Rhubarb Coffee Cake With Brown Butter Crumble

Barbara Curry
by Barbara Curry
12 servings
1 hr

This soft and moist rhubarb coffee cake is an easy recipe that’s perfect for spring or summer. With a delicious brown butter streusel topping and hints of tangy rhubarb, you’ll be reaching for seconds!

A piece of rhubarb coffee cake with a bite taken out.

Nothing compliments a cup of coffee or tea better than, well, a coffee cake! This rhubarb cake is slightly sweet but not too overpowering which makes it perfect for Mother’s Day brunch or a breakfast meeting.

This easy recipe is a great way to use up some rhubarb you have growing in the garden. (But you can also use frozen rhubarb too!) A tasty alternative to a strawberry rhubarb crumble or a rhubarb galette with peaches.

Rhubarb coffee cake squares on a cooling rack.

Since this recipe is a cake, you can also serve with a dollop of whipped cream for the ultimate summer dessert. For a sweeter dessert, try an upside down rhubarb cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

What’s the difference between cake and coffee cake?

A classic coffee cake is not as sweet and generally has a streusel topping compared to traditional cakes. Although some have no streusel at all like my raspberry ricotta cake. Additionally, coffee cakes are not frosted although some can have a glaze drizzled on top like with mimosa monkey bread.

They can also be filled with all types of fruit, peaches and cherries are my favorite. The one thing they don’t have is layers, which makes them so easy to throw together.

A single piece of rhubarb coffee cake on a pan.

What makes this easy coffee cake special?

  • Not overly sweet so it’s perfect for breakfast or brunch
  • The rhubarb flavor is noteworthy, but not overpowering
  • It’s vibrant color and delicious flavor make this a great Easter dessert
  • The brown butter streusel takes this cake to the next level.

The ingredients

Gather the ingredients for the cake.
Ingredients you’ll need for the crumble.
What you’ll need for the filling.
  • Rhubarb – You can use fresh rhubarb or frozen rhubarb, if using frozen, you will need to let it thaw and drain before cooking it.
  • Yogurt – Unsweetened greek yogurt helps make an ultra moist cake. You can swap for sour cream if you prefer.
  • Other pantry staples – butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla and eggs.

How to freeze rhubarb

If you have an abundance of rhubarb, it’s easy to freeze. Wash and dry, remove any leaves. Cut the stalks into ½ inch chunks and lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Flash freeze for a couple of hours and then place in a freezer bag or vacuum seal them. I have this brand of vacuum sealer which I use for everything!

What to do with rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a vibrant colored food with a tangy flavor that can be used in so many southern dessert recipes. Try it in by itself or combine it with other fruit.

If you find yourself with extra from the garden this rhubarb season, here are a few of my favorite recipes!

A bowl of rhubarb bread pudding with creme anglaise over the top.

Vanilla Custard Bread Pudding with Rhubarb

Rhubarb berry crisp in three ramekins with strawberries on the side.

Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp

A ramekin of rhubarb and strawberry crumble with a scoop of ice cream.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumble

A jar of strawberry Rhubarb jam with a spoon.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Recipe

Easy steps for a rhubarb coffee cake

Step 1: Prepare the filling

Cook the rhubarb with sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan until softened. Drain the fluid and let it cool completely. You can do this in advance.

Chop the rhubarb.
Cook the rhubarb and sugar.

Step 2: Get the crumble ready

In a medium bowl, use a fork to incorporate browned butter with sugar and flour. Set the crumble aside to cool.

Brown the butter.
Add the brown butter to the flour and sugar.

Step 3: Combine the ingredients

In a large bowl, cream the wet ingredients together using an electric mixer on medium speed until everything is thoroughly combined. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing just until incorporated and spread half on the bottom of the pan.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
Spread half of the batter in the pan.

Step 5: Make some layers

Add a rhubarb layer then repeat. Add crumble topping on top of the cake.

Add half of the rhubarb filling on next.
Repeat the layers.
Add the crumble and bake.

Step 6: Bake!

Bake until is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Bake until golden brown.

Pro tip: If you’re using frozen rhubarb, measure it while it’s frozen but let it thaw in a strainer. This way, excess moisture is removed.

How to store a rhubarb cake

Keep this easy rhubarb cake in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap. It will stay fresh on the counter for a day or two. Longer than that, try freezing it, it will dry out in the refrigerator.

Frequently asked questions about rhubarb

Do you need to peel rhubarb before using?No, you don’t need to peel rhubarb, treat it like you would celery.

Can you eat rhubarb raw?Yes, it is safe to eat the stalks of rhubarb, but never the leaves which are poisonous. However, it is very tart, like cranberries, and is generally cooked with sugar first.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake With Brown Butter Crumble
Recipe details
  • 12  servings
  • Prep time: 20 Minutes Cook time: 40 Minutes Total time: 1 hr
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  • ▢ 2 cups rhubarb chopped
  • ▢ 1/2 cup sugar
  • ▢ 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ▢ 4 tablespoons butter softened
  • ▢ 1/2 cup sugar
  • ▢ 1 cup flour
  • ▢ 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ▢ 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • ▢ 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ▢ 1 egg
  • ▢ 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ▢ 3/4 cup greek yogurt
  • ▢ 4 tablespoons butter
  • ▢ 1/4 cup sugar
  • ▢ 1/2 cup flour
  • ▢ 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper and butter the sides.
Add ½ cup of sugar, rhubarb, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and ¼ cup water to a saucepan.
Cook over medium heat until the rhubarb has softened, about 10 minutes. This can vary depending on the rhubarb.
Let it cool completely. Once cooled drain with a metal sieve to remove excess liquid.
Add ½ cup of flour and ¼ cup of sugar to a small bowl.
Add the butter to a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until it begins to turn brown.
Pour the butter over the flour and sugar mixture and stir with a fork until incorporated. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix until incorporated. Add yogurt and vanilla and mix well.
Slowly add the flour and mix just until there is no flour visible.
Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan, it will barely cover the bottom.
Place half of the drained rhubarb on the cake batter.
Place the rest of the cake batter over the rhubarb, it does not have to completely cover the rhubarb. Top with the remaining rhubarb.
Sprinkle all of the crumble over the cake and bake for 40-45 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs.
  • If using frozen rhubarb, let it thaw first and drain before cooking.
  • You can make this more of a dessert by adding whipped cream to each serving.
  • You can easily double this recipe.
Barbara Curry
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