strawberry rhubarb pecan loaf

I should apologize for the lewdness of this title—or perhaps you should, for that gutter mind—but I’ve always been endlessly amused by the “put some South in your mouth” logo painted on the wall of the Carolina BBQ joint and frat-boys-living-out-their-glory-days haven, Brother Jimmy’s. Really, it’s just about the only thing I enjoyed about the place the innumerable times a certain ex-boyfriend of mine with a ACC basketball bent dragged me there under duress or pleading. The bar’s menu consists things like fried pickles, green tomatoes and corn fritters and something frightening called a “flaming pig pick,” and while I am not one to argue that these are indeed Southeastern flavors, my associations have always been in sweeter, homier places: berry pies, cobblers and pretty much anything that has known, been adjacent to or looked at a pecan in it’s life.

strawberry rhubarb pecan cake

Last week, so eager for the spring weather, a getaway, and yes, some South in our mouths, I made a strawberry rhubarb pecan cake, in hopes to get our palates into gear. It was delicious, and demolished by my coworkers in no time, but always the nit-picker, I wasn’t overwhelmed with it. It didn’t rise enough, I wanted more fruit, more grit, and more adherence: slices would crumble into smaller pieces when you picked them up and the sprinkled-on topping fell of as soon as I flipped it out of the pan, much to the disappointment of my husband, who had just swept the kitchen floor. I know I should have let it go—hell, it was plenty tasty—but I couldn’t in good conscience tell you to make something that I knew had structural issues. See how earnest I can be? It’s nauseating, really.

Of course, my tweaks just had to involve a splash of booze, but you probably knew that was coming. More egg, fruit, baking soda, some whole wheat flour, baking soda and a real crumb topping fix other ills, though it still didn’t stick as much as I’d wanted it to, and could be easily nixed. I like it a lot though, and it’s going right into the repertoire alongside banana bread and lemon loaves. Don’t wouldn’t underestimate the power of a few Southern flavors in a snow-strewn city; just two days later, it’s 50 degrees and sun has been promised for tomorrow. Dare I declare spring on the horizon? I’d never be so presumptuous, but I will have more cake.

strawberry rhubarb pecan cake

Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf

Makes one loaf

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon rum
1 cup flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup diced rhubarb
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Topping (Optional)
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 to 3 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Beat together the brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg, vanilla and rum. Combine the flours, salt and baking soda; stir. Add dry ingredients to first mixture with the sour cream. Stir in strawberries, rhubarb and pecans.

Spread into a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan — the batter will be very thick. Combine topping ingredients except the pecans, they should be thick and clumpy; add the pecans last and sprinkle over the loaf.

Bake at 350° for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

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84 comments on strawberry rhubarb pecan loaf

  1. mmmmmmmmmmm… I think I’m drooling! The crumb on that looks sooo melt in your mouth. I’ve never actually had rhubarb – this might make a great introduction to if my schedule would lighten up enough to let me bake something. Yum!

  2. Jessica

    Your description of what NYC has been like in the last week reminds me of this last week in Missoula – the sun has finally made its appearance and the flip flops are coming out…

  3. It looks oh so yummy. Only thing is that Rhubarb doesn’t grow in most of the South – it likes cool weather. In fact, I never had a rhubarb pie until I moved to the North. I’m glad I had one, though.

  4. Wow, it’s rhubarb season already? We’re not quite there yet — another six weeks or so, I think — but this will be something to look forward to.

  5. On dessert bread/bread like cakes not rising. So, I have made two of the same recipes twice. I made Chocolate Banana Bread and your Grapefruit Cake. Both of the first times I made the bread/cake, the food tasted good, but the loaves were small and dense. The second times, both rose beautifully and have just the right texture. My theory on this? The first times I baked them, it was daytime…morning, to be exact. The second times were both after 7 at night. Could there be something to be said for atmospheric pressure?

  6. deb

    Rachael — I forgot to mention that when my old boss brought in the original version of this cake, only with rhubarb and the one I tweaked, it was the first time I’d ever had rhubarb, too! It’s really delicious. I know people say it is bitter, but a raw bite tasted more like an apple — a sour one. It really does bake up like an apple, soft and a little sweeter. I have a giant stalk left, and am thinking about making a mixed fruit crumble with it. Ooh, and I just bought some Liberte yogurt too… I think we have a plan!

    Jessica — Yes! I was actually WARM wearing a hoodie to run errands today. It’s such an awesome feeling. The sidewalks were so much busier!

