Recipes

rhubarb upside-down spice cake

I realize that spring is supposed to be all flowers and pastels, lightness and lemon zest, but all of these cool, rainy days in the last month make me crave winter spices, no matter how many tomatoes and herbs I have planted this week (so many, eee) in hopes, despite all historical evidence, that this is the year I excel at container gardening. And so when a teacher at my son’s school brought me a bag of the most gorgeous, deeply red rhubarb (I really am this lucky), I knew immediately that this cake would have buttery, lightly caramelized stripe-y rhubarb topping draped over it. If you’re ever asking yourself if it’s been too long since you had an upside-down cake, the answer is always yes.


trim to fit

I have learned over the last couple years that there are people — smart, interesting people that I love very much — who do not care for rhubarb. They are not charmed by its perfect coloration (ranging from shimmery garnet through millennial pink, and straight through to mossy green), its tart flavor (that sings against vanilla and lemon and anchors the sometimes cotton candy-sweetness of strawberries so you can better taste them), or by the fact that unlike anything else in my real life (hair, clothes, apartment), it’s incapable of looking bad. They do not see rhubarb as a sign that we’re near done with last winter’s vegetables and that berry season is nigh. They find it jammy or stringy or too wet or depressingly gray once cooked.

thinner sliceslemon sugarinto the panlightly cooked rhubarbspice for that spice cakedollop it on

I am not here to change their mind, anymore than anyone else has succeeded in convincing me over my lifetime that beets are delicious. I am here for their cake. I’m glad there’s more for the rest of us.

from the oven
rhubarb upside-down spice cake

Rhubarb Upside-Down Spice Cake

  • Servings: 8 to 12
  • Print

If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, a deep (ideally 3-inch sides) 9-inch cake pan or regular depth 10-inch cake pan should work as well. Coat the sides with butter or nonstick spray. Cook the topping in a frying pan and pour it into the prepared cake pan before adding the batter. Baking times will vary a bit; the 9-inch is likely to take longer, a 10-inch, possibly shorter.

    Topping
  • 1 pound (450 grams) rhubarb, trimmed
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest from half a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
  • Two pinches of salt
  • Cake
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup (125 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour

Heat oven: To 350°F.

Make topping: In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, trim your rhubarb to lengths that will fit across the bottom in one direction, i.e. some short and some taller. Remove rhubarb and cut each stalk lengthwise into thin (about 1/4-inch thick) ribbons. If your rhubarb is already quite thin, you might just want to halve each piece lengthwise.

Sprinkle sugar into skillet and add lemon zest; use your fingers to mix the zest into the sugar; the grit of the sugar will help release the most flavor from it. Add butter and salt and heat skillet over medium until butter has melted, stirring frequently. Add rhubarb and cook, turning gently, for 3 to 4 minutes, until it has softened slightly and released some of its liquid. Remove from heat and set skillet aside.

Make cake: In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined, then vanilla. Sprinkle mixture with baking powder, salt, and all the spices and beat well to thoroughly mix them in. Add buttermilk; mixture will have a curdly texture but don’t worry, it’s all going to even out. Scrape down bowl and add flour; beat only until it disappears.

Check your rhubarb base to make sure all the pieces are in the order you’d like them to be; nudge around any that are not, then dollop cake batter over rhubarb mixture in small spoonfuls and smooth top as best as you can. As the rhubarb mixture will be very wet, this will seem almost impossible. I actually gave up and just put it in the oven, where the cake spread into one even layer on its own. (Thank you, cake.)

Bake cake: For about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted deep into the cake (but not the topping underneath) comes out batter-free. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen. Place a larger plate upside down over the skillet and use two potholdered hands to flip cake out onto it. If any rhubarb is stuck in the pan or slides down the side, just return it to the top of the cake cake.

Serve: Warm or at room temperature. Cake keeps for a couple days at room temperature and up to a week in the fridge, or so I hear.


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178 comments on rhubarb upside-down spice cake

    1. Darcie

      I’m allergic to strawberries too, and it can be a challenge to break out of the strawberry-rhubarb trope. May I suggest the book Rhubarb Renaissance by Kim Ode? I picked it up on vacation in MN last year and it is delightful.

        1. Charlotte in Toronto

          I was allergic to fresh strawberries when I was a kid. I’d break out in big blotchy hives. But only fresh strawberries. Once they were sliced/mashed and marinated in sugar or cooked or baked it was okay. I’ve come to the conclusion that the fresh berries contain an enzyme that is destroyed or deactivated by sugar or heat. I have a chemistry background and this makes sense to me. I still declare a strawberry allergy on any medical forms because some drugs are derived from plants.🍓

          1. Liz

            You had oral allergy syndrome. An allergy you have to pollen cross reacts with a protein in the strawberry. This protein breaks down with heat, as you suspected. It also breaks down with stomach acid, which is why you don’t go into anaphylaxis.

