My Rhubarb Breakfast Cake is a classic rhubarb cake recipe ~ the kind your grandma made, if you were lucky. It’s packed with jammy bits of sweet/tart rhubarb and it’s officially my favorite way to start the day.
an easy rhubarb cake for breakfast and beyond
The texture of this cake is just perfect, it’s not too sweet, and the tart rhubarb gives it a unique flavor. There’s a nice background note of vanilla in the batter which plays really well with the rhubarb. And then there’s that slightly crunchy sugary crust ~ this rhubarb cake is divine whether you have it for breakfast, snack on it all day, or save it for dessert.
ingredient list for rhubarb cake
You’ll just need a few stalks of rhubarb for this breakfast cake recipe, enough to make 2 cups of thin slices. The red color is beautiful, but green rhubarb will give you wonderful flavor too.
- rhubarb ~ fresh is best but you can use frozen sliced rhubarb if you have it. No need to thaw.
- butter ~ I always bake with unsalted butter. If you only have salted on hand, just leave out the extra salt in the recipe.
- granulated sugar ~ I sprinkle a little over the cake before baking for an extra bit of crunch.
- half & half, cream, or buttermilk ~ use them interchangeably according to what you have in the fridge.
- all purpose flour
- baking powder
- lemon juice
- vanilla ~ the vanilla and tart rhubarb make a wonderful flavor combo, but I also love it with almond extract, so use your favorite.
Is rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable?
- Rhubarb is a tart vegetable (it’s part of the buckwheat family!) that we treat as a fruit in cooking. It grows in long leafy stalks, and kind of looks like red celery. The stalks can be harvested when very young, or when large and mature. Do not eat rhubarb leaves, they are poisonous. They contain oxalic acid, which is toxic to humans.
When is rhubarb season?
- Rhubarb season is April through June, but you’ll see if sooner and later in some areas. Rhubarb is one of the first veggies of spring.
Is rhubarb healthy?
- According to Healthline…“Rhubarb is a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Studies show that rhubarb fiber may lower cholesterol, but research on its health benefits is otherwise limited.”
Why is my rhubarb green?
- Rhubarb varies in color from deep crimson to pale green. Newer varieties, like my Cherry Red rhubarb, is bred for its sweet flavor and intense color, which is nice because that’s one of the things we love about rhubarb and it’s a big drag when the color doesn’t bloom in recipes. There is little difference in flavor between the green and red, but red rhubarb can be stunning when cooked.
How to cook rhubarb?
- Rhubarb is usually used in desserts like pies, sometimes combined with other fruits like strawberries. Slice the stalks and cook them down with a little water and sugar until the fruit starts to break down. It can be made into sauces, compotes, jams, or pie fillings, among other things.
Can you freeze rhubarb?
- Rhubarb freezes beautifully. Slice it and lay it out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Put the pan in the freezer and freeze until solid. Then transfer the rhubarb to a freezer style zip lock baggie or airtight container.
Do I need to thaw rhubarb before using?
- In most cases there’s no need to thaw the rhubarb when you want to use it for cooking, or baking, just use it frozen.
Once you’ve got the basic formula for this cake down you can experiment with different fruits and flavorings to make it your own, just be sure to maintain the proportions.
more rhubarb, please!
Rhubarb is such an unusual ingredient, and strictly seasonal, so I recommend grabbing it while you can.
- Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Jelly ~ this easy jelly is a stunning color and makes a great gift for friends and neighbors!
- Perfect Rhubarb Muffins ~ the grab and go way to enjoy spring rhubarb.
- Ginger Rhubarb Crisp ~ the unique flavor and color of rhubarb is showcased in this easy dessert.
- Norwegian Rhubarb and Almond Cake ~ a lovely tea cake from Scandinavia.
Rhubarb Breakfast Cake
- 1/2 cup half and half, cream, or buttermilk
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tsp for sprinkling
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour, saving out 1 Tbsp to toss with rhubarb
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
- Set oven to 350F Lightly butter a 9×9 square baking pan. I like to line the pan with parchment paper with overhanging ends so I can easily lift out the cooled cake for cutting. That’s optional.
- Stir the lemon juice into the half and half and set aside.
- Cream the soft butter and sugar in a stand mixer, or with electric beaters, until fluffy and pale yellow. Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
- Take 1 Tbsp of the flour to the rhubarb and toss well.
- Whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and blend in. Add all of the half and half, and blend in. Finally add the rest of the flour and blend just until combined, don't over mix. Fold in the rhubarb. Note: the batter is on the thick side.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly with a little sugar. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is turning golden and a toothpick in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it (moist crumbs are fine.)
- Let the cake cool slightly before cutting.
- Other fruit like berries work beautifully in this rhubarb breakfast cake. Also try chopped banana.
- Mix the topping sugar with a touch of cinnamon for a hint of spice.
- For a lower fat option try buttermilk in place of the half and half and lemon. Half Greek yogurt and half milk would work, too.