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By Barbara Simmons I June 09, 2014

Serve at your next picnic, or bring along to the next potluck dinner—you will be guaranteed rave reviews!

What combination says summer more than strawberries and rhubarb? Here is a dessert that everyone will love. If you’re the one that is always asked to bring dessert to a picnic or a potluck, do try this recipe. Cool, refreshing, tangy and sweet—everybody will save room for this delicious strawberry-rhubarb trifle .

When I was growing up, my mom, Gertrude, would refer to it as “strubarb,” or “that strawberry, rhubarb stuff with the Zwieback.” Throughout my childhood and teens I never knew it to have an official name. The German word that most closely describes the dish is Rhabarberauflauf. Since there is no specific English word for this dessert, I decided to name it after myself: Rhabarber-Barbara.

Recently, while doing a search on the origins of this dessert,I found a funny video on (the German Google). I had no idea that this dessert is the basis for a was a well-known tongue twister (Zungenbrecher) that features my name, Barbara. And even though the voice on the video is speaking German, the cartoon character is funny to watch. Some of the verse goes like this…

In einem kleinen Dorf wohnte einst ein Mädchen mit dem Namen Barbara.

Barbara war in der ganzen Gegend für ihren ausgezeichneten Rhabarberkuchen bekannt. Weil jeder so gerne Barbara's Rhabarberkuchen ass, nannte man sie Rhabarber-Barbara. Rhabarber-Barbara merkte bald, dass sie mit ihrem Rhabarberkuchen Geld verdienen könnte. Daher eröffnete sie eine Bar: Die Rhabarber-Barbara-bar.

Three main ingredients; strawberries, rhubarb and toast rusks.

Here is a link to the video if you are interested in hearing it in the original language.

All of the relatives from my mother’s generation make some version of this trifle. Sweet desserts were a rare pleasure during and after WW II as very few people had access to the ingredients necessary for making them. Rhabarberauflauf could be made with items that were not rationed and everyone had vegetable gardens in their own back yards, or in their community garden plots (Schrebergärten) where they grew their own strawberries and rhubarb.

A few notes about the ingredients:

•Frozen rhubarb and frozen strawberries can be substituted for fresh.

•Toast rusks are twice baked dry white bread, similar in texture and appearance to Melba toast. Real “Zwieback”, German baby teething biscuits, have become difficult to find, and I have used toast rusks available at some of the vegetable markets in the area. A few of the larger supermarkets carry varieties of toast rusks in their ethnic/imported food aisles as well. Grissinbon Toast Rusks are an Italian variety and Brand Zwieback is a German one. Ladyfingers or Nabisco “Nilla” wafers can be substituted if you absolutely can’t find toast rusks.


2 lbs. trimmed fresh rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-inchchunks

2 pints strawberries, hulled and halved

Rhubarb, with sugar added, is cooked down.

3/4 c. sugar – adjust the amount of sugar to taste. Sometimes the strawberries aren’t that sweet and you will need a little bit more.

1/2 pkg Gerber "Zwieback" toasts, GrissinBon toast rusks, or Brand Zwieback toasts

1 large package vanilla pudding (not instant—you need the kind you cook)

3 cups milk

Line the bottom of a two-quart casserole dish with one layer of toast rusks.

Put the rhubarb and the sugar in a three-quart saucepan. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, to dissolve sugar, and prevent sticking. Cook rhubarb until soft, 15-20 minutes. Turn the heat off, add the strawberries in and stir to combine. The strawberries don’t need cooking—they will soften a bit in the hot rhubarb mixture. Put the lid on the saucepan and set aside.

In a one-quart saucepan with the three cups of milk, whisk in the the vanilla pudding mix and cook according to the directions on the package. Stir well, ensuring that the pudding doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Set it aside once it has thickened.

Pour the hot rhubarb-strawberry mixture over the Zwieback toasts in the casserole dish. Top with the hot vanilla pudding. Cover with plastic wrap. Let cool on the counter then refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve at your next picnic, or bring along to the next potluck dinner—you will be guaranteed rave reviews!


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