This rhubarb coffee cake is moist and delicious, easy to make, and has a crunchy streusel topping and sugar glaze that just takes it over the top! Don’t be surprised if this rhubarb cake turns into your favorite rhubarb dessert!
Confession- I didn’t always love rhubarb. I honestly thought that it was just a prettier version of celery- I mean that color! But after making these rhubarb ice cream sandwiches last year, I was hooked.
This year after seeing fresh rhubarb in the store for the first time, I decided I was going to make a rhubarb cake. To be specific, I wanted it to be a rhubarb coffee cake!
Rhubarb coffee cake
I have made this rhubarb cake 3 times. The first time I was SO surprised with how it came out because of just how good it was. The cake is super fluffy thanks to the addition of sour cream. It also has a fresh and bright flavor from orange juice and zest.
Before you make this rhubarb cake
Make sure the butter and eggs for the cake recipe are at room temperature. This is really important because room temperature ingredients create a super fluffy cake. You won’t get the same results if they are cold.
Some tips for room temperature ingredients:
- Take the butter out of the fridge an hour before starting the cake. Leave it on the counter to soften. To soften butter quickly you can microwave it whole for 10-15 seconds, but make sure it doesn’t melt!
- To warm up the eggs quickly- place them in a small bowl or measuring cup with warm water for 10 minutes.
How to make rhubarb coffee cake
First trim the fresh rhubarb vertically into thin 1/2″ strips. You may have to cut them in thirds if they are really thick. Then chop them up into 2″ chunks.
Place the trimmed rhubarb in a bowl with 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoons orange juice, and some orange zest. Set the bowl aside and let it marinate while you prep the rest of the cake.
Prepare the crumb topping. Using a grater and cold butter this time, grate the cold butter into a bowl. Add the sugars, flour, cinnamon, and salt and mix with your fingers or 2 forks until crumbs form. Place in freezer until ready to use.
Cream the butter and sugar in a stand or hand mixer until it is light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and eggs one at a time. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
Combine the dry ingredients- flour, kosher salt, baking powder, and baking soda on a piece of parchment paper. This will allow you to easily pick up the paper and pour it into the mixing bowl when needed.
Combine the yogurt and milk in a measuring cup.
Starting with the flour mixture, pour 1/3 of it into the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until combined. Next add in 1/2 of the yogurt mixture, switching off with another 1/3rd of the flour, the last 1/2 of the yogurt, and the last 1/3rd of the flour, mixing in between each addition.
Drain the rhubarb and either pour the pieces on top of the batter or line them up in a design.
Sprinkle the streusel topping on top, and bake! Prepare and pour the glaze on after the cake has cooled.
No nut streusel topping
I had a hard time making this right. Streusel often has nuts in it because it helps create the crumbs, but since I have a nut allergy, using nuts is not an option for me.
The first two times I made this the streusel completely sank into the cake. I tried using small chunks of cold butter and then tried the melted butter method. Both times it sank.
Then I read somewhere to try grating cold butter and then freezing the mixture. I was reluctant ( who grates butter?) but I tried it and it worked! I was so surprised!
We have alllll seen those insanely tedious looking rhubarb cake and pie designs.
Honestly sometimes it makes me inspired and sometimes it makes me feel intimidated.
This recipe gives you the best of both worlds. You can choose to make a crazy design and skip the streusel part to show it off. Or you can say screw that and throw those rhubarb slices in and top it with that crunchy streusel.
One thing I learned from my blogging friend Anita over on Cook on a whim– is how to make a rhubarb ribbon.
All you need is a good peeler to peel a piece of fresh rhubarb and it turns into a twirl! Super impressive with minimal effort, thanks lady!!
Frozen rhubarb and strawberries
You can totally use frozen rhubarb and even add in some frozen strawberries!
Substitute 2 cups frozen fruit/rhubarb for this recipe.
Make sure it is thawed out and dried well. I made this cake with frozen ingredients and the flavor was still the same. The fruit sank to the bottom though so just beware!
Making ahead and storage
This rhubarb cake can be made a day in advance. Store covered on the counter for 3-5 days. You do not have to refrigerate this cake.
For best results do not glaze the cake before freezing. Bake the cake, let it cool, then wrap in a double layer of tin foil and freeze for up to two months. Thaw it on the counter. Make the glaze and pour it on right before serving.
Make the confectioners sugar glaze with milk, water or orange juice. If you’re feeling extra fancy top it with a scoop of ice cream for pure rhubarb cake decadence.
You might like these other seasonal recipes:
- Rhubarb Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Peach Muffins with Crumb Topping
- Clafoutis Recipe with Cherries and Bourbon
- Plum Tart
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Rhubarb Coffee Cake
For the rhubarb
- 3-4 fresh rhubarb stalks trimmed and sliced thin and in 2" pieces
- 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- 2 tsp orange zest
For the crumb topping
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter cold, grated
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the cake
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs large
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
For the glaze
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 1-2 tsp milk
- Preheat the oven to 350° F and line a 10" springform pan or cake pan with parchment paper or spray with baking spray.
- In a small bowl combine the trimmed rhubarb, sugar, orange juice, and zest and set aside to marinate while you prep the streusel.
- Prepare the streusel crumb topping. Grate the cold butter into a medium sized bowl. Add in the, brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Mix to combine using two forks or with a pastry cutter. Place in the freezer while you prepare the rest of the cake.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed (5-6) until pale and fluffy about 1 minute. Add in the eggs one at a time mixing in between each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.
- Combine the flour, kosher salt, baking powder, and baking soda on a piece of parchment paper.
- Combine the yogurt and milk in a measuring cup.
- Starting with the flour mixture, alternate adding in 1/3rd of the flour into the batter with 1/2 of the yogurt mixture. Continue alternating 1/3rd of the flour with 1/2 of the yogurt mixture mixing in between each addition. You should end with the last 3rd of the flour mixture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Drain the rhubarb slices and place them on top of the batter. Sprinkle the streusel all over the top of the cake.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown and the edges of the cake start to pull away from the pan.
- In a small bowl combine the confectioners sugar with milk, orange juice or even water. Mix until combined and drizzle over the top of the cake.