feature recipe - rhubarb upside down cake

rhubarb in hand

Raise your hand if you're not done with rhubarb yet? I've got my hand way up because I know the end is near for the 2010 rhubarb crop, so why quit now?

rhubarb cake

I was recently assigned dessert for a group dinner so decided to continue my summer "fling" with rhubarb by making a rhubarb upside down cake and a rhubarb sorbet to boot!

I love this cake! You get a good blast of the carmelized rhubarb, while also enjoying a slice of buttery cake, along with a salty finish from the crumb top (or I should I say crumb bottom....). What's not to like?

While pawing my way around the net in search of the right recipe, (I was going to say "scroogling" around the net, but then found out that I didn't invent that word. Yes, "scroogle" is a web application that blocks Google from tracking your searches! Who knew? I like my definition better - a combination of scrounging and Googling.) I came upon Martha's recipe that looked darn good but I really liked the idea of carmelizing the rhubarb, the way David Leobovitz suggests for any fruit upside down cake. So this is the happy result of Martha and David's recipes with the yummy caramel flavors on the bottom/top and the salty crumb topping on the top/bottom and the delicious slightly orange tasting cake in between.

To complete my ode to the rhubarb, I made rhubarb sorbet from Simply Recipes. The only change I made was reducing the sugar from 1 2/3 cup to just 1 cup. It was still plenty sweet and I did NOT do the blender step. I simply drained the simmered rhubarb mixture in the sieve as I found blending it made it too foamy and milky looking. Part of the fun of rhubarb for me is enjoying the intense pinky red colour.

rhubarb garden

Now I know I sound like I'm suffering under some sort of rhubarb fever, or that I work for the rhubarb marketing board, but I also made a syrup for a rhubarb rosemary spritzer drink while waiting for this cake to bake. It's a heady little concoction and a nice alternate to my rhubarb punch that I made earlier this season. You'll find either of them "no sweat" to make, if you are under the fever too.

rhubarb cake

carmelized rhubarb ingredients

  • 3 cups (about 1 pound) of rhubarb sliced on a sharp angle, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)

crumb topping ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt

cake ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream or yogurt


Preheat over to 350 degrees F.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a 9 inch round cake pan (2 inches deep).

Add brown sugar and cook while stirring until sugar is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Layer cut rhubarb in desired design. Set aside.

Make the topping by stirring together the butter, flour, sugar and coarse grain salt until moist and crumbly in texture.

Now for the cake.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy (I used the paddle attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer). Beat in orange juice and zest.

Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl.

Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, until smooth.

Spread evenly over rhubarb.

rhubarb cake batter

Crumble topping evenly over batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and top springs back when touched, about 1 hour.

Let cool for 10 - 15 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cake and flipping onto a plate, being careful of any hot caramel that may run down the sides.

Serve warm, or cooled, your choice.

rhubarb cake baked