Mom’s Rhubarb Coffee Cake: studded with superfood, not surprisingly

bowlful of rhubarb stalks

Rhubarb. *sigh* It’s so yummy.

So here’s a question for you: what superfood is my Mom’s rhubarb coffee cake chock-full of? Kale? Avocado? Blueberries? Olive oil?

Nope, nope, nope and heck, nope.

Answer: It’s Rhubarb! While rhubarb has not officially been deemed a superfood, it certainly possesses many of the markers for being one. And you lucky gentle reader, have I got a good rhubarb coffee cake recipe for you today, just cram-packed with that favorite superfood!?

Yes, yes I do.

I heard an old guy say once that if he could make it to strawberry season every year, he knew he’d live for another year. He’s ancient but he’s still alive (as far as I can tell), so I guess this longevity strategy is working for him. 🙂

I feel the same way about rhubarb. Very early in the spring, when I see the knobby buds forcing themselves out of the earth, and then the exquisite wrinkled leaves unfolding as if by magic, I know that I will live another year. (I’ve been correct so far, ha!) Rhubarb is always the first hint of green in my gardens, and it reminds me that–thank God!–I survived another Nebraska winter. Hallelujah.

3 Things you may not know, and an extrapolation

One: Rhubarb contains anthocyanins, those much-desired flavonoids that give fruits and vegetables their antioxidant-rich red, blue and purple color. Cool, eh? In addition to acting as antioxidants and fighting free radicals, anthocyanins may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits. *blank open-mouth stare* Inflammation is something you want to avoid, of course, as it contributes to a myriad of health problems.

Two: In the “news to me” department: rhubarb is technically a vegetable and is in the same family as sorrel. Somehow (do these things actually happen?) in 1947 a New York court declared rhubarb a fruit (why? Why was this in the courts??) because it’s most often cooked as one. So it’s sort of both a vegetable and a fruit. Thank you for making things confusing, random New York court. (Must have been a slow week in the New York courts.) Oh well. It doesn’t really matter what it is: fruit, vegetable, or ungulate*, as long as the New York court didn’t make it illegal to eat it when we want to, right? And it didn’t.

Three: For those of you who feel like you ought to love kale, but actually are closet kale-haters (I won’t tell: my own Pop calls kale Scotch-Brite!): a study published in 2012 found that rhubarb contains even more phenolic acid than kale. (What the heck is phenolic acid, you ask? Glad you asked! Phenolic acids are defined chemically as carboxylic acids derived from either benzoic or cinnamic acid skeletons . . . wait, do you really want to go into that much detail? No? Well, phenolic acids basically are phytochemicals that are good for you and you can find them in many fruits and vegetables.)

Afore-Promised Extrapolation: You know what I’m going to say next: Rhubarb pie is a Superfood. Basically. This works just great for me. Aaand pass the rhubarb sauce for my ice cream, please. My knees have been bothering me . . . I think it’s inflammation . . .  

Where my Mom comes into this

My Mom grows rhubarb in great and wild abundance. She also has the best rhubarb coffee cake recipe around. Of course. My Dad has been teasing her about this for years (the abundance of rhubarb plants, not the coffee cake). He asks: Why does any one woman need so many rhubarb plants? (Now we know: Rhubarb is a superfood! My mom is brilliant!)

Mom’s rhubarb plants are amazing to see. The stalks are fully twice as thick as those from my plants. They are nearly as big around as my wrists, no kidding! Small children are warned not to go too close to these behemoths, lest they disappear in the clusters of mammoth leaves and are never seen again.

(Pro tip: I’m writing a blog post revealing Mom’s unconventional secrets to growing such beautiful and abundant rhubarb plants, so please check back in for that, or better yet plunk your email address in the little box up to the right, so you don’t–miss–a–thing!)

Mom plants rhubarb in her flower gardens. It couldn’t be prettier, and the rhubarb seems happy enough!

When I gush over Mom’s beautiful plants (as I do), she claims it’s because she remembers to dress the plants in the fall with manure from my hens. It’s just the manure from your hens, Amy. It’s great. Can I get some this week? She’s terrific like that, in that she will deflect her extraordinary accomplishments by shifting them to somebody else’s credit. Even those of a chicken.

Also she will say this: “I planted them decades ago. They are just old, like me.”

Mom, this cake is wonderful. “Yes, I’ve always liked that recipe; it comes from a good cookbook.”

Your flower beds are beautiful, Mom! “The rain last week really did help, didn’t it?”

Mom, your mashed potatoes are the best. “Dad did the mashing.”

Proof I’m not my Mom (dang it)

For my part: I’m always too busy in the fall picking tomatoes and apples, starting melodrama rehearsals and dragging Mack to the table for homeschooling and whatnot to remember to apply manure in the fall onto my rhubarb plants. My rhubarb plants are . . . . merely ordinary. I hang my head in shame over this, but the truth of the matter is: I am not my Mom.

I am very sad about this, but I’m trying. I am!

But anyway, rhubarb–whether it’s fat-stalked and impressive in scope and size like my Mom’s (my Mom just called me: I just weighed a stalk of my rhubarb–nearly two pounds! Yeah, yeah, Mom . . . ) or ordinary, like mine–has an intoxicating taste that I can’t get enough of. It’s the wild, acidic taste of springtime, of fresh new garden produce, of LIFE itself!

Rhubarb is not just a “pie plant,” as my Dad’s mom, my Grandma Young, used to call it. You can make a wonderful jam out of it, a sauce to eat with cookies or on top of ice cream, delicious gooey bars,and so many other lovely things. Pie. Of course.

young lady with armful of rhubarb

My cute daughter Amalia, with an armful of rhubarb.

The Gasp

I happened to remember Mom’s rhubarb coffee cake the other day, and I gasped.  Audibly. It’s not something you make year ’round . . . just during High Rhubarb season. I hadn’t thought about it for years, and boom!–all of a sudden–I could imagine it, served warm with hot melting chunks of rhubarb studded throughout, with a crunchy, nutty topping all crackly and sweet on top. YUM.

Mom brought this over to our place about every other day (fresh and hot from the oven) when we were toiling through our kitchen remodel, with a stick of butter (of course, it’s her mode of loving us) that we dug into and spread on the top (can you see it? Melting–just–so). (Mom has never been afraid of butter, or of anything else, food-wise, for that matter, and it seems to be working quite well for her.)

On the off-days, I made Cowboy Coffee Cake, because our contractor, Reubsy, made such an endearing fuss over coffee breaks and homemade coffee cakes that I’d do nearly anything for the lad. Also, because he basically lived with us for a couple of years and yet he kept his mouth shut (as far as I know, at least) over what that experience must have been like for him (Sorry, Reubs).

So here we’ve come to . . .

rhubarb coffee cake unbaked

Before baking . . .

The Recipe, at last, thank God

Mom’s Rhubarb Coffee Cake: studded with superfoods, surprisingly
Recipe Type: coffee cake
Author: Amy from
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
This coffee cake is so easy to stir up that you’ll want to make it often during High Rhubarb season!
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 egg
  • Topping: 1/2 cup nuts + 1/3 cup brown sugar + 1/3 cup white sugar, stirred together
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.
  3. Cream butter and sugars.
  4. Stir together dry ingredients: flour, salt and soda.
  5. Mix together wet ingredients, buttermilk & vanilla, with the egg.
  6. Add drys and wets, alternatively, to the butter-sugar mixture.
  7. Fold in chopped rhubarb.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan, and sprinkle topping over all.
  9. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Pan of rhubarb coffee cake

. . . and after baking! I kinda love the way the pecans melted into the batter . . .

Something marvelous that my son gave me with which I chop my Superfoods:

You would think that somebody who spends as much time in the kitchen as I do would have had one of these years ago. Decades ago. EONS ago. But no. It wasn’t until last Christmas that my son Matthew gave me one (with a pityingly sweet look on his face over all the years that I toiled over chopping superfoods without one) and I’ve not spent an hour in my kitchen since that I’ve failed to pull it out of the drawer and use it. I love it like a brother. A very sharp brother with a flashy grin. 🙂

I’m sharing this intel with you so you do not go decades without a decent chef’s knife, gentle reader. I would hate that. It’s the perfect size and shape to chop up your superfoods, and plenty of not-so-super foods, too. Trust me on this. Experience talking.

And a bonus, since Amalia was mentioned . . .

Yes! For those of you who’ve been asking . . . I do have access to Amalia’s wedding photos at last, and the very next post will be studded with those photos, in a similar way that rhubarb chunks are studded in Mom’s coffee cake. *curtsy for bringing things all tidily ’round* (Pro tip: the wedding was lovely, and yes, the photos are too.)

So ya’ll come back, ya hear??


*Ungulate: (n) a hoofed mammal



6 thoughts on “Mom’s Rhubarb Coffee Cake: studded with superfood, not surprisingly

  1. Kay

    YAY!!! Another Rhubarb Recipe that sound absolutely wonderful. Knowing it came from your mom (& I’ve seen her flower gardens and eaten her donuts).. so I know it’s great! And I just so happen to have some of YOUR wonderful rhubarb that I (finally), just cut up yesterday. Who cares it’s HOT, HUMID, WINDY out here on the Prairie Farm. The AC is just gonna have to suck it up cuz I’m making this TODAY!
    Thanks friend!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Did you love that coffee cake, Kay? I do! It’s handy that rhubarb stays fresh for so long in the refrig. I’ve still got a few stalks to use up, myself.

  2. Sharon H

    My rhubarb plants bit the dust so I am reduced to buying it from the store,if I can find it. I wanted to make your muffins, but no whole wheat flour. Made a rhubarb slab pie instead….only I didn’t have enough rhubarb! (What a sad day) so I added strawberries, even though my husband does not like his rhubarb cut with strawberries. And then, pouring it into the pan, I realized I still didn’t have enough filling! Good heavens. I dumped a bunch of frozen blueberries into the mix and crossed my fingers as I added the top crust. Holy moley, it was good. My persnickety rhubarb-snob-hubby even thought it was good! I can’t wait to make this coffee cake, but I’m yearning to learn your Mom’s growing secrets!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Sharon, I love your happy story. I am constantly (CONSTANTLY) making substitutions and additions to my recipes, and so I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only one. Gosh, how can you go wrong with adding blueberries and strawberries, though? Sounds so yummy! Stay tuned. I have been (gently) urging Mom to give up her secrets. (Something more detailed than: “They are old like me. That’s why my rhubarb plants are so successful.”) ha!

  3. Charlotte Wood

    Someday I will come up North during rhubarb season and I will find out what the fuss is about. The sad rhubarb that gets imported to South Carolina does not cut it.

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