Classic Rhubarb Cake

In my kitchen rhubarb and asparagus epitomize springtime. They are the first rewards for waiting patiently all winter for fresh vegetables. Rhubarb is what I consider a produce outcast–it doesn’t fit in anywhere. Despite it’s ruby-red color and enticing crunch when you cut it, eating it raw is well-beyond most of our taste buds. Heavy doses of sugar are needed to cut the mouth-puckering sourness of raw rhubarb. And although it is baked into muffins, pies, and cakes like fruit, rhubarb belongs somewhere in the vegetable family. Tack on that the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous and you have one sorry case of the misfits.

With all of this up against poor rhubarb, I commonly hear “I just don’t know what to do with it!” from newbie locavores. How does one transform a rumored-to-be-toxic, inedible-when-raw, quasi-fruity vegetable into a mouth-watering spring treat? Problem solved. I was so excited to see rhubarb crop up in backyards and the farmer’s market, there’ll be a new rhubarb recipe posted each day this week offering some traditional and non-traditional ways to fit this misfit into your locavore meals.

Classic Rhubarb Cake

By Amy Sippl  adapted from Lois Neukirch in The St. Paul Farmers Market Produce Cookbook


1 1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. sunflower oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 C. buttermilk or sour milk
3 C. rhubarb, diced
3/4 C. walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/4 C. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon


1. Prepare a 9×13″ baking dish and preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Combine ingredients for topping in a small bowl and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, blend brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla until well mixed. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Add 1/2 of flour mixture followed by 1/2 of buttermilk. Beat by hand until evenly moist. Add remaining flour and buttermilk and beat until batter is smooth.
4. Gently fold in rhubarb and nuts. Pour into baking dish and evenly sprinkle topping over batter.
5. Bake until a toothpick comes out of the middle clean (about 40 minutes).

Keeps better if stored in refrigerator.

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