    Taylor — D’oh! The whole time I was working on this entry, I thought, you know, I should really verify that rhubarb is a Southern thing. Obviously, I never did. Though in my defense, this original recipe I’d used is from a Southern cooking site. Indeed, according to this site, it is primarily grown in Washington, Oregon and Michigan, not the South as it does not fare well in hot or dry conditions.

    Lydia — I began seeing it in the store, and of course the pearly pink called to me. This site says that the season is April to September, or whenever temperatures rise above 40.

    Sarah — Ooh, that’s an interesting theory. I looked to my banana bread for guidance when I was trying to figure out what to tweak, as it’s always worked so well. It had twice as much baking soda and no baking powder (in the original recipe), so I went with it. There was a bit more rise, but it did flatten out upon cooling. And coincidentally?? I baked the first one in the day time, and the second at night.

  7. Ooooh so this lovely creature is what you were tempting me with when you commented on my site. I knew it would be worth the wait. Having grown up in the south, the strawberry rhubarb combo is something I’ve known for a long time.

    You brought back delightful memories of youth. Me, sitting on the porch of my Great Grandmother’s house with a glass of sweat iced tea and piece of cobbler after a huge supper. I’m so going to make this for my Mom in Florida, when I go home in May.

  8. We had rhubarb growing up in the south…but I never remember them growing it in the gardens. They must have gotten it at the store then. But, then again, part of my family IN THE SOUTH lived in NY part of the year. :)

  9. courtney

    I have been wanting to try rhubarb, but didn’t want to try it in a pie as it seemed like it might be a little over kill for a first try. This sounds really good, plus anything with strawberries and pecans I’d eat almost anything.

  10. rob

    Deb, that looks fantastic. I’m a lover of all quick breads and wordplay, so this is one I’ll have to try. Add me to the list of people proclaiming their love of rhubarb. Southern Ontario is one ‘South’ that’s far enough north to have abundant rhubarb. I’ve been awaiting its arrival for a while now, though I suspect there are still a few more weeks to go. I don’t suppose you’ve ever tried making this with buttermilk instead of sour cream? This might also give you a bit more lift given that buttermilk would, I think, increase the acidity of the batter, a direct result of which should be more rise as it reacts with the baking soda.

  11. DianeF

    Deb, I’ve been enjoying your site. Such a great gift for words and humor..combine that with a love of food and I’ll be back with regularity! Strawberry Rhubard Pie is one of hubby’s favs…never thought about a quick bread make with them. Thanks!

  12. M

    We had a rhubarb bush in my back yard when I was a kid (grew up in Washington state) and we would have plain stalks of it sprinkled with sugar for dessert all summer long. I never knew it was a local thing, and now I don’t even like it. Go figure.

  13. Sue

    I cannot believe simttenkitchen didn’t win the bloogies! Your blog is one of my favorites, it’s way better than the blog that made it! Anyway, keep up the great work!

  14. I’m so taken with this recipe (i originally wrote smitten, and then remembered whose blog i was reading…decided i just couldn’t be that twee) but must know, where in the City are you buying your rhub and strawberries? I am quite tempted to make this over the weekend, but I was at the Grand Army Plaza brooklyn market over the weekend and the park slope food co-op, and i dont think i saw any rhubarb…let alone strawberries.

    Any tips would be grand! Oh, how lovely to take slices of this to lunch, next week. The dream is already forming

  15. deb

    Hi Erin — I bought them both at the Garden of Eden on 23rd Street, whose produce should never be overlooked. I’m always impressed there, and they never try to sell stuff past it’s prime — no small feat! I just saw quarts of strawberries outside for $3.99, and their rhubarb stalks are huge, and if I remember, $9.99 for a pound, which is like 6x more than you need. I expect that my absorption of the above information is the reason I can’t remember to put things in the mail, or return phone calls, ever.

  16. Zoe

    I’m originally from Chicago but have lived in North Carolina for almost seven years. I have no idea what a “flaming pig pick” is either, but if it has anything to do with a pig pickin’, it will be awesome. A pig pickin’ is basically the same thing as a luau pig roast, but you smoke a whole pig in a big barbecue smoker all day. You don’t season it at all, but you don’t need to — the meat tastes amazing and melts in your mouth.

  17. Leona

    In your recipes you seem to describe measurements by ‘cup’ what size of cup is this? and is there somewhere (in the UK) that i can buy one so that i am getting the correct measurements for the baking?


  18. ttfn300

    I made this recently and it was divine… loved it!! Thanks for the recipe, shared with mom too and they enjoyed as well:) Great pics and blog, a great resource for new recipes!