            Many people with “allergies” to fruit actually have oral allergy syndrome, and will not get symptoms of the fruit is cooked.

            1. Dahlink

              Ah–this is very enlightening. We have a family berry allergy–it’s whatever berry that is first eaten in sufficient quantities to trigger the response. For me that means strawberries, for my older son, cranberries, and for the younger son, blueberries. He can eat a few fresh blueberries, and perhaps a blueberry muffin. There is also a family sensitivity to penicillin and amoxicillin. I never made a connection there.

            2. Jasmine

              Wow! A complete lightbulb moment. This explains why as a child I would get an itchy mouth after eating tomatoes from my mother’s garden. Thank you for sharing!

            3. JOANNE

              Reading all the comments about allergy/enzyme deactivation/pollen makes me wish I had paid more attention in biology/chemistry class when I was young. I might have ended up a scientist instead of a bean-counter accountant. So much interesting info of all sorts on this site!!

    2. Karen

      You can try replacing with raspberries if you really want another berry flavor. I had some in the freezer that needed using up, and they were wonderful in a rhubarb crisp. Or just skip the strawberries altogether! I mostly like rhubarb all on its own.

    3. I too am allergic to strawberries; think this may be why I’ve never in my life had rhubarb. Well, that, and it’s just not a thing where I live. But mostly the strawberry thing!

  1. SallyT

    This looks DELICIOUS. My local farm only had the largest rhubarb you’ve ever seen… WHY? I want small tender rhubarb, if at all. THANKS!

    1. deb

      Mine were huge. Once sliced thinner, doesn’t matter at all. Ditto, I think, with more green rhubarb. They all taste the same to me.

    1. deb

      Absolutely. I know people always say to not put acidic ingredients in cast-iron but a well-seasoned skillet is not going to be destroyed by a little sugary rhubarb. Especially with all that butter. :)

      1. sarah

        The reason not to put acid things in a cast iron pan isn’t that it will damage the pan (or the seasoning on the pan), but that the acid will leach lots of iron into the food, and can turn it grey.

  2. Oh my lands. I love this so, so much — my issue with rhubarb is that I love its taste, but while I always want it to look like beautiful candied pieces of garnet, it inevitably just goes to mush with the slightest stirring. But you’ve shortcutted the issue by just letting it sit quietly! Also an A+ gorgeous skillet, while we’re handing out aesthetic compliments.

    1. May Rosenthal

      If you get bothered by mush textures, try roasting rather than poaching rhubarb, with sugar or honey and no liquid. You end up with tender, whole pieces that have lost nothing in the way of flavour. And the surrounding syrup is beyond perfect in a gin and tonic.

      1. Valerie Hoiness

        I second this comment – I made many individual caramelized rhubarb pound cakes for my sister-in-law’s bridal shower and all of the infused caramelizing syrup got put to very good use in cocktails!

  3. Emily

    Do you think you could use diced/chopped rhubarb instead of long thin slices? I feel like it wouldn’t matter, but maybe the rhubarb wouldn’t stay on top/bottom nicely after it’s flipped?

  4. Amy

    Any suggestions on alternate fruits that might hold up well? There is no rhubarb available around me yet (at least, not as of today. Maybe this weekend’s market will prove FRUIT-ful HEYO).

  5. Carolyn

    Because I know you care about these sorts of things… there’s a couple of the wrong “it’s” in the second paragraph. And one right instance. :)

    1. deb

      Ew, heh. Thanks, now fixed. (I don’t know why, but “it’s” is the ONLY way my fingers type the word. I can’t untrain them, regardless of the fact that I fully comprehend which is correct at which times.)

  6. Robin

    Ooh yes! Rhubarb! Upside down cake! An excuse to use the cast iron! This looks just perfect for the rainy Friday we are having here too in Toronto.

  7. Renee

    I’m so sad every time you post a rhubarb recipe. I love it, but it’s insanely expensive in Texas. I checked at the grocery store last weekend and it was $14/lb. No, I did not accidentally add a 1 in front of the 4.

    I need to concoct a rhubarb-appropriate special occasion.

    1. Lizneust

      If you have any sunny ground in which to plant, rhubarb is incredibly easy to grow and will come back year after year. It gets to the size of a large hosta and dies back down each winter. It’s also quite pretty with very large ridged leaves. There are some varieties where the leaf ridges are pink and red along with the stems, much like a rainbow kale.

      1. Renee

        I know it’s a weed many places. I grew up with it in the backyard in a northern clime, and we used to pull stalks, sprinkle them with sugar, and gnaw on them after dinner. Sadly, a quick Google search for “how to grow rhubarb in Texas” yielded multi-page documents explaining that one can start seeds indoors in August and keep them inside for two months (!) then move them to the garden with a companion bamboo for shade, harvest everything in the spring, and repeat the next August. That $14/lb price suddenly sounds reasonable.

