014I’m a huge fan of rhubarb. It’s such a useful and tenacious plant – thriving in all sorts of conditions, requiring next to no maintenance, and coming back faithfully year after year. Plant it once and you have a lifetime source of free food. The leaves are one of nature’s most potent natural pesticides. The red stalks are a cheerful harbinger of spring – generally one of the first edible things up in the garden every year. And best of all, it’s so tasty. Rhubarb just makes good sense.

Rhubarb is native to China and Tibet. The Chinese began harvesting rhubarb, primarily for medicinal purposes thousands of years ago. There are also references to rhubarb in early Arab, Persian, Greek and Roman culture. But it was thought to be Marco Polo who brought dried rhubarb roots back from China in 1271, that initiated the widespread cultivation and use of rhubarb throughout Europe.

The early settlers brought rhubarb to North America, where it was a particularly useful source of vitamins after long hard winters when nothing much else was available. Technically a vegetable, in 1947 a New York court deemed rhubarb a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.

The health benefits of rhubarb are numerous. A good source of both Vitamin C and potassium, it has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It’s also an excellent source of dietary fibre and a potent digestive aid. The leaves are poisonous but are safe for the compost bin. If you don’t have a garden, you can grow rhubarb in a large container. Rhubarb benefits from bedding down with manure in the fall but will survive happily without it.

Over the years I’ve experimented with a number of rhubarb recipes. I’m very fond of rhubarb pie. I freeze rhubarb for fruit crumble and a fabulous tart fruit pie made with cranberries, rhubarb and apple. I’ve also made rhubarb chutney, rhubarb cobbler, and stewed rhubarb. But this rhubarb coffee cake is my favourite. It’s great for dessert and even better for a weekend morning breakfast with coffee. Yes, cake for breakfast. In bed. Preferably with the sun streaming through the windows and the birds singing.

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Rhubarb Coffee Cake with Crystallized Ginger and Dark Chocolate

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
½ cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups rhubarb, chopped into ¾ inch pieces, you can use fresh or frozen BUT if you are using fresh – you may have to add a little more liquid to the batter- I added 2-3 tbsp of orange juice – but you could also use milk.
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (you could be generous here and use more. I LOVE ginger but sadly, not everyone else in my family does…)

Topping

¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter a 9-inch round coffee or bundt cake pan.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla together. Add the flour mixture and blend lightly until just mixed. Gently fold in the rhubarb, chocolate chips, and ginger pieces.

Spread the cake mixture into the prepared pan.

Combine the topping ingredients, working until crumbly. Spread over cake. If you’re using a bundt cake pan and want to serve the cake inverted – you can try putting the crumble mixture in the middle of the cake instead of on top.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes I think this is too long – or perhaps my oven temperature needs checking. Try cooking this for 40 minutes. I like my cake nice and moist – so cook it until the top bounces back slightly – but not long enough to dry it out.  Cool on a wire rack.

Serve with Greek yoghurt, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. Although the cake is perfect all by itself.

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32 thoughts on “piece of cake

    1. Thank you… and isn’t rhubarb is just the most fabulous thing? I walked past somebody’s HUGE patch today and had to stop myself from stealing some! It was the nicest looking rhubarb ever. Brilliant red. So tempting….

    1. Johnny – I know – it does seem like the rhubarb would not cook in the cake batter like that – but it does. I kind of like frozen rhubarb though – because it makes the cake even moister. And actually – I think this cake improves after a day or two. I cooked my last one too long was was hopping mad with myself but by the time a day or two had passed – it was so good. And you’re right – perfect with a strong black coffee….
      🙂

    1. Thanks Fiona! I tried to comment on your BEAUTIFUL blog but somehow my comment got rejected!!! I’ll try again when I’m back from visiting my mother and enduring dial-up internet. Sigh.
      But yes, isn’t crystallized ginger just fabulous?
      Lindy

      1. Thank you! I’m glad you like it. I quite often keep a bag of crystallized ginger in my drawer at work and sneak them when nobody’s looking!

  1. Yes please!!! I too love rhubarb and this is such a great way to use it. I love coffee cakes, it’s such a wonderful contrast with the tart rhubarb, sweet cake and chocolate and can’t forget the ginger. Love this.

      1. I can’t wait until I can have a piece of cake. 8 more pounds to go and I can treat myself. I should buy some rhubarb now and freeze it before it disappears.

  2. Rhubarb – has so many positives. Good for you, easy to grow, slugs don’t eat it, birds don’t touch it maybe I love it so much because it grows so well in my garden. My favourite variety being the Champagne. Your cake sounds and looks wonderful if only it could survive the postal system!

    1. Maria – I’d send you a cake if I could!
      I’m so glad you wrote because I learned something. Champagne Rhubarb! I must confess my ignorance about the varieties. But I’ve noticed rhubarb that is much redder and lovelier than mine. Time to investigate….
      xo

  3. Lindy, thank you for the great introduction of rhubarb. I never knew it originates from China. Sounds like an amazing plant to grow. Do you think it can survive over here at 34 degrees C and 90% humidity year round? And I have never tried a rhubarb cake before. Must be really good.

    1. Danny – sadly I don’t think you can grow rhubarb at 34 degrees C and 90% humidity. It’s a cool season perennial that fares best in the spring and doesn’t mind even Canadian winters (unlike me…). Have you ever tasted rhubarb? It’s incredibly tart. You’ll have to visit! 😉

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