If you want to make coffee cake with a fresh, vibrant twist, consider adding one of my favorite warm weather fruits: rhubarb!
I’ve often been inspired by this tart fruit from my mother’s garden for much of the baking I do in the summer. Recently, the fresh, colorful rhubarb she gave me as a gift provided the beautiful base for a sweet crumble, the one we ate warm with vanilla ice cream.
And with the crumble completely gone, my family and I have been craving even more sweet treats!
Ready for more rhubarb, Mom!
With a quick walk to her garden, I snipped a few stalks, firm and strong, some mostly green with flecks of pink at the bases, others bright red, pulling away their leaves and stacking them in a bowl to get ready to clean in the kitchen sink.
While I was tempted to just make the crumble again, I knew I wanted to stretch my creative cookery wings and make a coffee cake instead, for everyone to enjoy in the early hours of the mornings we’d be spending together.
It’s honestly the best I’ve had. I almost can’t describe it in too much detail – my mind gets all fuzzy and my tongue gets tied, and I’m all “mmm” and “wow,” scooping big crumbs from my plate…
This fairly simple recipe yields a moist and flavorful coffee cake with three basic components: the sweet and spongy cake on the bottom, the tart fruity center, and the thick top layer of chunky, lightly spiced crumbs.
While most would argue that the sum makes something so much greater than the parts, I’m a bit partial to a particular layer, much like I am with a buckle or streusel-topped muffin. If you ask me, it’s the crumbs – big, chunky pieces made of sugar, spices, butter, and flour – that will have you reaching for piece after piece.
By the way, if you want further endorsement, I’ll add that I gave this to three typically timid eaters who all loved it in the end.
One was hesitant, one wasn’t sure she liked rhubarb, and one, after tasting a bite of someone else’s, asked me to cut a very, very large slice because, in her words, “This is the best thing you’ve made – a 10.”
I might have to agree.Print
Big Crumb Rhubarb Coffee Cake
- Total Time: 65 minutes
- Yield: 9 squares 1x
This sweet rhubarb coffee cake has tasty layers of moist cake, tart rhubarb, and buttery, crunchy crumbs on top. It’s a vibrant alternative to the classic breakfast treat.
For the Filling:
- 2 cups rhubarb (about 3 stems), chopped into small chunks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
For the Crumb Topping:
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
For the Cake:
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease and line one 8-inch-square baking pan. Set it aside.
For the Filling:
- In a small bowl, mix together the rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch, and ginger. Set aside.
For the Crumb Topping:
- Whisk the sugars, spices, and salt in a large bowl until completely mixed together and uniform. Add the flour and whisk to combine.
- Add the melted butter and mix with your hand until a crumbly, semi-solid mixture forms. Push it all into the bottom of the bowl, and leave it pressed. Set aside.
For the Cake:
- Whisk together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla in a small bowl until completely smooth.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the butter and a spoonful of the sour cream mixture. Mix on medium speed until the flour is a little moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds.
- Add the rest of the sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Mix until a thick and creamy batter develops.
To Assemble and Bake:
- Scoop out about half of the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly on the bottom. Scatter the rhubarb mixture over the batter. Spread the rest of the batter over the rhubarb.
- Using your fingers, break the dough-like mixture into larger crumbs, and sprinkle evenly over the cake. It will be a thick layer of crumb topping.
- Bake until the top starts to brown, and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean with a few crumbs, about 45-50 minutes.
- Cool completely in the pan before serving.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Baked Goods
Keywords: rhubarb, coffee cake, crumb topping, breakfast
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Make the Fruit Filling
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease and line an 8-inch-square baking pan. Set it aside.
With a sturdy cutting board and sharp knife (rhubarb tends to be fibrous and difficult to cut if your knife is not properly sharpened!), chop the fruit into bite-sized pieces.
In a small bowl, mix together the chopped fruit, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and ground ginger. Set aside.
Step 2 – Mix Together the Crumb Topping
Whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Mix until all the clumps of brown sugar are gone and the mixture is completely uniform.
What are those dried up clumps of brown sugar? Learn how to prevent your brown sugar from drying out!
Add the all-purpose flour and continue whisking to combine.
Add the melted unsalted butter and mix with your hands. It will start to look like a crumbly mixture that you can press together with your hands into a semi-solid dough. Push it all into the bottom of the bowl, set it aside, and leave it pressed while you make the batter.
Step 3 – Make the Batter
In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. The mixture will be chunky at first, but will become very smooth as you continue mixing.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients: the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Add the butter and a spoonful of the sour cream mixture. Mix on medium speed until the flour is a little moistened. Increase your speed slightly and beat for another 30 seconds.
Add the rest of the sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula.
Mix until a thick and creamy batter develops. Do not overmix, or the cake will not be as light and fluffy. You don’t want to develop that gluten too much!
Step 4 – Assemble
Lightly grease an 8-inch-square pan with cooking oil spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and lightly grease.
Scoop out about half of the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly on the bottom. It will create a thin layer.
The rhubarb mixture will have developed some liquid while it was macerating. Strain the rhubarb chunks from the liquid before evenly distributing the chunks over the batter.
Spread the rest of the batter over the rhubarb. No worries if it is not neat! You’ll be covering it up with a thick layer of crumb topping!
Speaking of which…
Using your hands, break up the crumb topping into larger chunks and evenly distribute over the batter.
Step 5 – Bake
Bake until the top starts to brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, for about 45-50 minutes. You can also gently press on the top of the cake – if it springs back slightly, it’s ready!
Cool for a few minutes in the pan before serving warm, or cool completely at room temperature. Enjoy!