        1. Helen

          Find someone with a plant – dig some of the root and plant it with some cow manure. It takes a year or two before it is big enough to cut – I am from Australia originally and I believe we could grow it year round there and was un-killable. In the midwest mine comes back each year.

          Seed planting is not a great way to try to grow it — trust me.. this will def. work for you. Just need to find someone with it growing (actually scope out peoples yards – you will just see it growing like a small knee high bush)

    2. Patt

      Renee, I’m in Central Texas and I know what you mean, but honestly, rhubarb is so rare here that I consider its appearance a celebration just because. If you have a Fiesta market nearbye, it is proabbly cheaper there.

  8. Laura

    I just picked up rhubarb at the Park Slope Food Co-op this morning, with the intent to make it into a crisp according to Ina’s recipe (but something felt wrong about doing that on this rainy NYC day). What luck that this recipe popped up! Can’t wait to try it.

  9. I’ve become so fascinated with vegetable and fruit origins now that we live somewhere where food just GROWS out of the ground. Any idea where the teacher lives? Is she in New Jersey? I really am beginning to appreciate it’s name of “The Garden State.” People laugh, but a woman I work with is from New Jersey and she swears by New Jersey tomatoes. (She’s also bringing me in her yard’s rhubarb because there’s “too much.” Wut?)

    1. Sarah P

      Dorie Greenspan has an upside down cranberry cake recipe in her book “Baking” that is very similar to this one. I’ve made it several times with rhubarb and recently used actual cranberries which were very good, although I personally prefer rhubarb. Dorie’s recipe uses 2 cups of cranberries, I’m not sure what that weighs.

      1. Ina

        A pound of cranberries might be a bit too much … can’t say … but would totally try this with cranberries too! Still feeling on adjusting the total amount of sugar even with cranberries … it is way sweet with the “current” amounts.

  10. Amanda

    This looks gorgeous — and reminds me of Butter Sugar Flowers’s vegan rhubarb-banana skillet cake. Equally delicious but a vegan upside-down cake!

  11. Sarah U

    Just picked a bunch of rhubarb this morning – excellent news that you have a new recipe! About how many cups is a pound of rhubarb? An estimate is fine. I can’t seem to remember to buy new batteries for my kitchen scale.

  12. Charlotte in Toronto

    I made your strawberry rhubarb our last weekend and I have enough left over to do this cake. Perfect. Thanks.💋

  13. Melanie

    As if you couldn’t get any better, I learn we share a horror of beets! Am going to make this cake this weekend! Thank you.

  14. Karen

    Yay rhubarb! I plan to eat rhubarb crisp nearly every day for the next several weeks. What can I say…it was on sale. I maybe accidentally bought 10 pounds. The freezer is well stocked. And I just planted my very own rhubarb plant. My future looks rosy red.

  15. jan

    I have a large garden but will not grow rhubarb for the following reason- the leaves are very poisonous. So if any of you grow it or buy it with the leaves on – be sure your children and dogs do not try to eat it. This is the only domestic plant I know that is PARTIALLY eatable…and since the leaves can look like silver beet or other tasty greens – you must be alert to the problem.

    1. sparkgrrl658

      wow, i never knew that, and as a little kid i made mud pies with rhubarb all the time. (it grew in both my gramma’s & great aunt’s yards but i don’t remember them ever harvesting it to eat.) i wonder if any of the adults in my family even knew. (i wouldn’t have eaten it, i don’t think, but still.)

    2. Joy

      Tomato and potato foliage is also semi toxic, as they are members of the nightshade family. Here in Canada, it is seen as a plus that the leaves are toxic on rhubarb, it means the deer and moose don’t eat it…like they do EVERYTHING ELSE. I have never heard of anyone’s dog eating the foliage, I think they know instinctively that it is toxic, like the deer and moose seem to do. Thanks for the recipe Deb, we have the most gorgeous red rhubarb at my family’s garden centre and I love using it up!

  16. Lauren

    Rhubarb! Yayyyyy! It is always my favorite and I will make anything rhubarb related. One year I had so much from my sister’s garden that I tried 4 different pie recipes in one day and we had a “tasting”. There were no losers, just four solid winners. There was an orange-rhubarb one that was fabulous if anyone is looking for alternate fruits. My son-in-law has asked for one every year since. A sour cream-rhubarb pie also was great, and two other riffs which weren’t the usual ones, but I can’t think of them offhand. I am with you on rhubarb, but I also like beets ( pickled with mostly vinegar and onion) and in borscht. They are nice with goat cheese in a salad too. I would pass on just plain hot cooked ones though… quite bland.

