Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

I’m not going to lie, probably as many of you out there, most of my experience with rhubarb has been in combination with strawberries. Strawberry rhubarb pie, strawberry rhubarb jam, all the usual combinations. I love strawberry rhubarb. Would you like to know what I love even MORE than strawberry rhubarb? Just plain rhubarb. It is tangy and sweet, crunchy and delicious. It reminds me of celery that’s sweeter and more tart. What I’m saying is that if you haven’t tried raw rhubarb plain you need to. Yes, it’s sour, no it might not be your kind of thing, but to truly appreciate rhubarb flavor you have to try it.

When you pick rhubarb you want to look for bright, firm stalks. Let me clarify that this does not always mean red. The color varies depending on variety; it is not an indicator of ripeness. While the red is certainly more desirable color wise, I think  a mix of red and green would make this upside down cake beautiful!

This recipe comes from Martha Stewart and it is a wonderful upside down cake. There is a bit of whole wheat flour that lends a bit of nuttiness, and it is topped (or crusted, depending on how you look at it) with a crumb layer that adds a wonderful crunch to a sometimes very one dimensional cake (texture-wise, we’ve all had pineapple upside down cake).

Adapted from Martha Stewart

For the Crumb Topping

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup white wheat flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Cake

1 pound firm rhubarb stalks, ends trimmed and cut at a very sharp angle into 3 inch long pieces

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, divided

1 1/2 cups white wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

freshly grated zest from one medium-sized orange

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk


Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan with parchment. Butter sides of the pan and parchment, dot the bottom of the pan with 4 Tbs of the butter and set aside.

To make the crumb topping combine melted butter, flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl and use a fork to combine. Refrigerate until needed.

For the cake, in a medium sized bowl toss the rhubarb with ¾ cup of the sugar and set aside.

In another bowl combine flour baking powder and salt, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat remaining stick of butter and cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add orange zest and juice and beat to combine. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, mixing until just combined.

Toss the rhubarb one more time, then lay the pieces in the pan as closely together as you can without overlapping too much Lay them in rows all going the same direction. Pour remaining sugar from bowl over rhubarb.

Pour batter in pan, smoothing the top, then sprinkle the crumb mixture over the batter. Bake for one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake and pop open the spring form.  Keep the crumb later up while the cake cools so that it will stay crisp. Invert onto a plate and peel off the parchment layer before serving.

A few notes:

I never buy real buttermilk. I combine 1 Tbs lemon juice to one cup of milk and let it set until it lightly curdles.

I had left over rhubarb so I made a rhubarb syrup which is what you see drizzled onto the plate. The basic recipe is here. However, since I had the orange I also added about 2 tsp of orange zest and the juice of one orange. This will be delicious in a cocktail….

In my personal opinion I could have used even more rhubarb. When I make this again I will most likely cube the rhubarb so I can have a denser layer. Rhubarb is also a bit stringy so I think it would make it easier to cut with a fork. Yes, the stripes look pretty, but I’m here for the flavor.

The picture at the top of the page is from here, my rhubarb just wasn’t as colorful as I wanted (but like I pointed out, that doesn’t make the flavor any less delicious!) I Googled rhubarb and couldn’t help but start the post with this beautiful picture!




Filed under Dessert, Recipes

5 responses to “Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

  1. Guilty as charged. I always combine the two. This is a great recipe, consider me a convert.

  2. Chris K

    I have to say that you guys are amazing! The amount of effort you put into this blog is impressive: the photography, research, and writing is top-notch. Now, I am a critical, grumpy old chef who seems to delight in pointing out others’ stupidly ignorant culinary mistakes. Not here. You are the real deal.

    If you ever get to New Mexico (and I hope you do), I will assist you in indulging in an orgy of tongue-curling chiles, strange animal flesh, and gut-busting, lard-laden delights. New Mexico cuisine is unlike anything you’ve had anywhere else. It will change your life. It did mine: I’m still here 25 years after tasting my first green chile sauce.

    Hooray, Catsue!

    • You’re gonna be sorry when two seriously hungry 20-somethings show up at your door. We’ve actually been considering taking a trip soon and food is, obviously, of paramount importance… – Cat

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