Rhubarb Crumb Coffee Cake

I have a confession: I do not like overly sweet foods. This may come as a surprise considering that my blog is decidcated to all things sugar and sweet. But it’s true. I can rarely finish a piece of cake and the thought of eating an entire S’more, with all that marshmallow sweetness, makes me a little uneasy. I just can’t do it. For most desserts, I take a bite or two, enjoy them to the fullest, and call it quits. As a result, I tend to gravitate toward things that are tart. Rhubarb is one of those perfect foods. Rhubarb also brings back good memories of summertime when I was a kid – rhubarb pie and all.

I found this recipe for rhubarb coffee cake on Smitten Kitchen. I went to the Madison Farmer’s Market this weekend and bought some fresh rhubarb. Mmmmmmm. And since I aim to bring a little geekery to your lives, did you know that the leaves of the rhubarb plant are toxic? And that the color of the stalk, which ranges from green to red, is not related to its suitability for cooking. Though I will admit, the red is prettier.

Rhubarb Crumb Coffee Cake
Recipe credit: Smitten Kitchen, adapted from New York Times 6/6/07
Print Recipe

For the rhubarb filling:
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 3/4 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose flour, it works fine)

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour (I used all-purpose)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.
2. To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. It will look like a solid dough.
3. To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.
4. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.
5. Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings. Also try this recipe with cherries or blueberries if rhubarb isn’t in season!

4 thoughts on “Rhubarb Crumb Coffee Cake”

  • Oooh. I have some diced rhubarb in the freezer. Got a ton of it from a friend’s garden in May, and used half of it to make a rhubarb crumble (which I liked, but wouldn’t have been nearly as good if we hadn’t had english custard on top).

    It was my first experience with rhubarb.. I never once saw it or ate it in Texas. I was not prepared for the sour smell while chopping. I thought there must be something wrong with it! But I plowed ahead, and it was pretty tasty in the crumble.

  • Annie,

    I made this the day the recipe came out two summers ago. It’s fabulous, and it holds up well after a couple of days too. Glad you discovered it.

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