Recipe From the River: Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce with Pound Cake

3 Min. Read

An Unexpected Twist on the Classic Summer Dessert

I remember the first time I ever made this fruity dessert. We were camped at Lone Pine Bar, a large, sprawling beach camp on the Lower Salmon. The Idaho sun was simply uninterested in setting; we laughed and hid under our wide-brim straw sun hats. We had to kneel in the river to keep the cream cold while we hand-whipped it. Although we serve this favorite river recipe on all of the Idaho rafting trips OARS runs, I love it best on the Lower Salmon

A key to this recipe is the source of two of the most important ingredients. We source our strawberries, vine-ripened, from a farm in Walla Walla, Washington. Our rhubarb comes from our backyard—or, more specifically, the yards of two of our Idaho warehouse managers. 

Rhubarb is incredibly hardy and can be grown in most climates. This large perennial will produce for 5-10 years, and, once well-established, can compete with weeds. It’s a great option for the hands-off gardener, or even someone who’s never tried growing food at home before. 

Although the sauce takes a long time to make, it can be prepared in batches and frozen. We traditionally serve it over pound cake, but certain river guides have been known to save the leftovers for French toast. It would be delicious over waffles, pancakes, or with granola and yogurt, as well. 

How to Make OARS Idaho’s Signature Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

Ingredients  | Serves 6


  • 4 cups local strawberries, chopped
  • 4 cups local rhubarb, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
  • ⅔ cups sugar


  • 16 oz heavy cream (we like Organic Valley)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Store bought plain or lemon pound cake pairs deliciously with this sauce. Pamela’s Lemon Shortbread Cookies are a favorite gluten-free substitute.


How to make the sauce

  1. Chop rhubarb down into inch long sections. Chop strawberries into quarters.
  2. Combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon and orange juice in a heavy saucepan.
  3. Heat pan to medium low, stirring occasionally so the sauce does not stick to the pan. Cook until the rhubarb is tender, not mushy—about 40-60 minutes. You can test with a fork—the rhubarb is done when the fork can slide through cleanly.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and blend. An immersion blender is easiest, but batching in a stand-up blender or hand-blending will work, as well.
  5. Chill for at least two hours to set the sauce.

Whip cream from scratch

  1. Pour cold heavy cream into a chilled bowl. 
  2. Whisk until nearly desired thickness, usually when the cream forms soft peaks. 
  3. Gently fold in vanilla and maple syrup.

Putting it together

  1. Place a thick slice of cake in a bowl.
  2. Liberally cover with chilled or reheated strawberry rhubarb sauce.
  3. Dollop whip cream on top and serve immediately!

Photos: Rob Aseltine; Justin Bailie

Mia Clyatt

Mia Clyatt is a professional river guide, ski patroller and an advocate for wilderness. She loves good food, good company, and open ranges.

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