  19. I made this yesterday with apples instead of strawberries and it was delicious! so light and fluffy.. next time I’m going to double the amount of fruit… I love these things extra fruity!

  20. Ruby

    3 tablespoons of diced candied ginger in the batter and another 2 tablespoons sprinkled on top of the loaf, before baking, added more flavour and some warmth to this rhubarb cake.

  21. Rupi D

    Would this work w/ regular flour instead of whole wheat? (don’t feel like going out to buy it right now) Also, if I don’t add the rum, do I need to add something else to make sure the consistency is right?

    Thanks:) I go on your site all the time to play with the surprise button and come up with a ton of fun things to make. I love it.

  22. jay27

    This looks like it would be absolutely divine for mother’s day! I think I might sub in some toasted pecan oil for the veg oil and add yogurt instead of sour cream as I find it gives a similar consistency, but superior flavor (I’ve been a sour cream hater since I was about seven…long story). But speaking of odd hates… I just read your six “oddities,” and I totally share most of your hates, especially for cheese-stuffed things and coconut curries. Do you have any favorite non-coconut based curries? I absolutely adore curry but detest coconut in anything savory. Thanks so much for your beautiful site!

  23. candice

    I’ve been wanting to say Congrats on your Pregnancy! I am also preggers (due date in 3 days and counting). I think my “nesting” is coming out in lots and lots of baking. So, when I saw this I knew I had to try it. I had a thought about the consistency you were discussing above. In banana bread we mush the bananas and use them for both flavor and texture (instead of say – chunky banana slices), so I thought I’d try that with this one. I did a quick puree of the strawberies & rhubarb. We’ll see how that goes. The oven is baking away! (story of my life these days!).

  24. Rebecca

    I’ve made this twice in the past week, which should serve to show how much I like it. I made one adjustment that I thought worth sharing. The first time the topping sank into the bread as it baked. The second time, I let the bread bake for about 15 or 20 minutes (long enough for it to rise in the pan) before adding the topping, which successfully stayed on top and browned up nicely. I also used raw sugar in the topping for extra crumbly crunch.

    Thanks, Deb, for the excellent recipes (and the stories that go with them).

  25. Honestly I about creamed my undies when I saw this listed on the Strawberries and Dumplings recipe.
    My question, and no I haven’t even made this yet, can you add even MORE fruit? I guess I’m just such a slut for strawberry rhubarb that I want more more more. I fear though that the excess fruit-moisture would cause the bread to collapse/fall apart/fail

  26. Jaimie

    This is baking away in my oven as we speak. I had been looking for a rhubarb recipe that appealed to me. I have never had rhubarb before, but mother-in-law insists that I try it. All the crumbles and things like that just seemed really sweet and just didn’t appeal to my senses, but when I stumbled upon this lovely loaf (ha), I had to try it. I found some really lovely cute little strawberries at the farmer’s market today along with some rhubarb and knew I HAD to bake TODAY.

    Your blog is truly inspiring.

  27. Courtney

    This was fantastic. I was hesitant to make this at first – a rhubarb loaf just doesn’t seem to have as much appeal as a crumble, tart, pie or some other equally delicious sounding concoction, but this has hands down been my favorite rhubarb recipe to date. The flavors are fantastic, the topping made it a bit more special than your typical quick bread (though, the recipe stands alone without the topping), and well, we just loved it! I can’t wait to make this for MY coworkers!

  28. Colleen CR

    It’s a rare thing to find a recipe that turns out as good as the picture. What a wonderful bread that looks as great as it tastes. Thanks so much for sharing.

  29. Mollie

    I substituted Grand Marne for the rum since I had no rum in stock. It was so delicious I’ve repeated each time with Grand Marne. Definitely a keeper.

  30. Heather

    Just ate a piece of this amazing bread! So good, i’m up in Alaska and picked some rhubarb from my plant out front, i then came inside and happily stumbled upon this recipe! It is so good, thanks for sharing!

