Rhubarb coffee cake is a cinnamon-spiced cake made with fresh rhubarb and a cinnamon crumb topping. This coffee cake is great for both breakfast and dessert. No matter when you enjoy this tender cake your entire family will love it.
What is Coffee Cake?
Coffee cake means different things depending on where you live. In the US, coffee cake is typically a single-layer circular cake flavored with fruit or cinnamon and topped with a cinnamon sugar crumb topping.
In the UK, a British coffee cake is usually a sponge-like cake that has been soaked or flavored with coffee. British coffee cake is also circularly shaped but layered with cake and frosting.
Most commonly coffee cakes are served with coffee or tea for a snack or breakfast. It also makes a nice addition to breakfast or brunches.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- A moist and tender cake with an irresistible crunchy crumb topping.
- Easy-to-make recipe that anyone can create.
- Great way to use fresh rhubarb when it’s in season.
- Easy to adjust the sweetness level depending on your preference.
- Makes a delicious breakfast or dessert and pairs beautifully with coffee or tea.
All the ingredients in this recipe are simple and most of them are likely in your kitchen right now. Any that aren't, are readily available at your local grocery store.
- Butter: Adds flavor and fat to the rhubarb cake.
- Brown sugar: This sugar adds moisture and has a deep flavor thanks to the molasses in it.
- Vanilla yogurt or sour cream: Adds moisture to the coffee cake along with giving it a richer flavor.
- Vanilla extract: Use real vanilla extract when possible for the best flavor.
- Ground cinnamon: Spice gives the cake and crumb topping a more intense spiced flavor.
- Rhubarb: This very tart vegetable with bright pink stalks is quite seasonal. In the US, it usually first appears in April and May and lasts throughout the summer.
How do I pick ripe rhubarb?
If you are picking rhubarb from your garden look for stalks that are anywhere from 7 to 15 inches long. You also want to make sure that the leaves of the rhubarb plant have opened fully.
When choosing rhubarb at the grocery store I recommend looking for firm, crisp stalks with shiny skins. Do not purchase stalks with split ends.
Substitutions and Variations
- Go Nuts: Add your favorite chopped nuts to your batter or mix them into the topping. Chopped nuts like hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, or walnuts give your cake a bit of crunch.
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla is a universal crowd-pleaser, but feel free to add half a teaspoon of your desired extract flavor to your batter like almond, coconut, lemon, banana, maple, orange, or rum extract instead.
- Add Glaze: Whip up a quick glaze with powdered sugar and milk and then drizzle over the top of your crumb coating just before serving.
- Rhubarb: You can substitute or use a combination of apples, peaches, cranberries, or fresh berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries for the rhubarb.
- Cinnamon: Use nutmeg, ginger, or cardamom instead.
How to Make Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Like all coffee cakes, this rhubarb coffee cake recipe is quick and easy. I've included the highlights here, but you'll find the exact directions in the recipe card at the end of the post.
- Beat together the butter and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining wet ingredients.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and then mix them into the wet.
- Fold the rhubarb into the batter.
- Transfer the cake batter into a prepared baking dish.
- Mix together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to make the crumble topping.
- Sprinkle evenly over the rhubarb cake batter.
- Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and enjoy!
Hint: Do not over-mix the batter. Over-mixing this coffee cake recipe can lead to a dry and tough coffee cake. Mix until just combined.
If you love recipes like this, you may also enjoy our blueberry rhubarb pie.
- Refrigerator: Since this coffee cake contains fruit, it's best to store it in the fridge after the first 24 hours. Place it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week.
- Freezer: Wrap it well and store for up to 3 months in the freezer.
- Thaw: Simply place the coffee cake on the counter. It should defrost in about 4 hours. Enjoy the cake at room temperature after defrosting or heat it up in the microwave.
- Do not over-mix. Over-mixing this coffee cake recipe can lead to a dry and tough coffee cake.
- Don’t overbake: This cake is best when it is baked perfectly. Baking your coffee cake too long will result in a dry cake. Check your cake with a toothpick, it is done when the toothpick comes out clean.
- Use fresh rhubarb for the best flavor.
- Grease and flour your pan to ensure proper baking and removal from the pan once cooked.
- Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature before starting the cake batter for a smooth texture.
When you spray and flour your cake pan it prevents sticking. You can also do this using shortening or butter instead of cooking spray.
Thoroughly cover the interior of your pan with butter or shortening.
Then swirl a small amount of flour in your pan until the entire pan is coated in flour. Once your whole cake pan is coated in flour tap off any of the extra flour.
Why not serve it for both? Coffee cake works for both breakfast and dessert. You can serve for it either or both that is up to you.
We won’t judge you if you decide to eat it for dessert one night and breakfast with your coffee the following morning. No matter when you serve it I promise you will love it.
Funny enough, coffee cake does not contain coffee. Why is it called coffee cake you are wondering? It’s because it is typically served with a good cup of hot coffee.
More Coffee Cake Recipes
Do you like coffee cake? Here are some recipes you may also like to try.
Ready to get cooking? Remember that you can print this recipe if you would like.
Rhubarb Coffee Cake
For the Pan
- cooking spray
- 1 tablespoon flour or as needed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon flour.
- Beat ¼ cup butter and ¾ cup brown sugar together with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Beat egg into butter mixture.
- Add sour cream, vanilla yogurt, and vanilla extract to the mixture; beat to integrate.
- Stir 1 cup flour, ¾ teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl; add to the butter mixture and beat to combine into a batter.
- Fold rhubarb into the batter. Pour batter into prepared baking dish.
- Mix ¼ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup flour, 2 tablespoons butter, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon together in a bowl using a fork to achieve a crumbly consistency; sprinkle over the top of the batter.
- Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
This post was originally published June 2021. It has been updated with new images and content.