    1. sparkgrrl658

      i agree – cooked beets are fine but not really exciting. but i roasted some yellow ones a couple of weeks ago and marinated them in a shallot & dijon vinaigrette and had them cold with goat cheese and dill and they’re fantastic that way, imho. :)

  17. Janae

    The cake looks great, but I’m actually wondering about the plate. Is it a regular dinner plate, or a serving plate? It’s pretty!

  18. Audrey

    I would just melt the butter and beat all the cake ingredients together. With the yummy rhubarb no one is going to fuss about the crumb!

  19. wendi

    Is there a print button somewhere that I’m not seeing? I really like to work off a printed page, then I save them in a binder. I can cut and paste and then print but just wondering if I’m missing the button somewhere…

    1. Dahlink

      Yes, Wendi, there is. Just under the recipe proper you will see this:
      SEE MORE: CAKE, EVERYDAY CAKES, PHOTO, RHUBARB, SPRING
      DO MORE:TWITTERFACEBOOK1K+PINTEREST566PRINT

      Click on the printer icon and you should be good to go and annotate that printed recipe, which is what I do as well.

  20. Cory

    I love rhubarb upside-down cake! For a fun presentation, though, I suggest cutting the rhubarb into thick slices across the grain (which gives you U-shaped pieces) and arranging them in concentric circles or a spiral. Makes a beautiful pattern when unmolded.

  21. Sandra

    Hi Deb – looks great. It sounds like it gets eaten quiet quickly at your place but I’m wondering if this cake is feezable? Thank you.

  22. Deb, you are an honest to goodness poet when it comes to describing food. I always look to you for inspiration when I’m trying to find words to explain my dish. You are amazing. I’ve never made one of your recipes that wasn’t exceptional!! My son remembers when he was around 6 and 7 that we had rhubarb growing at our house and he loves it. I’ll have to surprise him with this. Thank you! I love seeing your posts in my inbox. 😊

  23. Liane

    Darn! If I had seen this last night, I would have made it then. Instead, I made a spice bread to go with the unseasonably cool weather. I adore rhubarb too. I am hooked on a roasted rhubarb and strawberry sauce I use daily on homemade granola with yogurt. When rhubarb is out of season, I found a common pineapple selling brand beginning with D (comment guidelines!) frozen product — already washed and neatly and evenly sliced — to substitute for fresh with little noticeable difference. Price: $3 bag. Ask your grocer to carry it so that you will be able to make this delicious sounding cake or other rhubarb treats when fresh is unavailable or too precious in price. We rhubarb lovers have to help each other cope after all!

  24. Kim D

    I’ve always marveled at the beautiful colors of rhubarb. I love the deep reds the best! No – the light pinks! oh but these are gorgeous – the greeny ones…I can never get it right. I think I will take your description, print it out, frame it, and hang it in my kitchen. Is that OK? With a picture of beautiful rhubarb?

    1. Lynn

      I always pair rhubarb with cardamom. They have a natural affinity for each other. Also lemon and orange zest are delicious with it.

  25. I live in the mountains of Maine where gardening to grow anything like a tomato is nigh on impossible (until global warming gets worse) but rhubarb is a joy to behold…in June! I’m saving this recipe. My husband adores rhubarb! Thank you!

  26. Puss N Boots

    I love rhubarb in all its forms – fools crumbles pies chutney but particularly like a Rhubarb crumb cake As suggested by the caked crusader blog spot – the closing comment to
    “Cut into generous squares and serve with thick cream.
    Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.
    Eat.”
    Makes me smile…
    Though Gooseberries sweetened & baked under a pound cake served with vanilla ice cream flavoured Elderflower cordial is a wonderful thing.
    P X

  27. Nancy C

    I’ve made something similar, but I love your spices in the cake batter, so I’m stealing that part. I always have rhubarb–it grows like weeds here, and I harvest in the fall, chopping and freezing for future use. When I made my rhubarb upside-down cake several years ago, I used chopped rhubarb and it was lovely.
    I guess it’s time for this dessert to make a reappearance.

  28. Alice

    All I have is a 12″ cast iron skillet (not 10″ per recipe suggestion) — assume it’s okay to use but do you recommend changing the baking time?

    1. Sarah

      I just made this in a 12″ cast iron skillet and it worked beautifully! The cake I first checked it after baking for 20 minutes, and I think I let it go for 25-30 minutes total. The only tricky thing for me was finding a plate big enough to fit the cake. I ended up having to use the platter from my cupcake carrier because it was too wide for all of my regular plates.

  29. Jessica

    I want to make this NOW! It looks like Joy The Baker’s cardamom-strawberry upside-down cake, which is AMAZING, as you probably know.

    Two things:

    1) I just read that in places like Minnesota, where I live, and where things grow and then get froze-out by snow storms in May, the rhubarb stems can also be poisonous if they have frozen in the ground. Apparently you can cut off the part above ground and anything that grows afterward will be fine.

