A quick and easy recipe for rhubarb coffee cake, great for everyday entertaining or just because.
Today is the first day of summer break for my children. Our alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. I rolled over onto my husband’s pillow as he begrudgingly exited the bed. This is, in fact, my favorite part of the day: occupying the empty hole he has left in our dingy-white-sheeted queen. I pressed my face deeper into his pillow.
At 6:30 a.m. I resentfully roll from the bed.
Throwing on a sweater to act as protection from the rain, I slipped my feet into black flip flops, grabbed my requisite driving glasses, and headed for the door followed by a sweatpants-clad teenager up for her first day of summer break. Hair in a high bun, t-shirt from last year’s color run on her back, we left for swim practice.
Over the course of the next eight hours my life energy has been sucked away by the children I grew with my own body (read: introvert). I just requested a family quiet time. Not only does quiet time involve being quiet, but in my house, it involves becoming invisible. I don’t want to hear you, nor do I desire to see you. This can be a challenge when there are six of us in 1,100 square feet.
Tomorrow I shall drag my body out of bed for similar reasons, combined with a cello lesson, an appointment with the allergist, a play date, a pool party, coaching, and a bonfire in my backyard. Stop with the summer already.
I skulk to the backyard where my youngest is twisting himself round on the swing. As I get closer he turns to me, silently smiles, and then lets the swing unwind, spinning him round. Reaching the end of the lines, he stops the swaying with his sneaker-clad feet and smiles up at me. “Push me, Mama?”
As we sit there, me pushing, him soaring, I stare around my withering gardens. In the heat of the now-summer, I’ve been fighting off pests and weeds and humidity-loving bacteria. And failing. I stare across the open space towards the strawberry bed that is blanketed in clover and see the rhubarb, large and happy after my springtime harvest. I push Magnus on the swing again as he sails back towards me. “Do you want to make a cake?”
This cake is modified from one my mom makes. As a child, I picked fresh rhubarb for it from the plant alongside the garage. I would sit with a small bowl of sugar, gnawing on a fresh stalk while she chopped away at the others. It’s not a pretentious cake. It’s comes together easily and bakes off in whatever pan you can spare with a simple sprinkle of sugar over the top. There are no icings or frostings or crumbles, just cake.
It’s the kind of cake you can make on a whim, on a lazy morning or minutes before dinner guests arrive and the urge strikes to add something sweet to the menu. Oh, and it’s delicious with berries swapped in for the rhubarb, too. Our most recent rendition was half rhubarb from our garden and half gifted strawberries from a friend’s garden.
Rhubarb Coffee Cake
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 cup buttermilk (or sub: 1 cup milk + 1 teaspoon lemon juice)
- 2 cups chopped rhubarb
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a 9x13" pan.
- In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla, just until mixed.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom. Add in half the flour. Mix lightly. Stir in half of the buttermilk. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk, stirring just until mixed. Fold in the rhubarb.
- Spread the cake batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until center is set.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting.