Rhubarb cake is a great way to embrace this late-spring vegetable | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Rhubarb cake is a great way to embrace this late-spring vegetable 

This one-bowl cake is so easy that I once made it with a broken arm

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Rhubarb is a late-spring delight. A lot of people think they don’t like it because it’s too sour, or because it turns a weird, sickly brownish-green color when cooked. Those people have not had this rhubarb cake — a sublime meld of sweet and tangy, mellowed with warm spices.  

It’s a humble one-layer cake that makes a good accompaniment for tea or coffee. Make it fancy by serving it warm, topped with vanilla ice cream (or whipped cream) and a sprig of mint (or some other nice edible leaf). Or eat it, as I do, out of the pan for breakfast; it’s got fruit in it. 

The large quantity of rhubarb keeps it moist, so this is a good cake to stretch out over a couple of days, should you be the sort of steadfast person who can keep a cake for more than a day. 

The “cooking” couldn’t be more basic — standard ingredients and no complicated techniques. In fact, this one-bowl cake is so easy that I once made it with a broken arm, using only my right hand and left elbow.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • 3 eggs (at room temperature)
  • ½ cup butter, melted and cooled
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (about 5 good-sized stalks) rhubarb, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1 cup of chopped walnuts
  • Optional: turbinado, demerara or “raw” sugar for garnish


Pre-heat oven to 350 F degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch pan. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together. Add eggs, butter, milk and vanilla to the bowl. Mix at low-medium speed until blended. Scrape side of bowl, and mix for another minute. Stir in rhubarb and nuts (if using). Pour batter into pan. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar, for a top with more crackle; white sugar can pinch-hit here. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.



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