    2) The spoon dolloping thing looks annoying to me, I feel like I’d make a big, red mess. Maybe one could put the batter into a piping/ziploc bag and then just squeeze it over the topping in a spiral to avoid all that?

    Anyway, I think it looks divine and I can’t wait to make it!

  30. ISM

    Grow your own rhubarb. It grows like a weed; and I am sure even in TX. Secret for growing the best plant: the next time you get new car tires, save one. Put it in a sunny location in your garden; fill the center with good mulching soil, put in a plant and watch it grow. You’ll have rhubarb forever. The black tire keeps the soil warm, contained & moist; water once a week. In a hot climate you may have to water more often.

  31. Lara

    Just made it and it is delicious! Cake is moist and gingerbread-y — lively against the rhubarb. Came out of the pan beautifully.

  32. Linda L.

    “If any rhubarb is stuck in the pan or slides down the side, just return it to the top of the cake”
    What?? That’s the cook’s share and obviously means I put exactly that much too much rhubarb in the pan!

  33. The Nursery at Mount Si

    I made this tonight and it was so delicious and easy to make! The only overproof skillet I had was 12″ so I decided to use a 9″ cake pan- turned out beautifully! I will definitely be making this recipe again and again! Thank you!

  34. Hanneke from Holland

    Today I’ve made the rhubarb spice cake, with flour from a local grain mill “De Leeuw” and rhubarb out of my own vegatable garden. It tastes really delicious! Thank you for the recipe!!

  35. Becka

    Is it possible to make this in a regular pan? I got rid of my skillet because I just never wanted to use it. This looks SO good!

  36. putnamk

    This cake is a delight. I made it with this gluten-free flour from KAF: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/products/gluten-free-all-purpose-flour/ I had not been happy with an earlier rendition of KAF’s GF flour due to all the gums..this one finally has no xantham gum! It turned out perfectly.

    No need to fuss too much over the rhubarb layout. I cut a few different lengths, worried they weren’t going to lay nicely, but once they soften up, they naturally assume the shape of the pan.

    10/10 would do again!

  37. Lynne

    Hi Deb! Great recipe. Deep red rhubarb was at the market on Saturday and as I had just read your post, I couldn’t resist making the cake. Since there were only two of us home for the weekend, in the interest of my waistline, I made half the recipe and used a small size spring form pan (which fortunately never, ever leaks). The cake came out of the pan beautifully and the color/taste combination is killer. My hubby is not a huge fan of rhubarb (!) but the pre-cooking carmelization totally won him over.
    Thank you!

  38. NJ cook

    I am among those who detest rhubarb (you can have my piece), but I love clicking on the links to pictures of your children!

  39. Laura M

    Mine was not nearly as beautiful (my rhubarb wasn’t as lovely in colour), but it tasted great. I didn’t have buttermilk so I swapped plain yougurt but that still worked. I made it in a 10″ cake pan and 35 minutes was exactly right.

  40. caps

    For commenters who don’t/can’t eat strawberries with their rhubarb, here’s what my mother used to make. There’s no cream, and that bit of nutmeg really does it for me!
    Rhubarb Cream Pie
    Mix together well:
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    3 Tablespoons flour
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    1 Tablespoon butter
    2 eggs, well beaten
    Pour mix over (don’t stir all together) 3 cups rhubarb, chopped not too fine, in uncooked pie shell.
    Top with lattice crust. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes, then at 350° for 30 minutes.

  41. stephabelle

    I made this today, and it was wonderful! I did make some modifications. I had so many strawberries that I sliced up a pint and added them to the rhubarb. That made the mixture very wet, so I siphoned off half a cup of liquid. The syrup is so yummy, I’m saving it to pour over waffles or pancakes. I didn’t have a deep 10″ skillet, so I used my 12 inch cast iron pan. It worked out well, but I probably will increase the batter next time, maybe by 25%. It would make the cake a little deeper. In any case, it was so tasty. My almost-8 year old declared it the best cake ever.

  42. Taryn

    I made this immediately upon seeing the recipe, as I had a giant bag of rhubarb freshly cut from my grandmother’s garden (I’d been planning on making SK’s rhubarb snacking cake, but I love spice cake so couldn’t resist). The only slight change I made was that I subbed white sugar for about 1/4 of the brown sugar since I was running low. My batter spread pretty easily over the warm rhubarb topping…it didn’t seem as thick as in the pictures above, but it turned out great! I baked it in my cast iron skillet and it came out of the pan beautifully. As my mom says, “this one is a keeper!”

  43. Lara

    YUM. I made this year’s first rhubarb crumble this weekend. tart fruit (well, veggie, to be exact, in case of rhubarb) + sweet dough is just the perfect combination for me. unfortunately, I NEVER get the pretty pink rhubarb here, but hey, it tastes just as good. will try your recipe one of these rhubarb-filled days (if any rhubarb is left from all the raspberry-rhubarb jam making) – thanks for the idea!

