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Easy Rhubarb Cake

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It’s always time for sweet spring rhubarb cake.

You’ll love whipping up this easy rhubarb cake recipe that combines tart, fresh rhubarb with moist vanilla cake. Top with whipped cream or ice cream for the win.

slice of fresh rhubarb cake on plate with whipped cream

Rhubarb Pie vs. Rhubarb Cake

This recipe developed not from any particular genius inspiration, but from . . . laziness. Rhubarb is fantastic: one of the quintessential spring ingredients (a vegetable, actually), with gorgeous color and a no-apologies tart flavor.

But that most famous of rhubarb desserts — I speak of strawberry rhubarb pie, of course — can be a little fussy. Rhubarb has a high moisture content and needs just the right amount of thickener and sugar to make it sweet and gooey without being funny or stiff. Then there’s the whole pie crust project.

rhubarb cake ingredients eggs flour sugar oil vanilla rhubarb lemon

How to Make Rhubarb Cake

This easy rhubarb cake recipe lets you enjoy the best of rhubarb, without any fuss. How do you make rhubarb cake? It’s an easy vanilla cake recipe folded with chopped fresh rhubarb and baked in a 9 x 13″ pan. The result is a sweet, moist rhubarb cake studded with pink rhubarb. I love to serve this as a weekend breakfast cake, but this works just as well for dessert.

rhubarb cake batter with diced rhubarb

All About Rhubarb

Below are some common questions and answers about rhubarb so you’ll be in good shape for baking the rhubarb cake.

When Is Rhubarb Season?

Rhubarb season runs from approximately April to June, depending on your location. Rhubarb is a spring vegetable (yes, it’s one of those vegetables we treat like a fruit!) that gets most associated with other spring produce like strawberries and asparagus.

Should Rhubarb Be Cooked Before Baking?

No, you do not have to cook rhubarb before baking it in this cake. The baking process cooks the rhubarb, so it will be soft and tender when the cake is ready.

What does rhubarb taste like?

Rhubarb has a very tart flavor, whether raw or cooked — think raw cranberries — which is why it often gets baked into desserts or other sweet foods like pies, cakes, or jams. The sweetness complements the natural tartness and eliminates any risk of a too-strong sour flavor.

How to Clean Rhubarb

Clean rhubarb as you would celery, in whole stalks. It is much easier than chopping

How to Cut Rhubarb Before Baking This Cake

Rhubarb looks like reddish celery, though the two are not related. But the preparation is very similar. Word of warning, though: Do not eat the leaves of rhubarb. They are toxic.

To prepare rhubarb:

  1. Discard the leaves and trim the top and bottom ends of the stalk.
  2. Chop the rhubarb into approximately 1/2-inch pieces, more or less. You will need about 5 long stalks of rhubarb to make this cake. You do not have to peel rhubarb.

rhubarb cake in cake pan with slice and whipped cream

What to Serve With Rhubarb Cake

This cake, like all cakes, is better the next day. When it come time to dig in, serve the cake plain, dusted with powdered sugar, dolloped with fresh whipped cream, or with strawberry or vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients for Rhubarb Cake

To make this lovely little rhubarb cake, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 2 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (you don’t need baking soda because of the pH)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 generous cups chopped or diced rhubarb (from about 5 stalks, cut into 1/2″ pieces, leaves discarded)
  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve

How to Make This Rhubarb Cake Recipe

This cake recipe comes together easily, and can be baked in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, or in a tube pan. Here are the main steps:

  1. In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a whisk, cream together the oil and sugar. You can also substitute melted clarified butter for the oil if you’d like.
  2. Beat in the eggs and tbsp vanilla.
  3. Add the dry ingredients (salt, baking powder, all-purpose flour) and milk. Stir the flour mixture, milk, and other wet ingredients together into a batter.
  4. Stir in half of the diced rhubarb. Pour the batter into the greased baking dish. You can line the baking pan with parchment paper if you like, but I prefer not to since I serve it right from the cake pan.
  5. Top the cake with the remaining rhubarb. Sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar and bake.

slice of fresh rhubarb cake on plate with whipped cream

Want some more rhubarb dessert ideas? You’ll also like:

rhubarb cake recipe

Easy Rhubarb Cake

An easy rhubarb cake recipe that works for breakfast or dessert. Vanilla cake recipe folded with chopped fresh rhubarb for a sweet, moist spring cake.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: breakfast, brunch, cake, dessert, easy, rhubarb, rhubarb cake, spring
Servings: 1 x 9" by 13" cake
Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 2 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling (you can also sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 generous cups chopped rhubarb (from about 5 stalks, cut into 1/2" pieces, leaves discarded)
  • Fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve

Instructions

  • Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand with a large whisk and mixing bowl, beat together the oil and sugar until emulsified. Add the eggs, vanilla, and the lemon zest. Beat until very smooth and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. (If using an electric mixer, I would use a medium- to medium-high setting.)
  • Scrape the bowl. Add the salt, baking powder, flour, and milk. Stir the flour mixture into the liquids until the cake batter is smooth and combined. Do not overmix. Stir in half the diced rhubarb.
  • Pour the rhubarb cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Scatter the reserved chopped rhubarb all over, and then sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar or cinnamon sugar.
  • Bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes, more or less. The cake is ready when a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool before serving, plain or with whipped cream or ice cream. Strawberry ice cream or vanilla ice cream would be particularly delicious with this cake.

8 comments

  • 5 stars
    A sweet little cake in every way 🙂 Really enjoyed this and was wondering: Can I turn this into a blueberry cake or strawberry, etc. do you think? Thank you.

  • 5 stars
    Can this cake be frozen?

  • Debora Gonek

    This is without a doubt the best Rhubarb Cake I have ever made and I make a lot of rhubarb desserts. The cake was moist and the lemon zest added so much flavor. We put the remainder of the cake in the refrigerator and covered it (it was extremely hot here) and 3 days later it was still moist. That was wonderful as most cakes start to dry out fairly quickly. Next time would like to try with other fruits such as blueberries or apricots or strawberries. Hope will turn out as well. Really enjoy your website.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Debora and thanks so much! I am so, so glad that you liked this. I love the idea of berries, and this batter would make a fantastic peach or plum cake as well, now that those are coming into season. Keep me posted if you vary it up. I’d love to know how things turn out!

  • Hannah Feinstein

    5 stars
    Excellent! Will make again. Good basic cake recipe with rhubarb.

  • Ellie T.

    5 stars
    tasted delicious!!! Cake was very moist.

  • Jess T.

    5 stars
    I made this after a trip to the farmers market and it was a big hit. I like this recipe because it is easy and unpretentious, and has the right amount of rhubarb.

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