Upside down rhubarb cake

‘Tis the season for rhubarb. I’m welcoming it with wide open arms. I love its tartness and soft, pink coloured centers when you cook them down. While they look like red celery stalks, once cooked down in sugar, they break down into a beautiful mess and is a good balance of sweet and tart. I love the gorgeous pink colour that seem to intensify when they cook. My favourite way of eating rhubarb is in desserts,a simple rhubarb crumble, in particular, after dinner is a pretty fine way of ending the meal. I don’t quite see a need to try another rhubarb dessert when I have my strawberry and rhubarb crumble.

However, a warm, sunny afternoon found me creaming up some butter and sugar and these rhubarb managed to find their way into the base (or should I say top?) of the cake. In a way, I’m glad they did. This cake is pretty awesome. You don’t have to cook down the rhubarb before adding it to the cake or it will just break down too much into a horrific mess. I wanted the rhubarb to hold its shape somehow so they make a lovely patterned on top of it.

Don’t worry, the rhubarb would be well-cooked after being in the oven for a good fifty minutes. It would also have the right balance of tartness and sweetness for there is enough sugar added into the pan schmear and the rhubarb. This cake is deliciously moist when it is slightly warm and even after it has cooled completely – it is fantastic for tea and breakfast. You can debate all you want about whether we should consider rhubarb a fruit or vegetable. Excuse me while I go have some of my cake.


Recipe: Upside down rhubarb cake
Makes a 9-inch round cake
Adapted from Upside down Pineapple cake from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

Ingredients: For Pan schmear

57g unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 tbsp honey
1 tsp brandy
90g light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

For the rhubarb:
4-5 stalks of rhubarb, washed and tough ends trimmed
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp granulated sugar

For the cake
113g unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
120g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g eggs
1 tbsp milk
120g cake flour
2 tsp baking powder


1. Prepare the pan schmear: Using a paddle attachment, cream the butter with honey, rum, brown sugar, salt and vanilla and beat until smooth and well-incorporated.

2. Prepare your cake tin: line and butter the baking parchment  if you are not using a silicon mould. Spread the schmear over the bottom of a 9-inch cake tin.

3.  Prepare the rhubarb: Slice the rhubarb into 1cm lengths and toss it with 1 tbsp of cornflour and 1 tbsp of granulated sugar. Top the rhubarb in a single layer over the pan schmear.

4. Prepare the cake: Cream the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until pale and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Add in the vanilla.

5. Add the eggs one at a time, beat until well-combined and scraping down the sides as necessary. Add in the milk. Add the sifted dry ingredients in 3 batches, until just incorporated.

6. Pour the cake batter over the apple slices and spread the batter neatly with a spatula knife. Knock the cake tin twice against the counter top. Bake in a 175 degrees celcius, preheated oven for about 50 minutes, rotating the cake tin mid way for even browning. The cake is done when it is golden brown and spring back to touch.

7. Cool the cake in the cake tin for about 10 minutes before running a knife around the edges before flipping it over a serving plate. The cake is best served warm though it still taste great at room temperature. *Cake can be stored at room temperature for 2 days. Or you keep the cake for up to a month if you clingwrap the completely cooled cake and store it in the freezer.

About jothetartqueen

My first love is eating. A very close second is my love for baking and cooking. I passionately believe that the best form of appreciation of something is almost always through the creation of it. This passion took me on a whirlwind, unforgettable ride through the patisserie diploma course at Le Cordon Bleu (Sydney). Join me on my discovery for the love of food – through the kitchen, through the markets, through experimenting, tasting and loving.
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4 Responses to Upside down rhubarb cake

  1. Such a lovely way of celebrating rhubarb Jo! 🙂

  2. pattyabr says:

    what a great idea!

  3. Brilliant! I actually have rhubarb growing in my garden right now, and I was puzzling over what to do with it. I think that problem is now solved. 😉

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