Add a Taste of Summer to Your Breakfast Treats
Inspiration is easy when walking through a lush, green summer garden, the aromas of herbs, fruits, and vegetables joining together in the warm air!
Rhubarb will always be a summer staple in my family’s backyard garden – and, naturally, it will always find its way into many of my baked goods, including this fluffy big-crumb coffee cake.
What summer fruits inspire your baking? If you grow your own fruits and veggies, what are you looking forward to the most to cook with them? Leave a message below – we’d love to know what you’ll be making next!
If you are still in the cake baking mood, don’t stop here, check out all of our delicious cake recipes now.
And if rhubarb is your thing, then these tasty recipes should tantalize your tummy:
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on July 10, 2009. Last updated: April 26, 2021 at 17:09 pm. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.
30 thoughts on “Big-Crumb Rhubarb Coffee Cake”
I am going to make this as soon as I possibly can! Any time I get my hands on rhubarb, I always just make simple rhubarb sauce (rhubarb, water, and sugar) and end up eating it all by the spoonful. It’s really time I branched out!
oh how i can actually say that i like rhubarb now! 🙂 it’s all about presentation and preparation. sigh. this cake looks divine, something to nibble on with my AM coffee, reading delicious food blogs and avoiding work.
MMM MMM. I Could use some right now…
This sounds amazing, I love crumb topping.
Your crumb topping looks so good! Of course we love cake, but a good crumb topping is the winner.
Isn’t this cake AMAZING?! I made it a few weeks (months?) ago for a brunch potluck at my house. It was literally devoured–hot from the oven–in minutes.
I don’t know if I like rhubarb (haven’t had any since a friend’s mom made it a million years ago) but I totally trust you, so I’m going to try it.
You just made my day! Seriously, Jordan just brought in a pile of rhubarb today for me to do something with. I can’t WAIT to try this! The question is, can I wait until tomorrow? Hmm…
you know, EVERY single recipe i’ve tried from you has worked, beautifully. yet this one? you’re right, it looks like the best yet. prob bc of the ginger, too?! i can’t wait to make it. might have to raid the neighbor’s rhubarb patch again. thank you!!
This sounds and looks lovely. I have a bunch of blueberries in my fridge. I might try this cake with blueberries instead of rhubarb.
very nice blog.
OK. I need to know. Doesn’t the rhubarb need to be pink? I have lots of green stemmed rhubarb, but I thought I couldn’t use it yet?!!!
YUM! I know I say this whenever I comment on your blog, but I will definitely have to give this a try. I have never had rhubarb before, so it’ll be interesting! What does it taste like?
Mary – Blueberries would be great! And thanks for the compliment!
Redmenace – I always thought that, too. Actually, there are lots of different varieties of rhubarb (http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/rhubarb-varieties.html), and, in my case, the green was good. When I was researching this a few days ago, I found conflicting sources on whether green or red is sweeter, so I’m so unsure about that, but mine was tart, tart, tart!
E.P. – You’re sweet. Definitely make this the thing to try! If you go with rhubarb, expect something tart that complements all the sweet stuff. But, like Mary suggests above, other fruits will work! Good luck!
I’m getting so that I can look at a recipe and know if I’ll like it, what it will taste like, what it will smell like. That is THE coffee cake.
Shannalee, this looks so heavenly!
we made this today and JUST snuck a bite- couldn’t wait an hour for it to cool! you’re SO RIGHT – this is the best coffeecake i’ve ever eaten. next time i might add a little cardamom, which i love. THANK YOU! this is a keeper!
Yay! So glad you liked it. (PS – cardamom would be lovely!)
I have been foiled in my attempt to make this, because none of my stores have rhubarb!! Is there anything I could use instead that would approximate it?
Kathi – Sure! Try some other fruit instead, whatever is in season and looks good. Mary above said she’d try blueberries, which I think sounds wonderful!
I’ve been on a coffee cake bender lately (stupid idea in this heat but…) and I’ve tried about four others I’ve found on blogs, and this is the best one yet. Good ratio of crumb to cake (a lot of other recipes are like 90% cake). Good stuff, thanks for posting!
I’ve never tasted rhubarb before and I LOVE coffee cake. Not as much as ice cream, but close. Yummy!
Lise, Heat or not, stupid ideas usually don’t relate to eating coffee cake, at least in my book! So glad you liked this one!
Lenox, This one gives ice cream a run for its money. Try it!
This recipe is perfect for me! I was in Wisconsin earlier this month and picked about 10 cups of rhubarb at my parents’ house, where it grows like a weed. I brought the rhubarb back to VA (it costs like $4 a pound here) and my boyfriend LOVES coffee cake. Thanks so much for sharing!
Kathryn – Looks like we have several things in common: passion for fresh produce and trips to Wisconsin. Make this cake, and I have a feeling we’ll add one more to the list! Thanks for stopping by!
Great stuff. Perfect recipe for this time of year. Thanks.
Oh, and almost forgot! : wonderful blog; keep up the good writing and beautiful photos. I’m always inspired to copy a recipe and fiddle with it whenever I catch up on reading the blog.
Lise, Thanks so much for the feedback and for the kind comments on the blog. I love that you’ve made this cake with so many variations!
Just made this and it turned out great! I substituted plain greek yogurt for the sour cream and it tastes great!
I liked the look of this recipe. I’m from the UK so, is it called coffee cake because you eat it with coffee or, have you left the ingredient out?
Look forward to trying it.
Yes, that’s the thinking! You won’t typically find any coffee in a coffee cake, but rather, it’s meant to be served alongside the beverage. Similar sweets have a Danish history dating back to the 17th century when cakes were commonly served alongside coffee at coffeehouses.
Hope you enjoy the recipe!