Rhubarb Upside Down Cake is a beautiful, no fuss dessert recipe that’s perfect for spring and summer. Featuring a buttery, tender cake and a sweet and tangy rhubarb topping, it pairs beautifully with a scoop of ice cream.
Rhubarb Desserts Need a Better Agent
I would like to officially submit my resume to become rhubarb’s new agent. I don’t know who’s running the place right now, but they’re not doing so hot.
Sure, they’ve teamed up with Big Strawberry to get a few media appearances, but rhubarb deserves more than these side-show roles.
Rhubarb’s management has done such a bad job, I had to Google whether rhubarb is a fruit or vegetable. Spoiler alert: it’s a VEGETABLE. Who knew? Not me, clearly, because rhubarb’s agent doesn’t care enough to educate the public about a vegetable you can TURN INTO CAKE.
On second thought, maybe we need to get the team behind Carrot Sheet Cake to consult on this one.
Today, I want to show you how to turn a few stalks of rhubarb into a simple, satisfying rhubarb upside down cake that’s perfect for spring and probably counts as a serving of vegetables. It’s been a long winter, we deserve this.
Here’s why you’re going to LOVE this Rhubarb Upside Down Cake:
- It is so darn easy to make. This cake whips up so quickly, you can have it in and out of the oven in under an hour.
- It’s almost impossible to screw up. Does the flipping over part scare you? Don’t let it. Even if a little bit of the topping sticks to the pan, you can scoop it up and spread it on top, and no one will be the wiser. It’s an effortlessly pretty, unfussy cake recipe.
- It tastes like summer. Warm, tangy-sweet, and buttery, this cake is meant for nights out on the patio.
This recipe starts with the rhubarb base (which becomes the topping!), and is made with chopped rhubarb, melted butter, and sugar.
Then comes the cake, which requires flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter (this time at room temperature!), milk, egg, vanilla extract, and the zest of a lemon.
While not 100% necessary, the lemon zest adds so much bright flavor to this cake, and it’s a lovely compliment to the rhubarb. Substitute orange zest if you don’t have any lemons.
How to Make an Upside Down Rhubarb Cake
- Prep. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan with butter.
- Make the rhubarb topping. Mix together melted butter, sugars, and chopped rhubarb. Spread the mixture onto the bottom of the pan.
- Make the cake. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest. Beat on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat an additional 2 minutes. There may still be small lumps of butter, the size of a pea or smaller, in the batter. This is a good thing!
- Pour the batter over the rhubarb. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Check the cake at 35 minutes. If it’s quite brown on top already, place a sheet of foil over top.
- Flip. Allow the cake to cool for about 5 minutes then loosen the sides by running a knife around the edges. Place your cake plate on top of the pan then use your hands to sandwich them together and flip the pan over onto the cake plate. Carefully lift the cake pan off the cake and allow the topping to run over the sides.
Tips and FAQs
- I prefer to serve Rhubarb Upside Down Cake warm. It’s absolutely lovely with strawberry or vanilla ice cream, but you can also serve it with whipped cream or a splash of cream on top.
- I’ve made this successfully with fresh or frozen rhubarb. Here’s a great tutorial on how to freeze rhubarb.
- You can use an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan. I prefer the thicker cake from using an 8 inch pan, but either works just fine. If you use a 9 inch round, check for doneness at the 40 minute mark.
How to prep rhubarb
If you’re unfamiliar with rhubarb, you can buy it in bunches of long, celery-like stalks. It’s typically in grocery stores starting sometime in late April or early May. To prepare rhubarb, trim off any raggedy ends, then chop it into bite sized pieces. If the stalks are very wide, cut it in half longways before chopping.
Storage and Reheating
This cake will stay fresh at room temperature, wrapped tightly, for 1-2 days. Or, cover the cake, and store it in the fridge for up to five days.
Reheat individual slices in the microwave for 30-40 seconds.
More Rhubarb Desserts to Try
I’ve been a rhubarb apologist since at least 2013, when I first made these Oatmeal Rhubarb Bars. They’re almost like a rhubarb crumble, but in bar form.
This Rhubarb Custard Cake is another great and EASY dessert where rhubarb is the star.
And yes, rhubarb is excellent used in combination with strawberries. Try it in this Strawberry Rhubarb Fool (a fantastically light and airy summer dessert), Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats, and Angel Food Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.
Finally, try adding rhubarb to a Bumbleberry Pie. That hint of tangyness is the special something everyone will be raving about!
- 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups chopped rhubarb
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 egg
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 or 8 inch round cake pan with butter.
- Combine the melted butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the rhubarb in a bowl, then spread the mixture onto the bottom of the cake pan.
- Sift flour, remaining 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter in tablespoon sized chunks , milk, vanilla, and lemon zest. Beat on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat an additional 2 minutes. There may still be small lumps of butter, the size of a pea or smaller, in the batter.
- Pour the batter over the rhubarb. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. If you're baking in a 9 inch pan, begin checking at 40 minutes. If the cake is looking too brown at the 35 minute mark, cover it with a sheet of foil.
- Allow the cake to cool for about 5 minutes then loosen the sides by running a knife around the edges. Place your cake plate on top of the pan then use your hands to sandwich them together and flip the pan over onto the cake plate. Carefully lift the cake pan off the cake and allow the topping to run over the sides. Serve warm with ice cream.
The cake can be covered and stored in the fridge for up to five days. Reheat individual slices in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 385Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 55mgSodium: 434mgCarbohydrates: 65gFiber: 1gSugar: 45gProtein: 4g
Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.