Preserves in Action: Rhubarb Cake

May 14, 2012(updated on August 30, 2021)

Before I tell you about this cake, I have to take a moment to tell you all how appreciative I am for each and everyone of you out there. Thank you for all the kind comments you’ve left on my post about my cookbook jitters. Thank you for all the wonderful tweets you’ve been posting with pictures of my cookbook in your hands (truly, I can’t tell you how much I love seeing that). I can’t wait to be out on the road next month, meeting some of you and hearing how the book is fitting into your preserving life.

rhubarb preserves (June 2010)

Now, to the cake. As we all know, the spring months are prime time for rhubarb. I’ve been picking up a pound or two just about every time I see it in the market. I’ve done a couple small batches of strawberry rhubarb jam (I’ll have that small batch technique up later this week), a tiny batch of rhubarb syrup and this cake.

chopped rhubarb

It’s wildly adapted from the recipe for Rhubarb Buckle with Ginger Crumb from Rustic Fruit Desserts. I skipped the ginger crumb, used whole wheat pastry flour, added a bit less sugar and reduced the amount of butter.

To replace the missing butter, I used a generous dollop of rhubarb preserves I made in June 2010 (two years old and still mighty fine). If you don’t have some rhubarb preserves squirreled away, any other slightly runny jam, fruit butter or sauce would work. You could even cook down some additional rhubarb with a bit of sugar or honey and use that in place of the preserves.

unbaked cake

The rhubarb gets very thinly sliced and stirred into the batter at the end. The result is a cake is just barely sweet, moist from the fruit and hearty enough to feel like you could eat it for breakfast (which is exactly how I’m planning on starting my day tomorrow. I firmly believe in eating cake first thing on one’s birthday).

cake square

I added this cake to my Mother’s Day brunch this morning and we gobbled it up alongside  our scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit salad and waffles.

There’s just one thing to know about this cake. All those little chunks of rhubarb make it hard to get a clear read from a cake tester. When the bake time is up, the top should be nicely browned and it should feel quite firm when tapped. It needs to be moist, so take care.

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Preserves in Action: Rhubarb Cake


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fruit jam or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup runny yogurt
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamons
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 pound rhubarb trimmed and thinly sliced


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Butter a 9x9 baking dish.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Add jam, eggs and yogurt and beat to combine.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, baking soda and salt.
  • Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix to incorporate.
  • Once the batter is fully mixed, add the sliced rhubarb and stir until just incorporated.
  • Scrape batter into the buttered dish.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top of the cake is brown and it feels set to the touch.
  • Let cake cool completely before slicing.

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23 thoughts on "Preserves in Action: Rhubarb Cake"

  • This looks perfect. I was hunting for a rhubarb snack-but-not-super-sweet to make this afternoon and this couldn’t be better. It’s too late for today’s party, but it’ll work great for the kids’ after-school snack this week. Thanks for another great recipe!

    1. Argh! I made the cake tonight and the middle fell in. The edge piece I just ate was delicious, though! I’m not sure whether to blame my 8×8 pan (I must have baked it at least an hour but the smaller pan might have made it thick enough to add even more time), the frozen rhubarb (maybe that made it take longer?), or my oven that might run slightly cool. I didn’t take it out until the top was dark. Rereading your post I could tell that it wasn’t completely firm under the top. I only remembered that you said we wouldn’t be able to use the usual testers but I thought that was because the middle would be slightly moist, not just the rhubarb chunks. After adding so much extra time, I was getting nervous about over-doing the edges.

      It’s so delicious though, and a wonderful way to use rhubarb without massive amounts of sugar (or the jello or red dye so many recipes want to push with rhubarb). I think I’ll get around my lack of 9×9 pan and make them in cupcake form (with fresh rhubarb) in the future. That will make passing them out for snacks simpler too. And anything that gets them out of the oven and into my mouth sooner seems good. In the meantime, I’ll be eating the edge pieces (of which there are plenty) of my sad sunken cake.

  • I am sold … I am devastated … I am hungry! I love rhubarb so much, and now I am itching to try this new, scrumptious recipe! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  • This looks so darn tasty! I love rhubarb season. I picked up a huge amount of it yesterday at Headhouse– it’s all looking so good this year!

    I’m really into your technique of leaving a few bits of whole rhubarb to the batter– so often rhubarb is pureed or really broken down, it’s nice to see it used in its relatively whole form.

  • I love that many blogs are posting about rhubarb. I can’t get enough of that stuff. Assuming I can get my hands on more rhubarb, I am going to add this to my list of things I hope to make this weekend. I also plan on making rhubarb & strawberry leathers. I think my son will love it in his lunch box.

  • Your book FINALLY arrived! Headed home now to spend the afternoon with you. Your jitters were unfounded!

  • Loving rhubarb right now – tis the season I guess! Cake looks delicious – I think I’d like it cubed like croutons over a bowl of fresh strawberries with another dab of yogurt on top! Thanks Marisa + Happy Birthday!! 🙂

  • I’ve got lots of rhubarb in the garden. I’d like to make this for a friend, but need to make it gluten free. What would be a good substitute for the wheat pastry flour? Rice flour, same amount?

    1. I’ve found that using only rice flour results in a fairly grainy end result. Bob’s Red Mill makes a great gluten free flour substitute – which saves you from having to buy a bunch of different gf flours to blend for a better mouth feel and crumb. Luck!

  • Marisa, this cake looks lovely! When I can find some halfway decent rhubarb around here (ironically there seems to be a dearth of it at the moment), this is first on my list.

  • OH! I can’t wait to harvest some rhubarb so I can make this delicious recipe! It looks absolutely wonderful 🙂

  • So you know ….. Your book was front and center on the features table at the Tattered Cover bookstore here in Denver! Made it easy for me to find!

  • I happened upon your blog and love it. When I found out you had released a book, I immediately ordered a copy. Just got it today and can’t wait to dig into it. Lovely blog, lovely book. Congrats!

  • This cake (as it’s written in Rustic Fruit Desserts) is already a go-to cake in my family (frozen rhubarb works pretty well with the recipe so we can make it all year round). We may have to try this variation – see which one we like better.

    1. Ann, this is definitely a more basic version. It’s better suited for a breakfast, brunch and snacks than it is for a dinner party dessert.

  • I just tried it for a friends birthday. And it was scrumptious. I (and she) absolutely loved it. We had lunch in a chinese restaurant and the owner had never heard of rhubarb, so we gave him a piece too. He loved it – the tartness of the rhubarb, and a cake that wasn’t too sweet, which was something I love. I also appreciate a cake in a 9×9 pan – just right for my husband. We have grown out of the 9×13 pan size. Thanks so much Marisa. I too am ordering your book!

  • I just made this with some rhubarb from the first Farmer’s Market of the season, my own homemade plain yogurt, and apple butter. It was DELICIOUS!! I used an 11 x 7 pan, cooked it 45 minutes. Totally perfect. I have already passed the recipe on to my mother-in-law, who is visiting for the weekend. Thanks so very much for this recipe!

  • Hi Marisa, Maybe you can help! I made a bunch of rhubarb butter (or jam? I can’t quite remember, pretty sure its butter) anyway, do you have any other recipes that might work to deplete my cache? My family isn’t particularly fond if it ( I love it!) so I’m looking for other ways to use it up. Any ideas? Thanks so much for the help!