old fashioned rhubarb cake

This is the time of year for reruns. No new episodes of Modern Family to help you push through. Nope. Instead there are baseball games that go on for hours and hours. And grotesque reality dating shows. But it is also the time for So You Think You Can Dance and Masterchef. So there is balance.

This is also the time of year for dance recitals. Weeks and weeks of work reduced to a few hours of sequins, missed cues and the occasional moment of greatness. There are photo days, awards nights, and parent/teacher interviews. It is the time of year for typing report cards, and photocopying memos for 300 forgetful families. And it’s the time of year for scheduling your own bathroom breaks. Because if you don’t, they just won’t happen. And you don’t have time to mop the floor. It’s crazy busy. It makes you feel barfy.

old fashioned rhubarb cake

But it is also lovely. Because some of your students are going to their proms. And they show you pictures of their dresses. Because you have stated clearly – year after year – that you must approve both their dresses and dates before they are allowed to go. This year, one of my students showed up at the studio in her prom dress. Shoes and all. So I gave her the go-ahead. And some of my young students have been bringing cakes to class. Cakes they’ve been baking themselves in their mother’s kitchens. Little sugary celebrations of year-end and friendships put on hold for the summer.

So, here’s a wee rerun for you. Better than Big Brother could ever hope to be. (That show makes me sad for Americans.) I give you Old Fashioned Rhubarb Cake. I told you about it last year. But I’ve made a whole lot of new friends since then, so I’m sharing the recipe with you again. Just in case you missed it the first time.

This cake is lovely. It is light. And it has bits of rhubarb floating through it. Rhubarb that has melted into the batter as it bakes. This cake is great for breakfast. Or snacking. Or dessert. It reminds me a little of coffee cake – what with that brown sugar topping and all. But it’s a very thin layer of topping. Just enough to barely cover the surface of the hot cake. A thin layer of brown sugar and cinnamon that seeps down just a little as you gently spread it on. It might seem like there’s not enough topping, but there is. Trust.

old fashioned rhubarb cake

Know that I’m ironing 1.5 million chiffon skirts. And making headpieces for children who will complain that “the bobby pins are making my brain hurt.” And that as of June 10th, I’ll be embracing a new title at work: Part-Time Faculty Member.

Commence wooting now.

. . .

Old Fashioned Rhubarb Cake

recipe: adapted slightly from Rosie Beaucoup, original source unknown

print and bake

Yields one 9 x 9 inch pan.

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening (yes, you could use butter instead)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups diced, fresh rhubarb

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×9 inch square baking pan.

Place topping ingredients in a small bowl and rub together with your fingers until well blended. Set aside. (You could also make the topping when the cake is baking.)

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the shortening and sugars together on medium speed – 3-5 minutes. You could also do this with a hand mixer.

Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined.

On medium-low speed, add the flour mixture to the shortening mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix well to combine with each addition. (Add in the following order: dry, buttermilk, dry, buttermilk, dry.)

Finally, mix the rhubarb in by hand.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 – 45 minutes. (The original recipe calls for a bake time of 60 minutes – I haven’t found it takes that long.)

You will find that the top of the cake browns before the end of the baking time, so to prevent over-browning, place a sheet of tinfoil very lightly on top of the cake surface when the top is brown but some baking time still remains. (I gently lay the tinfoil on top at about 25-30 minutes into the baking time.)

Remove from oven when cake tester comes out clean, and immediately dot the surface with the topping and spread, with as little pressure as possible, across the top of the cake. As the topping warms on the hot cake, it will become easier to spread.

Allow to cool before cutting and devouring.


  1. emmalina73 on May 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Woot to the power of wooting100000000000. That’s a lot of wooting my friend. Yay for you and end of year loveliness that almost wipes out the memory of all the crap that happens during the year. Almost. Sending you high fives for a lovely summer and looking forward to hearing all about it.

    Also I am always sad for Americans and I haven’t even see that show.

    P.S. Woot!

    • movita beaucoup on May 30, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      Man. I heard your wooting way over here! I just leapt into the air and clicked my heels!

      I’ve never watched Big Brother. But I’ve seen snippets. And it is… not good. Not good at all.

