Rhubarb Cake

I want to get better at cooking with rhubarb.  I keep reading wonderful posts about cooking with it.  Doesn’t Masala Herb’s tart sound just amazing?  Her tart not withstanding though I often find that when I cook with rhubarb the finished product doesn’t always taste quite as good as I was expecting.  I have tried savoury dishes and sweet dishes but in the end I come back to enjoying it most when its simply stewed with sugar and a touch of lemon juice.

My most recent experiment with rhubarb is a good example of what I’m talking about.  I made a Rhubarb Cake.

Sure it was nice enough but did it distinguish itself from other cakes, well no, not really.  I have to admit that I did just take a Stephanie Alexander’s fabulous banana cake recipe and simply substitute the cup of mashed banana with a cup of sweetened stewed rhubarb but I was still expecting more –  More rhubarb flavour, more interest and more tang.  The end result although lovely, moist and cakey was just that: a moist, sweet cake with pretty much no discernable rhubarb flavour.  Perhaps if I had left the rhubarb in pieces the end result would have been more exciting…

So to all you rhubarb cooks out there what am I doing wrong?  What is the secret to cooking with rhubarb?  What are the best dishes and what doesn’t work as well?

I’m sharing this recipe on The Gardener of Eden’s Thursday Kitchen Cupboard , and Greenish Thumb’s Garden to Table where you should be able to find some lovely food.

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34 Responses to Rhubarb Cake

  1. Nina says:

    I’ll leave that question for others to answer. I really like rhubarb (stewed, as you say) but haven’t had it for years and I’m not a ‘baker’ hardly at all. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and if I never had a sweet thing again for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t be a great hardship (even chocolate!). I’m a freak, I’m told. I have a go at baking every now and then but my efforts are half-hearted.

    But, I have been thinking of growing rhubarb, just so I can have it stewed. A bit of a heads-up though, and you probably already know this but, apparently chooks don’t mind pecking it and as the leaves are poisonous it needs to be kept out of their reach.

    • Liz says:

      I have to admit i don’t grow it myself but mum & dad do and there is more than enough in their patch for us as well. I believe its oxalic acid that makes it poisonous – I didn’t realise that chooks had problems with it as well as humans so thanks for the tip.

  2. Daphne says:

    I had the same issue with some rhubarb bars that I made earlier this year. They were good mind you but not quite what I was expecting.

    • Liz says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one, I reckon though with a bit of fiddling I could get it right – now that everyone has given me lots of advice.

  3. I made rhubarb crumble muffins which everyone loved. I cut my rhubarb into small chunks about a centimetre cubes and used twice the amount of rhubarb than the recipe called for. The first step was to mix the rhubarb and sugar together and leave it to stand whilst I made the crumble topping say 15 mins. Then all the other ingredients were added to the rhubarb. Maybe a similar process could be used to adapt your recipe.

  4. Barbie says:

    It looks delicious! I would say that maybe just a little more than the recipe called for and leaving some chunky for some texture. I don’t cook with rhubarb as it isn’t something that grows here and I tend to stay regional. I’d love to try some one day though!

    • Liz says:

      It is one of those things that I very much associate with kitchen gardening, it just doesn’t often appear at the supermarket.

  5. I adore rhubarb too! I don’t tend to use plain sugar when cooking with it but use homemade jam as somehow when it is paired with another flavour, the rhubarb comes through more strongly. Ginger and rhubarb is great and in the Autumn I cook rhubarb and quince which is fantastic. I also mix and leave for a couple of hours for the rhubarb to absorb some of the other flavours before cooking. Hope that helps…

  6. mac says:

    You cake looks delicious, I’ve never cooked rhubarb but like the tangy taste in pies and tarts.

  7. Robin says:

    The cake looks delicious. I agree with some of the others on adding some chucks of rhubarb to the cake. Maybe then you will get a little rhubarb tartness to the cake.

    I so have to find a place to plant some….I just love it!

    • Liz says:

      I haven’t planted any myself although given Miss 5 loves it perhaps I should, at the moment I am relying on my parents crop – but they are off on a 6 week sojourn shortly so my supply is about to dry up.