  31. Made this cake twice in the last few weeks (since I found a place that sells rhubarb and was really excited about that). Made a few changes the second time around, and I’m happy with the result – figured some other readers might want to know.
    Biggest change I did was to significantly increase the amount of fruit; I’m not sure by how much, but I doubled the recipe this time, so should’ve had a cup each of rhubarb and strawberries, and just kept heaping the cup (and then added even a little more extra) – it might be as much as 150% of the original, or perhaps even more. I like how it turned out with the extra fruit, and so did others who ate it.
    Other changes were pretty minor, partly out of necessity and partly out of trying to make the a little bit healthier: didn’t have rum so skipped it, didn’t have light brown sugar so I used half brown and half white sugar, didn’t have sour cream so used yoghurt (low-fat yoghurt, even, didn’t have any other kind), switched half the oil for applesauce, changed the white:whole flour ratio to 3:2 (i.e. of the 2.5 cups required for my doubled recipe, 1.5 cups were white flour, 1 cup was whole wheat). And I used demerara sugar (similar to turbinado) for the crumb mix, but that was because I hoped the coarser grains will make it crunchier (and since it just melted into the butter, I ended up sprinkling another tablespoon of demerara on top – yummy, but not so much on the healthy side). Anyway, none of these seemed to make much of a difference to the cake, neither for better nor for worse, so you could take them or leave them. I also threw some ground ginger into both the batter and the crumble mix, because I remembered you said it goes well with rhubarb. Not sure if I can feel it, though. Like I said, the extra fruit is the main change, and I highly recommend that to anyone who likes a more ‘fruity’ cake.

  32. Michelle

    Yeah! Rhubarb is here! I was looking for something **different** than the usual strawberry-rhubarb pie/crisp/cobbler, and I managed to find this post — thank you! I was VERY suspicious of using raw rhubarb — no precooking? No maceration in sugar? Will it be edible? So I dove in, with minor deviations:

    – No whole wheat flour, so used all unbleached A/P flour
    – No sour cream, so used nonfat Greek yogurt
    – Swapped out the 1/2tsp vanilla with 1 Tb Canton ginger liqueur (just for kicks since there was rum in there already)
    – Went for HEAPING 1/2c each of diced rhubarb, sliced strawberries, and chopped walnuts
    – Skipped the topping (lazy)
    – Baked in 6 “Texas-size” muffin tins rather than loaf pan, for about 30 – 35 minutes (I forgot to note but I set for 25 min, checked, and I don’t remember if I reset for 5 more minutes once or twice)

    OMG — winner! Moist, tender crumb, definite tastes of strawberries AND rhubarb (which surprisingly sweetened up under cooking), not too sweet, not too tart — THANK YOU!

  33. Rebekah

    Why aren’t there more commenters on this one? I’ve always shyed away from rhubarb recipes, but this came out excellent! It’s exactly what I was looking for (and hoping it would taste like!) I did add about double the strawberries the recipe called for, and used creme fraiche (it’s all we had!), but this is perfect for a hot June day!

  34. Beth

    I have never commented on any blog before but I just made an adapted version of this recipe and LOVED the results. Through a combo of personal preference and laziness, I wound up using all all-purpose flour, about a cut of rhubarb,very few strawberries, and “subbed” in semi-sweet chocolate chips for the pecans – probably 1/3 a cup. Didn’t do the topping. It turned out really delicious – incredibly moist. Trying to figure out why there aren’t more (any?) recipes for cooked rhubarb and chocolate. Love your site, Deb and the cookbook. Thanks!!

  35. Pavithra

    Made it this morning. What I like about it is the sweetness- its exact in combination with the fruit. Also, it slices beautifully. Must file this one!! Thank you.

  36. Lisa

    just made this one last night, used all-purpose flour because didn’t have any whole wheat on hand, but am thinking of adding a layer of rhubarb on top of the batter, and maybe a more streusel-like topping. anyway, loved it and will now use it as my rhubarb cake. i would just like to turn it into a round cake, thats all :)

  37. Anne

    I made a great loaf using this recipe as a guide and making a number of changes. I used rhubarb and cherries along with toasted almonds and it came out great. Not too sweet, and much less rich than some other loaf recipes. I baked it for only about 40 minutes in my convection oven. Thanks so much for a lovely recipe!

  38. Ellen N.

    Hi Deb,

    I have rhubarb and strawberries and this looks delicious. Will you please add weights. Thanks very much.



  39. Vicki

    I made this incredible recipe, and with only 3 people in the house, it didn’t last a day!
    Really delicious and it uses rhubarb to boot. Its not so easy to find great rhubarb recipes. Definitely a keeper!

  40. Sarah

    Hi, If I’m making this for kids, what would you suggest instead of the rum? Just a splash of milk, or would something like OJ work? Thanks!

  41. sharon j hanlon

    my attempt was a disappointment. The bread had very little detectable flavor of either rhubarb or strawberry but was moist and rich.(kind of like zucchini bread) What would happen if I added more of both or either fruit ?

  42. Kaitlin

    YUM! These were great. Whole Foods had a giant thing of strawberries for $3 (YES!) and my mom had rhubarb in her garden so we collaborated. She didn’t have whole wheat flour so we just used white–delicious! The rum really makes it bc the strawberries and rhubarb are so mild. Super easy and fun to make with a partner.

