My favorite things in the world right now are South Carolina strawberries. I don’t know what it is, but this season they are exceptionally good. When I was at the farmer’s market last weekend, I felt like the strawberries were calling out to me from every booth. I couldn’t resist. So a few days ago, I bought some and made this cake:
Ohhh my. I first made this cake a few years ago, and I don’t know why it took me until now to make it again, because it is seriously delicious. It’s one of those cakes that you’re tempted to eat for breakfast because the next morning you see it sitting in the fridge and you have to question if it’s okay to eat cake at 9 AM. But you don’t have to! I have the solution:
I wanted the flavors of this cake in a more breakfast-friendly format, and it came to me: Stuffed. French. Toast. Have there ever been three more beautiful words in the English language? Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you I have a thing for stuffed desserts. There’s nothing like the look of wonder when someone is surprised by a sweet filling. It’s basically like a present inside of a present; am I right?! I used the same filling from the cake recipe, but instead of topping the French toast with boring old whipped cream, I combined whipped cream with cream cheese and added orange zest and vanilla.
These pieces of French toast are like little clouds. The brioche is the perfect, pillowy vessel for the tangy strawberry-rhubarb filling. The rubarb gives you a nice balance to offset the sweetness of the strawberries. The whipped cream/cream cheese combination gives you an exceptionally light topping for the French toast with a burst of orange flavor.
Just look at that beautiful filling! Strawberries and rhubarb are not in season for much longer, so you need to make this dish ASAP. It would make for a perfect Mother’s Day Brunch.
Strawberry Rhubarb Stuffed French Toast with Whipped Orange Cream Cheese
1 loaf brioche bread
1/3 cup half and half
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 tablespoons butter
Extra sliced strawberries and powdered sugar, for garnish
For the strawberry-rhubarb filling:
2 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
¼ cup plus ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
½ cup thinly sliced strawberries
For the whipped orange cream cheese:
½ cup cold heavy cream
4 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp orange zest
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Combine the rhubarb, ¼ cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to cook until it becomes a thick puree, around 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Once the rhubarb puree has cooled, fold in the sliced strawberries and the ½ tablespoon of sugar. Set aside.
- Whip the heavy cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, around 6 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 20 seconds.
- Add the cream cheese to the bowl with the whipped cream. Add the orange zest, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Set aside.
- Combine the eggs, half and half, cinnamon, and vanilla in a shallow bowl.
- Slice the brioche bread into 1.5 inch slices. You don’t have to break out the ruler here, but you want the bread to be thick enough to form a pocket for the stuffing.
- Using a knife, make a slit in the bottom of each slice. This is the pocket where your filling will go. Stuff each slice with around 2 tablespoons of filling.
- Dunk each slice of stuffed brioche in the egg mixture. Make sure that each slice has a nice coating.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Fry the brioche, 2 slices at a time, in the skillet until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 2 slices of brioche.
- Top each slice of French toast with a healthy dollop of the whipped orange cream cheese. Garnish with additional sliced strawberries and powdered sugar, if desired.