  44. Susanna

    I made this yesterday – as soon as I saw it on instagram and facebook I knew I had to! Rhubarb w/ strawberries is good, but give me plain, tart rhubarb. I used frozen rhubarb and it turned out fine. No buttermilk on hand, so I used vinegar/milk. Next up, trying to reduce the butter – do you think less butter in the topping would be fine? and possibly subbing some applesauce in the cake part? – and make the cake gluten free to be shared with friends!

  45. Tanya

    I made this cake this past weekend and I cannot stop eating it. My rhubarb was more green, so it wasn’t as pretty as yours and my buttermilk had gone bad so I subbed sour cream, but this was soooooooo good.

  46. SallyT

    I made this and LOVED it! Mine baked for 32 minutes in a cast iron skillet. I’m not a rhubarb fan, but this may have made me a convert…

  47. Karen K

    I’ll have to give this a try since my rhubarb is beautiful right now. On Saturday I was trying to decide what to take to the community garden coffee gathering that had something to do with what I have in my plot. I turned some rhubarb into sauce and substituted the daylights out of the King Arthur Flour Applesauce Oatmeal bread. Rhubarb sauce for apple sauce, spelt flour for white whole wheat, cardamom for cinnamon, and grains of paradise for nutmeg. (I didn’t want the spices to immediately make me think autumn.) I also left out the walnuts. Turned out beautifully. I also made candied fennel stalks. Super easy and tasty.

  48. Amy

    okay.. don’t make fun of me (too much) for not knowing this; but why cream butter and sugar THEN add the vanilla? Does vanilla bruise like gin? :) Are the flavor compounds so delicate that they can be overexposed to air? (am I the only one too lazy to stop the mixer?) Thanks!

    1. deb

      No reason to stop the mixer. Usually I’m just trying to get the butter very thick and creamy, and added earlier will make a softer, less thick, mixture. But it’s SO LITTLE, it’s not that big of a deal here.

  49. Melanie Q

    You are my go-to for recipes, as they always come out great. That said, this was tasty but really unattractive. It looked like meat, and not nearly as pretty-pink as yours. I think if there was a sauce to drizzle over or something… IDK. Again, very tasty but not a pretty picture on the plate. Just letting people know who might want more of a “ta-dah!” moment with guests or something.

  50. Lizzie Welch

    Yum! I made this in a cake pan. One tip would be to make sure to transfer all of the liquid from the pan into the cake pan, I would have liked a little more rhubarb juices to keep the cake from drying out. But, overall I love this cake! It reminds me of the spring version of the purple plum torte. So awesome.

  51. caps

    In a photo in the berry ricotta galette (yum) and behind-the-scenes-in-your-kitchen story, there is a sturdy pot rack. Is it as sturdy as it looks and where did you find it? Thank you.

    1. deb

      Yes, but all pot racks are only as sturdy as they’re put up. We had someone do it; I said “it needs to hold 100 pounds!” and the handyman jumped up and did a pull-up on it. I’ve felt confident since. :) [It’s this one, by the way.]

  52. Food to Feel Good

    Beautiful, as always! I’m a huge rhubarb fan and I think it’s sadly under appreciated. Thanks for the inspiration!

  53. free33833

    So delicious. The rhubarb is in its glory right now. It’s our anniversary. :) We cooked with fresh picked morels for dinner. So, spring eating love fest. Thank you for the fantastic recipe. You are right, rhubarb always looks good. I take great courage from seeing it poke its crimson fists up through the soil when there often is still some snow on the ground! It the rhubarb can declare an end to winter? Well, so can I! Kind regards from the Kootenays, British Columbia.

  54. What a clever idea!!! I am a sucker for creative, easy dishes like this… that also create minimal dishes/mess. Win-win. Also, all you had to say was rhubarb and my mouth started watering!

  55. Emily

    This is lovely. One of the last things I cooked for my grandma before she died was a rhubarb pie. I told her I wanted to make it and she said, “Oh but have you ever had rhubarb CUSTARD pie? And lard crust is the best,” and told me where to look to dig the recipe out of her little file box and what kind of monster doesn’t make the specific pie their 90-something year old grandma has requested, even if it has meringue and meringue gives the baker the willies? I was unable to deliver the lard crust, unfortunately, but it was still delicious, meringue and all. Let me know if you want the recipe.

  56. Jude

    Turned out well despite the topping leaking out in the oven because I had only a loose bottomed cake tin in the right size. I will try again when I get a new receptacle.
    I upped the amount of spices and used allspice in place of cloves. Tasted good and was not overly sweet – maybe because it lost some syrup.

  57. Lynn

    This just came out of the oven and smells delightful. I subbed in ¾ tsp of cardamom (great with rhubarb) instead of cloves and used orange zest as that’s what I had. The rhubarb was ruby red before assembling the cake, but only pale when it emerged from the pan. Can wait to have some this evening.