  2. thekalechronicles on May 30, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    “The bobby pins are making my brain hurt.” That is just what they do, fiendish things. Bobby pins and ironing: you are reminding me of my mother, except that she used to load up her hair with fifty vicious-looklng hair pins. She tried it on me once or twice, but my hair usually fell down anyway… never did like wearing my hair in a bun. I graduated to one of those leather things with the stick through it.

    • movita beaucoup on May 31, 2012 at 7:40 am

      I like to tell my students that if their hair doesn’t hurt, if it doesn’t feel like a helmet, if it isn’t pulling their faces back, IT IS WRONG. And I always recommend at least fifty vicious hair pins…

  3. frugalfeeding on May 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    You know that I love tradition and simplicity in food – this is brilliant. It looks so good. I’m sorry about your bobby pin induced headache, Movita!

    • movita beaucoup on May 31, 2012 at 8:47 am

      Old-school baking is my favourite. I plan to dedicate my life to it. (Once finished with the bobby pins, that is.)

  4. annewoodman on May 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    A. I LOVE So You Think You Can Dance.
    B. Just went to my daughter’s dance dress rehearsal last night. Soooo gorgeous! Theme: Rhythms of the Rainforest. She is a (pink) butterfly. It is a costume I would have wanted as a child but never got.
    C. My husband is from England and loves rhubarb. I must make this ASAP! He will love me forever if I make it!
    D. I don’t watch Big Brother but am American. I am sad for us as well. But we have a great anthem so I will continue to live here and be proud.

  5. Ann on May 30, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    WHOOHOOOO! Faculty status! You’re in the big leagues now 🙂 Congrats!!

    • movita beaucoup on May 30, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      Um, Ann? I’m actually demoting myself. So, I’m actually moving down to the minor leagues. I WAS: Administrative Head and Full Time Faculty Member. It sounds fancy. What it really means is: I’ve been doing loads of crappy stuff that no one else wants to take care of. But now? Oh, things will be different! Part Time Faculty member is way more awesome. You just show up, teach your classes, and let other people fend for themselves. (Except I will bring them lots of baked treats. That will never change.) Oh, and you can pair my new title with: Full Time Student! WHOOHOOOO to that!!

  6. Maureen (@OrgasmicChef) on May 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    I’m wooting!

    I’ve only heard about Big Brother from the news. I can’t bear reality shows, especially the ones that make Americans look like dickheads. We’re not all that stupid. At those times I pull out my Australian passport. 🙂

    Love the cake with just enough topping.

  7. Bonnie on May 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Hoping you won’t tie yourself in knots with all the activity. That would make it hard to cook wouldn’t it. I remember hearing of a woman, who hearing thunder, and afraid of lightning. would run to the nearest closet, pulling out all the hairpins in her hair, fearing a strike. That would make my brain hurt. Cheers.

  8. Just A Smidgen on May 30, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    I give up on television right about now.. I don’t have time for that with all of the blog reading I have to catch up on!! I have so many emails in my inbox my head hurts, lol! I love your students and I haven’t even met them yet.. love this cake and I haven’t even tasted it yet!! Yay for reruns and new job appointments! xo Smidge

  9. Amy on May 30, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Yay Movita! Congrats on making it through this round of dancing students…your next year will have more cakes and less students, and be so exciting 🙂

    This cake sounds delightful and perfect for breakfast. I’ve only every used rhubarb in rhubarb strawberry crisp (recipe to be on my blog soon!), so I think it’s time that I branch out to something as tasty as this!

  10. Savory Simple on May 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    So You Think You Can Dance makes everything worth it 😉

    The cakes looks delicious.

