. Maybe it’s not that popular here than it was in D.C. I’ve found rhubarb occasionally at some of our local grocery stores but again the quality was “meh”. Then about a week ago, I got lucky! M got some good ones from the farmer’s market. These were nice firm pink stalks to cook with. 

Trifles were one of my favorite desserts growing up. My grandmother made them with fruit, cakes , custards and creams. Unfortunately, I never thought one serving was enough. Every layer in a trifle is waiting to be discovered. It’s what I call the permutation effect. By itself each layer has it’s own beauty and combined with each of the other layers in different combinations it is even more exciting. 

The idea behind adding black pepper to this cake, came from an old Indian cold remedy that involves freshly ground black pepper and honey. It’s a tasty remedy that works from a treatment standpoint and from a flavor angle. Another combination that is classic is rhubarb and strawberries, very simple ingredients when combined together they bring out the flavors in each other. Though the black pepper is tiny in amount, it bumps up the flavor of the rhubarb and strawberry when eaten together. Vanilla on the other hand helps to bring all the flavors together in a harmonious note (if that makes any sense). 

black pepper honey rhubarb cake trifle with strawberry jam and yogurt | A Brown Table

black pepper honey rhubarb cake trifle with strawberry jam and yogurt | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this dessert;

  • If you can’t find rhubarb, the frozen stuff works just as well. 
  • You can try a bunch of different flavored sugars besides vanilla. I like to keep it mild when it comes to rhubarb because I paired this with strawberry jam. I adapted the rhubarb infusion technique from Martha Stewart
  • Use full fat or low-fat greek yogurt for a creamier taste and flavor. Whipped up creme fraîche is another great option. I’m also not listing how much greek yogurt to use. I think that part varies by personal preference, I normally use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup because I like yogurt a lot but I recommend adding how much you want to. Same goes for the jam!
  • I didn’t sweeten the yogurt since the jam and cake are sweet but if you like you can sweeten it a little. 
  • You can also decorate the trifle with fresh strawberries. 
  • To store the cake, you can refrigerate it in wrapped up in clingfilm. 

black pepper honey rhubarb cake trifle with strawberry jam and yogurt | A Brown Table

black pepper honey rhubarb cake trifle with strawberry jam and yogurt 

yields: about 12 servings (one 9 inch loaf pound cake)


3 to 4 firm pink rhubarb sticks (approximately 1 cup diced)

1/4 cup fine sugar

2 sticks (16 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature + a little extra for greasing the cake pan

1 (214g/7.54 ounces) sugar

5 large eggs, cold

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon black pepper powder, freshly ground 

198.47gm/7 ounces whole wheat pastry flour, sifted three times + 1 1/2 tablespoons

plain greek yogurt (full fat or low-fat), lightly whipped

strawberry jam

1. Trim the ends of the rhubarb stalks and place them in a pan. Prick each stalk a few times with pointed end of a paring knife. Sprinkle with the fine sugar, toss to coat. Cover the pan with cling film and leave in the refrigerator overnight. 

2. Line and grease a 9 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and a little butter. Place a wire rack in center position in the oven and heat the oven to 350F.

3. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment cream the mixture for about 4 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed. Add one egg at a time and beat until combined completely. Add the vanilla, honey and black pepper and beat the mixture for another 1 minute until combined. 

4. Add half of the 7 ounces of flour to the batter and whisk on medium-low speed and then on medium-high until almost combined. Stop the mixer and add the remaining flour and whisk in the same manner. 

5. Unwrap the pan containing the rhubarb. Chop the rhubarb into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Toss the rhubarb with the 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour. Fold the rhubarb into the batter with a silicone spatula. Then quickly pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake in the oven for about 55 to 65 minutes rotating the pan half way through the baking process. The cake will be done when the center is firm to touch or a knife or skewer comes out clean when passed through the center of the cake. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the cake to cool to room temperature in the pan.

6. To prepare and serve the trifle: Cut two generous slices of cake and place them in a serving dish/glass. Top the cake with a generous dollop of greek yogurt and a spoonful of the jam. Serve immediately. 


15 Responses

  1. Nik:

    I am glad you finally got your rhubarb fix. We live in New Hampshire, where rhubarb is abundant and as much a part of spring as the blooms in the trees. We had friends visit recently from South Carolina who had never heard of it. I learned then that it is a regional thing, particular to the northeast states.

    This dish looks truly amazing. I love the combination of flavors and textures. Well done.

    Time to pick some more rhubarb.


  2. I ignored rhubarb this last summer season too (Southern Hemisphere here) but I wish I had some right now. These trifles look wonderful! The black pepper in them is such an intriguing addition and I’m eager to make them next summer and taste each of the layers waiting to be discovered!

  3. Yay for rhubarb! I actually never tried rhubarb with anything until I moved out to the east coast. I’m not sure if it’s because my parents just didn’t know about or care about rhubarb in California, or if its the scarcity in the supermarkets?When I was in school in the midwest, my friend from South Dakota was shocked that I’d never had a rhubarb pie. But how could I even try to make one when I didn’t know the natural flavors of rhubarb? Then I moved to Boston and had some lovely friends who made me some rhubarb treats, and I was hooked. They’re such photogenic foods too. This looks lovely!

  4. Just gorgeous Nik! I had not done a thing with rhubarb until this year, but now I’m wondering why I haven’t! I was always under the impression that it was totally gross without lots of sugar, but it seems like it has a place to shine on its own : )

  5. This is incredible! All these flavors sound like they are in absolute perfect harmony — and your words here are so lovely. Love this so much, Nik!

  6. These photos are amazing, Nik! It’s difficult to find rhubarb here in SoCal, too… at least in my town. Maybe it’s just a California thing?
    And ooh, every layer of this trifle is incredible. Love! <3

  7. Nik! Lunardi’s market near me has rhubarb. Let me know if you’d like me to pick up some for you — it freezes remarkably well and the quality is always quite good.

    As always, your recipes and photos make me forget to breathe. This isn’t healthy for me, but please never stop doing what you do.

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