  58. Deb

    My rhubard was not nearly as deep in color as yours (and therefore not as pretty) but the cake was delightful. I’d never tried an upside-downer without cutting up the fruit but this really did work.

    We’ll be having it again. Thank you!

  59. csteidl

    Nabbed some rhubarb at the store today and whipped this up immediately. As others have noted, my stalks weren’t as beautifully red as yours so it came out looking a bit on the drab side, but man was it outstanding! Absurdly moist, warm with the spices but totally spring-appropriate, and so, so fluffy. Every bite I take I’m envisioning Mary Berry commenting on the perfection of the crumb! Thanks for another excellent recipe!

  60. Becca Meurer

    Made this for a brunch yesterday and I was so excited that it came out looking as beautiful as in Deb’s picture. And it was delicious. My new springtime recipe for any occasion. Next time I will put a bit more rhubarb in – I was getting all type-A about having it exactly cover the bottom of the pan and didn’t think to just double-layer it.

  61. Emalee

    I made this! It was very simple. I cut the sugar down in both the topping and the cake and it was still fantastic. I also had to improvise for buttermilk (1/4 cup half and half and 1/4 cup almond milk with some lemon juice) and didn’t use the same spice ratio- just did cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, a hint of cloves, and a dash of cardamom. I think I would like more rhubarb topping next time (I didn’t measure a pound, just eyeballed it). I put a little in a 6 inch cake pan with a couple scoops of batter to make as a tester since I wasn’t going to be eating the actual cake a day later and was bringing it to an event and wanted to make sure it turned out. the little cake was fabulous and this could definitely be made into small servings in many small cake tins. I will absolutely make it again! The possibilities for fruit topping or cake base (lemon zest instead of spices, for example) are endless.

  62. Seriously good. Everybody with an appetite for rhubarb loved this and kept asking for the secret ingredients. Finished within 1 day. Only halved the sugar on the rhubarb, No probleem.

  63. Ina

    This was round 2 of an upside down rhubarb cake … first iteration a repeat from last year’s discovery on food52 … loved this one for the added spices and the long stripes of rhubarb which indeed just about melt in the baking process and the whole thing plops fabulously out of the cast iron skillet!

    What does need adjusting though is the amazing amount of sugar … first time in my life that I got heartburn from eating a slice of cake … and I have had my fair share of delicious and sweet cakes! The former recipe calls for a 1 1/2 c sugar divided … here we have 1 2/3 c and I hadn’t bothered to check those amounts against each other ’til now writing about it … I had previously cut out 1/4 c … I think the tang of the rhubarb makes this work in the butter lemon peel melt of the bottoming topping! Next time I think taking it all down to 1 cup however divided would still be to my liking!

    Last but not least I successfully subbed the flour for a gluten free mix I found locally from an amazing bread purveyor … so for the win win win … more cake back into my life!

    Thank you Deb for all the amazing work of recipe development … for sharing your life and passion and redheaded whirlwind!

  64. Sara

    I made this (gluten free version) for Mother’s Day and it came out perfect. Where do you get red rhubarb? My grandmother has been growing hers for years and it’s always more green than red, which only seems to make my cakes less pretty.

    1. Ina

      Pink rhubarb is pretty but doesn’t taste any better than more green rhubarb … I say take it as it comes and enjoy! Don’t know if laying down the outside of the stalk keeps more pink in the final outcome?!

  65. Sara

    My 5 year old and I made this today! I think we cooked down the rhubarb too much in the beginning stages before adding the batter, or I cut the ribbons down too small. It was delicious, but I found the rhubarb to be mushy because of my mistakes. Definitely a make again, though!

  66. Roxana

    I’m in CO and was looking for rhubarbs for this since you posted and finally found them in Safeway of all places! Made it in my 10 inch cast iron and is absolutely delicious – seemed like a ton of liquid from a little over a pound of rhubarb but turned out perfect.

  67. Juliette

    Same situation here, we’ve had quite a chilly month so far and I was craving some spices. Plus, it just so happens that I had 12 pounds of rhubarb to use up (my husband calls this the “I went apple picking” situation, I obviously do not know what he is talking about), so this cake was everything I needed – and we loved it. It is delicious, moist, and I love the look you get from using ribbons of rhubarb instead of chopping it.
    I made a few changes : used orange instead of lemon and ground cardamom I had leftover from making a rhubarb-ginger chutney instead of cloves, and a 8-inch square pan. I’ve been adding small squares (because, bikini season!) to our lunchboxes all week and it definitely made my days better.

  68. lilyroberts

    Has anyone tried making this with the almond flour/cornmeal/ricotta combo from the blood orange upside down cake?