  8. Mark Willis says:

    My favourite way of cooking Rhubarb is to braise it with orange juice and ginger. I have described this on my blog here (14 May 2012): http://marksvegplot.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/40-on-rickett-scale.html

    But I think the real key is to start with good Rhubarb. The stuff you buy in shops is usually at least several days old and it inevitably loses some of its flavour. Rhubarb grown in your own garden in the old-fashioned way with lots of horse manure is just bound to be better!

    • Liz says:

      That is very similar to the ways I usually cook rhubarb and I am a devotee of stewing it and braising it. I get mine from mum & dad so the quality is always good, having said that I probably don’t always cook it as quickly as I should. I’m at mum & dads now so I will go out and pick some and make your recipe for our dessert tonight – thanks Mark.

  9. Dave says:

    I am eagerly awaiting our first rhubarb harvest next year. Then I will be looking for things to do with it. I do love it stewed. And in pie. But I will be experimenting with it in more dishes for sure.

    • Liz says:

      I have tried a few savoury dishes where the recipes substitute rhubarb for lemon. They kind of worked but I think I prefer it sweet.

  10. Julie says:

    I’ve been debating whether or not to plant rhubarb. I always see lovely recipes and want to grow some, but I’ve never eaten it in any form except pie.

    • Liz says:

      I think pie is a good example of how rhubarb taste, so if you love it in pie then I’d grow it, if you’ve apathetic then I wouldn’t bother.

  11. Leanne Cole says:

    My mum makes this wonderful rhubarb relish, we eat it with everything, and it is wonderful just on toast. We have run out, so have to wait to see her again for more. I have never tried it in cakes.

  12. I’m with you one stewed rhubarb, especially served with lots of hot custard, yum! I also agree with Green Dragonette about pairing it with something else, my favourite is apple. Perhaps you could take an apple cake or muffin recipe and replace some of the apple with rhubarb. I love rhubarb and apple crumble.

    I’ve been so disappointed this year at missing out on rhubarb at every farmer’s market I’ve been to. According to Di of Di’s Rhubarb, it’s a bad year, she has far less than other years and the flavour isn’t as good. She usually sells crowns too, but I haven’t managed to get on of those either.

    • Liz says:

      I didn’t know she sold crowns – in fact I was sure she didn’t, that she closely guarded her variety so she was the only grower. But perhaps I am wrong – I’d love to grow her rhubarb.

  13. Louise says:

    There are few foods that I just don’t eat. Rhubarb is one of them. I keep ‘trying’ to eat it, because it is so appealing and because the lad loves it ( and because it is pretty to grow). But it REALLY upsets my stomach and so I have given up. It is a shame, it is such a lovely ‘old fashioned’ thing to eat and makes such lovely stewy syrupy things. But alas, I am obviously not highly evolved enough to cope with its poisons which seem to survive the cooking for me.

  14. Phoebe says:

    I like to stir big raw chunks into a tea cake and then press more into the top then sprinkle a brown cinnamon sugar mix over the whole lot. The rhubarb in the cake gets soft and adds a sour hit in contrast to the sweet roasted rhubarb topping. It’s always a success!

    • Liz says:

      I love the idea of putting them onto the top of the cake a well – sounds delicious and a lot like a project for tomorrow afternoon.

  15. Liz, your rhubarb cake looks very good. Last week I had my first rhubarb in two years. Yes, it was from the store, yes it has a very little flavor, but at least we made one pie! :)

  16. Wendy says:

    This sounds so incredibly delicious. I’ve been craving a moist fruity cake recently – and to serve with raspberries is just perfect.

  17. Thanks for hosting this terrific thread on rhubarb, lots of good advice here so I hardly need to add my own…

  18. Sue says:

    This is an old thread but you may still be looking. Use a recipe with much more (up to 4 cups of fresh, not pre-cooked) rhubarb, cubed to between 5 – 10 mm, with a lightly spiced and sugared topping.

    Try a recipe that has sour cream and substitute that with Greek style non-fat yogurt.

    It should be tangy, super-moist and have the rhubarb ‘hit’ scattered throughout.

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