  43. Ali

    Another slam dunk from Deb!! This cake was such a surprise! For being quite a thick, stodgy batter after it is baked, the cake is so light and ethereal! It’s delicately light, but packs so much flavor. I read a comment so I doubled the strawberries and rhubarb and the cake baked in 65 minutes. Thank you, Deb! This is the best loaf that I have made to date (and I’ve made a lot in my day- lol!!)!! Xo

  44. Adira Botwinick

    Hi! Any suggestions on how to make this, or the rhubarb upside down cake dairy free? Thank you so much in advance!

    1. deb

      Here, it’s just 1/4 cup sour cream. Use almond or another dairy-free milk plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice. If there’s butter in the recipe, you can use a vegan butter, coconut oil, or another oil.

      1. Adira Botwinick

        Thanks! It was delicious and now I’m going to make it dairy…what says you on me using praline pecans??

      2. Adira

        Thanks! Made it and now I want to make it again but this time dairy. What do you think about me using praline pecans??

  45. Ali B

    I have been waiting all year for rhubarb to arrive at my local grocer and I am so happy that it is here! There are so many fabulous recipes that Deb has that I can’t wait to get started! I made this with a few modifications. Doubled the rhubarb and strawberries based on other reviews, swapped pistachios for the pecans (personal preference), and then added 1 tsp of ginger since Deb has mentioned in other rhubarb recipes that ginger is a good complement to rhubarb. It baked in 75 minutes (bc of the additional moisture from the doubled fruit) and it is sooooooo good! I’m planning on making another loaf for my mom tomorrow morning. Deb, thank you for another outstanding recipe! Xx

  46. M

    I made the following modifications: I used a gluten free flour mix, so I’m the texture may have been slightly different (it was fine, in my opinion). Also, I only had white wine, not rum, so that’s what I used (i added a little more than a tablespoon, more like 2). Everything else was the same.

    I found the flavor really underwhelming. It just kind of tasted like coffee cake with the cinnamon. No real strawberry or rhubarb flavor, which is what I was hoping for. :(

  47. Erin

    How do you recommend I alter this or any other of your desserts for high altitude baking? This looks delicious and I don’t want to mess it up.

  48. So I made this and it’s delicious but when I put it on a cooling rack, after ten minutes I tried to take it out and a huge chunk of the bottom was stuck :( I used coconut oil in my loaf pan and usually never have problems. Should I have waited for it to cool completely in the pan? COuld it be that I had 3/4 cups of strawberries and a 3/4 cup of rhubarb in it…?

  49. Florapie

    These worked beautifully as muffins, cooking in about 25 minutes, even with doubling the fruit. My family loved them-thanks!

  50. yoko

    I took the solids left over from your Strawberry Rhubarb Soda Syrup recipe, which amounted to a little over 1 cup, and used it in this loaf, and it came out splendidly. I cut the brown sugar to 1/2 a cup, which worked for me (I generally like things less sweet), although using the full amount in the recipe would still be fine, I think. I also used buttermilk instead of sour cream, only because I had some. Thanks for the recipes! I’m enjoying rhubarb season to its fullest effect this year!

  51. Katelyn

    I made this as a loaf and then the next day made a double batch as muffins, some of which I gave away. I like them a bit more as muffins as my favorite part is the caramelized outer parts. As others have noted, I doubled the fruit and added extra spices and that turned out perfectly for my taste. These are soooo good! I froze some of the muffins for later and have bee re-heating them for a while now. Time for another batch if I can find rhubarb.

  52. M-C

    Well we’ve finally developed a reliable source of rhubarb thanks to a gardening friend’s generosity. So yumm, summer ! And we’ve pretty much tried all the recipes here, with great results. But this one.. Let’s be polite and say it came out dense. Full of good tastes, but too many of them so the rhubarb is practically undetectable, which is disappointing for something with such a short season. And then the topping sank through the whole cake and settled on the bottom, in clumps. Wth?!? Anyways, just to say you might want to try something else, make a delicious pie for instance

  53. Sheree Fitzpatrick

    Just discovered that I’m lactose intolerant so that makes sour cream an issue. What could be substitute? Thank you. Sheree

  54. Lorie

    16 years after you posted this, this recipe made it into my oven and a new summer recipe into my rotation. Thanks heaps!!!

  55. Susan Reed

    I made a very similar recipe this morning. From another site. It was kind of disappointing. Very heavy and the crumble fell off. Can’t wait to try yours – it sounds much better.