  69. We made this tonight and 6 of us polished off the whole thing in about 10 minutes! Just a fabulous cake, and so lovely with the contrast of the rhubarb against the spiced cake. We’ll be making this again, and soon!

  70. Alexandra

    I gotta say, I didn’t love this. I’m a rhubarb newbie, so maybe that’s the problem. I liked the spiced cake, but not with the rhubarb topping. I just got so slimy. Also, after a couple days, the rhubarb turned a very unappealing shade of beige. Ick!

  71. bicycleaddict

    Mine didn’t turn out as pretty even though I used red rhubarb stalks. Perhaps I cooked them a bit too long. Rubbing the lemon zest into sugar was a new idea to me. It was tasty!

  72. carol tregenza

    this cake was delicious!!! but I wish my rhubarb had stayed pink, it truly faded into that green mossy, faded pink you mention.

    love rhubarb!!!! and the spices were perfect too.

  73. Rachel Rienstra

    Made this yesterday. I had bought fresh rhubarb for the first time ever because they were so pretty. This was a lovely way to show them off! I reduced the sugar a bit in the cake batter, used only light brown sugar and no granulated, also used runny plain yogurt instead of buttermilk, turned out delicious.

  74. mousouchop

    I made this last night. Came out tasting great, but is one of the ugliest cakes I’ve ever seen. My rhubarb was more green, so I was prepared for the lack-luster color. My stalks also did not keep their shape at all, and instead are a mush and stringy… perhaps I over pre-cooked?

    Either way, tastes lovely! I did half AP flour, half rye flour. Also changed/reduced spices to 1 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Reduced sugar in cake batter to just 120g demerara sugar, versus the 175g total brown/regular sugar.

    1. mousouchop

      Oh yeah– I also used zest of 1 whole orange (rather than 1/2 lemon) in the topping, and 1/4 cup of orange juice (from said orange) in the batter. Kinda combined a couple different rhubarb cake recipes really… The end product was delicious, I will likely repeat using this modified recipe in the future.

  75. Paige

    Couldn’t wait to try this after buying some organic rhubarb grown by a local farmer. I can’t figure out why the entire center of my cake was so underdone. Baked for 35 minutes and I tested in several spots with a toothpick but nothing stuck to it. Any ideas on what may have gone wrong? The outer ring of the cake was cooked perfectly but the entire middle was a waste.

    1. Shelly B

      Hi, Paige. A suggestion to you about the underdone center of your cake:
      Get an ovenproof thermometer, and check to see if your temperature is true to the setting. My sister never believed me that my Mom’s oven control had to read 50 degrees higher (!) to achieve the proper temperature. Her cakes and breads (chez our mom) were always undercooked inside; mine were fine. The thermostat was unwell but, apparently, required a repair about the price of a new stove : ) — And isn’t this a gorgeous recipe ?!

  76. Sarah C.

    This cake was delicious! I am definitely a rhubard convert. My rhubarb was also on the green side so I cheated and added a little bit of red food coloring to the lemon and sugar and while it wasn’t as pretty as Debs, it didn’t look like celery. I don’t think I’d bother next time since its so tasty I would have been OK with it looking LESS appealing so I had more leftovers ;)

  77. What a delicious-sounding cake! I too love all the sweet, “winter” spices . . . the need for coziness knows no season :) I also adore cakes made with buttermilk like this one; they always seem more soft and luscious!

  78. Kirsten

    I made this last night, and it’s delicious! I’m always impressed by how well thought out your recipes are, Deb.
    For personal preference, when I make this again I will add more rhubarb to the topping, and some chopped pieces to the batter.

  79. atteoj

    I just made this today after work…so yummy! As others have noted, it wasn’t as pretty as yours, but the cake is so very delicious and spice-filled and the rhubarb so sweet and tart. It was awesome.

    I made a 1/2 recipe in a 6″ skillet and it worked like a charm.

  80. Darcie

    I made this today with freshly harvested rhubarb from the garden. I did not wait until after dinner for a taste, but had a slice with a scoop of ice cream in the afternoon of this very hot day. Worth it.

  81. Kristin

    In the interest of time, I made this in a cake pan without pre cooking the rhubarb (ie. just tossed it in the bottom of the pan raw with the sugar and lemon). It was perfectly softened after coming out of the oven, so no issues there. Unfortunately the warm spices were not to my taste with the rhubarb on a hot summer day. I much prefer my go to rhubarb lunar cake recipe.

  82. Colleen

    I wanted a really bright and summery cake so I made this with the zest of a quarter of a grapefruit in the topping instead of lemon and zest of about another quarter in the cake instead of spices. It was amazing. The best substitution I have ever managed!

  83. R

    Absolutely fantastic, my husband and I both loved this! I cut the sugar in the rhubarb to 1/2 cup and used 3/4 sugar in the cake, and it came out great. The batter spread out to the edge of the skillet just like you said :).