Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Rhubarb Reappears

For me, rhubarb proclaims spring. It’s been so since I was a kid when bowls full appeared at breakfast, and then pies on Sunday. I even hid inside the plant and under its broad leaves one time until I was scooted out of there by my grandmother – a sweet embrace while it lasted.

rhubarb-2 rhubarb-v-2

I thought my brother wouldn’t give me away, but of course he couldn’t resist. Probably he didn’t have to say a word, just stood next to the plant tittering enough that my grandmother wondered what was up, or maybe he tried to join me underneath and there definitely was not room for the two of us.

If I could crawl into a rhubarb plant today I would. I love the stuff. Instead I just eat it in many forms and am grateful for the vigorous plant in the backyard that is reborn again each spring. Its pink nubs appear in early March, sensual reminders that in a few weeks the season will turn and rhubarb will be on the table again. A new one this year, recipe below, is a rhubarb coffee cake that’s fantastic. And one year ago, almost to the day, I posted rhubarb sauce and crisp recipes. This link will take you there. Speaking of recipes, Poppy and I are working on a MixedGreens Cookbook page that will make it much easier to access recipes from the past. Coming soon.

So rhubarb’s back singing spring, its sour note a counterpoint to the season’s fragrant pastel blooms and together they make sweet spring music.


Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook has a recipe for Brown Sugar & Almond Coffee Cake that has raspberries as an ingredient. I modified it by using seasonal rhubarb instead of raspberries, and half the almond extract suggested. It’s a large, luscious cake, perfect for brunch or dessert as is, or frosted with yogurt sweetened with the extra rhubarb sauce. Great for a gathering, or put half of it in the freezer for later, the rhubarb substitution worked out well – it’s a fantastic spring desert.

Coffee Cake with Seasonal Rhubarb Recipe rhubarb-coffee-cake

Make 2 cups of rhubarb sauce: 3 – 4 cups of coarsely chopped rhubarb cooked with 2/3 – 1  cup of sugar and a pinch of salt for eight or ten minutes until just tender. Do not add extra liquid. Turn off heat and allow to cool. The cake batter will further sweeten the rhubarb so keep this sauce a little on the tart side. Double the amount of sauce and save half of it for topping along with yogurt, the best frosting you can imagine for this coffeecake.

Measure everything ahead and set aside:
Dry Ingredients: 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 t baking powder, 1 t soda, 1 t salt
Wet ingredients: 5 eggs, 1/2 cup whole milk, 2 t vanilla extract, 1 or 2 t almond extract
1 cup buttermilk, or a little less to compensate for juicy rhubarb
2 – *3 cups rhubarb sauce
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, 1 3/4 cup brown sugar

1 C whole almonds, coarsely chopped

*(If adding the extra rhubarb, slightly decrease amount of milk and/or buttermilk.)

Cream room temperature butter and brown sugar together for 5 – 8 minutes/ Add egg & milk mixture (w/extracts) a little at a time until fully incorporated/ By hand or with mixer on lowest speed, alternately add flour and buttermilk until just incorporated – don’t overmix at this point for the tenderest cake/ By hand gently stir in 2 – 3 cups of rhubarb sauce so that it swirls through the batter/ Place in a 9-inch square or 10-inch round pan coated with just a little butter and flour/Sprinkle evenly with chopped almonds (or, use local hazelnuts instead, or omit the nuts)/ Bake at 325º for about an hour, until skewer comes out clean when tested/ Macrina Bakery dusts the cake with powdered sugar and coarsely chopped almonds/ Cake is tender until completely cooled so handle with care.

Topping: Stir a cup or so of reserved rhubarb sauce into a cup of yogurt.  Drizzle over pieces of cake when serving with a smidge more sauce on the very top. Could this be breakfast?

Next time? I’ll add more rhubarb, 3 cups, and decrease liquid by a small amount.

Pears on the way.  rhubarb-rhubarb-coffeecake-2 HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPPY.

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6 Responses »

  1. I adore rhubarb, even just straight on a compote with some cranberries and oats. The color, just like spring, always lifts my mood.

  2. I’m excited about the Mixed Greens cookbook!!! Can’t wait to have it at the ready for all of us foodies.

    Rhubarb in Ellensburg is slower in coming than Seattle, but seeing daffodils finally bloom means that our dear friend rhubarb is not far behind. I can see you hiding in the plants, Sally. I always thought the leaves made the best umbrellas!

  3. Rhubarb may not be naturally sweet, but its color is brilliant. I hope you enjoy its seasonal moment. Mangochild, stir rhubarb sauce into some yogurt with your oats – I bet that would be good. Jeanette, yes, good umbrellas, but don’t eat them. They’re poisonous. Go have a look at it as it emerges from the ground – a sexy sight.

  4. Sally, for me, rhubarb is a mindtrip back to childhood in MI where my father insisted on a spring/summer garden that contained 3 things: several beefsteak tomato plants, a row of peonies, and a row of rhubarb plants growing on the border of the alley. I would break a stalk off the plant, and sit on the backyard swing with a bowl of sugar to dunk the stalk into before taking a bite. Makes my mouth water just thinking of it. Mother always cooked up a batch of rhubarb sauce each year, for eating straight or putting on toast. It was just part of summertime. She never baked much with it, but I have a recipe or two of my own that I love to make when the harvest season is upon us. What a wonderful plant…loved the beefsteaks too and the ant-loaded peonies! Sadly, my Seattle yard and garden lacks all three! Makes for a sweet memory…

  5. Does rhubarb have to be cooked before you eat it? What if it has been frozen? I have two plants in my back yard and I’m trying to learn good ways to use it. Thanks!

  6. Jenn, as far I know rhubarb has to be cooked. That and some sugar. Easiest thing is sauce and rhubarb crisp is a fabulous dessert – there’s a link to recipes in this post. I just pulled another crisp out of the oven a couple of hours ago. Jam and chutney are good. I often freeze sauce , but have never frozen the uncooked stalks. Maybe that works, not sure.
    Good luck. Let me know how it goes.