  11. musingmar on May 31, 2012 at 12:37 am

    I love charmingly simple cakes like these. And I love your concept of blog re-runs! Good luck with recital season

  12. wendy@chezchloe on May 31, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Gorgeous tea cake is on my list.
    As for bobby pins… they weren’t as bad as the tight ass braid that left the dull ache turned numbing sensation.
    Your baking is already amazing and soon will be off the charts. And just what are your future plans dear? Are they intwined in past posts? Is this a creative itch you are scratching or are you thinking of monetizing your baking? Is that all too deep to ask on a comment and I’ve broken protocol? x

  13. kydel on May 31, 2012 at 5:58 am

    WOOT! Does this mean you won’t have to deal with parents complaining about two sheets of paper instead on one? Cos that would be awesome!
    Now, you might hate me a little for this, but I want to pour custard on your cake. It looks so gorgeous and fluffy and light and I love a good sponge with custard. It could be because I’m a Brit or it could be because if someone says Rhubarb, I think Custard. And now I have that theme tune in my head…

    • movita beaucoup on June 2, 2012 at 8:05 am

      No. Parents will still complain to me. Even if I’m only there part-time. But now, it will be someone else’s problem to FIX! Woot!

      Also, go forth with your custard. Because custard is awesome.

  14. Juls on May 31, 2012 at 6:51 am

    They have this awful new reality dating show here in Britain now. They’ve apparently lost all new ideas so it’s basically two lifts and on each “floor” there is a different potential date and they can mix and match and…well…it’s terrible. Forgive me for having to watch it so often just for the purposes of being able to clarify just how awful it is.
    This post made me sad that I was such a little tit at school I got expelled before I could ever go to my Leaver’s Ball. Every time I see things about Leaver’s Balls and Proms I get all melancholy that I missed out on it even though I’m 24 now, still can’t dance (I envy you) and have never, ever learnt to look graceful in high heels.
    But this post also had cake, so I am happy.

  15. shannon on May 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    i have already (perhaps prematurely) wooted for you because of all this end-of-one-chapter/beginning-of-another excitement. I am wooting right now as i type this; the wee one is looking at me funny, but she’s also delighted.

    i really want this cake right now. did i see a slight waft of steam rising out of one of the photos, or is that my (hungry for cake) imagination? either way, i’ll be making this as soon as i can snag myself a bunch of rhubarb.

  16. cravingsofalunatic on June 1, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Wooting commenced, much congrats on being part time so you can pursue your other dreams. This cake is fabulous. I almost forgot I hate rhubarb. We have it in our yard though. Leftover plant from my pops. I give it to friends and neighbours. I am not sure if I still dislike it. I used to. But I’m stubborn like that.

  17. Emma @ Food, Fork and Good on June 1, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Woot woot! hehe, this looks perfect, We’ve just got a big bunch of rhubarb coming in, I’e been looking for recipes to use it in. Thank you!

  18. Tina@flourtrader on June 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    It does seem as if once school winds down there is a lot of events that really keep you busy! However, congrats is in order on the new title and some breathing room.
    There may be a lot of re-runs out there but some I missed the first time. This delicious cake is one of them. The texture and flavor sure does make me want to try it. Thanks for the tasty re-run!

  19. shannon on June 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Big Brother makes me sad for Americans, too. And i am one. I can’t say i dislike all reality television, but that one i could do without. i get embarrassed, especially since my favorite television series right now is Downton Abbey and my people had nothing to do with that. *sigh*

    the only problem i can see with this cake is that i’d eat all of it myself. without thinking, i would snack my way through the entire thing. I can’t decide if that would be good or bad. you had me at the rhubarb being “melted into the cake.”

    that did it. now i’m going to have to make this.

  20. thelittleloaf on June 4, 2012 at 7:00 am

    For some reason my feeds haven’t been coming through from your blog but I’ve managed to sort it now…have missed out on so many delicious recipes though! This one looks like a real gem – you know you’re onto a winner when you make it time and time again 🙂

  21. Alissa on June 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Oh my Oh my. I’ve started following your blog recently and must say I am in love. I am also in love with this cake which was a huge hit over the weekend. My 13 year old and good friends all agree it was tasty with its coffee-cake like consistency and density (so we ate it for breakfast every day until it was gone… flour, cinnamon and an egg… its kinda breakfast-y right?) and then it was dubbed “rhubarb-lite”… great for people who haven’t tasted rhubarb before or aren’t ready for the whammy of a real rhubarb pie. YUMYUMYUM. It is officially in my “last-minute-having-people-over-for-brunch” repertoire.

    • movita beaucoup on June 8, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Well, this makes me terribly happy!! Thanks for taking the time to report back! xox

  22. movita beaucoup on October 29, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Comments on this post are now closed as it was published in May 2012. Happy baking!