Rhubarb big crumb cake

Most of the time it’s just the two of us working in the garden so on the rare occasion that we get some help I’m always amazed by how much can be done in a couple of hours. About two weeks ago some friends asked whether they could come see our garden and generously offered to help with any task at hand, too. And help they did: we got a big area under our apple trees covered with cardboard and then a layer of wood chips. It looks neat but the main point is it will also kill perennial weeds (mainly couch grass) so that we can plant up the herb layer under the trees next year. Plus one of the ladies washed the wooden boards of our raised beds so that you can see their pretty colour again. Which is one of the jobs I very much want done but never get around to because of more pressing tasks.

mulching with wood chips

Halfway through the morning we took a coffee/tea break in the shade of our hazel and I served this rhubarb cake. It is a recipe I’ve been polishing since the rhubarb season started this year and finally feel it deserves to be shared. Seeing how quickly it disappeared, I think my friends would agree. The next time I saw one of the ladies, the first thing she said was: ‘Oh, that rhubarb cake!’ – a good sign, right?


The cake is a bit of a cross between my beloved kuchen with streusel and this cake, yet different from both. There is a cake layer, a generous layer of rhubarb and lots of big spiced crumbs and together, they are perfection. Though the crumbs use the same ingredients as streusel, it is the shaping them into satisfyingly huge crumbs that makes all the difference here.

Warning: I love rhubarb and do not think it’s sharpness should be completely masked by sugar which is why I use a lot more rhubarb and less sugar than similar recipes I came across. If you feel differently, you might want to reduce the amount of rhubarb and/or up the amount of sugar in the batter by about ¼ cup.


Rhubarb big crumb cake

50 g (1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
70 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
40 g (1/4 cup) dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
115 g (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
75 g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
75 g (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour

115 g (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup) raw cane sugar
3 eggs
250 ml (1 cup) buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
230 g (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
150 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
600 g (1 pound 5 ounces) rhubarb, trimmed weight

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 F). Butter a rectangular 22,5 x  32,5 cm (9 x 13 inch) baking form with butter and line with baking parchment.
Start by making the crumbs: In a medium bowl, combine both sugars and spices, add butter and rub between your fingers. Add the flour and combine. Set aside.

Make the batter:
Beat the butter until smooth and fluffy, either by hand or in a food processor. Add both sugars and beat some more. Add the eggs, one by one, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, too. In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add about a third of the buttermilk to the butter mixture, stir, add a third of the flour, stir – continue adding the flour and buttermilk stirring between each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Slice the rhubarb about 1cm (1/2 inch) thick and distribute it evenly over the batter. Press a little to make it sink partially into the batter. Press the crumb mixture into big crumbs with your fingers and scatter on top of the rhubarb.

Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes. I find it’s a good idea to cover the top with aluminium foil after about 30 minutes to protect the crumbs from  burning. Test for doneness by inserting a sewer.
Let cool a bit before serving.

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