Rhubarb Upside Down Spice Cake

Since my rhubarb plant is too young to harvest (you have to wait 2 years before you harvest the stalks), I am at the mercy of my farmers market, waiting for this bitter weedy stalk to come in.

Rhubarb is the darling of spring...the first sign here in NJ that produce is really going to happen.

It's a showy pretty thing....these bright pink, green and ruby red stalks....enticing you to buy them.

However, don't eat them raw, they taste awful....and they are not so great cooked either, most people like to pair them with strawberries.
The leaves are poisonous if you consume them, so don't eat them!

I bake one thing a season with rhubarb, because I feel obligated to do so (good food blogger that I am).

So far, this cake wins the prize for my favorite cake using rhubarb.....no strawberries necessary.

Please use a well seasoned cast iron skillet for this recipe, you can't go wrong. I never have a problem flipping cakes out of the pan. Perfection every time.


Rhubarb Upside Down Cake: (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the Caramel Upside Down Topping:

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed (about 8 stalks, leaves discarded....they are POISONOUS if consumed)
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
grated zest of a lemon
4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter
pinch of salt

Cake Batter:

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (125 grams) light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk (I used 2% milk mixed w/ 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice)
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
chopped pistachios for the topping

Preheat oven to 350F.

Trim the rhubarb stalks to fit into a 9" cast iron skillet. Practice this first, so you are not surprised when the stalks don't fit. If the stalks are fat, then cut them in half. You can do this in any pattern you like, but keeping them long looks prettiest.

Mix up the cake batter in a large bowl and set aside.

Make the caramel topping by adding the sugar, butter and lemon zest to the pan. Heat on high and keep stirring w/ a silicone spatula until the granulated sugar is melting into the butter and turning golden, about 3-4 minutes.

Now arrange the rhubarb stalks on top of the caramel and cook the rhubarb without moving them for 2-3 minutes....don't panic, there will be a lot of liquid in the pan, this is a good thing.

Turn off the heat and carefully spoon the batter over the rhubarb and caramel.

Place in the preheated oven and bake 35 minutes.

Carefully remove from the oven and let rest only 5 minutes (or the caramel will harden and it will be difficult to flip).

Run a knife around the edges and place a large plate over the skillet and invert. The cake should come out easily.
(The cast iron is hot and heavy, so be careful, make sure you are using 2 heavy pot holders).

If some of the fruit sticks to the skillet, just put it back on and press it into the cake (this did not happen, but sometimes does w/ upside down cakes).

While the cake is still warm, scatter some chopped pistachios over the top and press lightly into the fruit.

Let cool and serve w/ vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

I love when a recipe comes out better than expected.
This cake was really fantastic!

I hope you try it.


Bebe said…
We have a friend who adores rhubarb (w/o strawberries) … will have to try this for him for his birthday coming soon.

Your photo shows the rhubarb leaves. Those unfamiliar with rhubarb need to know that its leaves are poisonous.
Stacey Snacks said…
Thanks Bebe!
I put a little note that the leaves are POISONOUS if consumed........

so remind me again WHY we cook w/ rhubarb????

Ciao Chow Linda said…
I planted rhubarb last year but I don't think it made it back this year - strange - or maybe I pulled it out while weeding. Who knows? But I need to replant - and get to the farmers market after I get back - to make this cake. It sounds and looks delicious.
Bebe said…
My late Mother loved rhubarb. Just “stewed” with sugar. In a dessert dish. Nothing fancy. Never strawberries. Reminded her of her childhood home in Pennsylvania. I wasn’t crazy about it. I have never cooked it. There were always so many other more agreeable fruits without so many negatives. Nice ripe apples and peaches and plums and pluots and blueberries….well, you know. I probably will end up skipping this cake and buying our friend a little rhubarb pie at a local bakery. I am getting flaky (no pun intended)… I hadn’t intended letting you know that, but since you asked….

sixty-five said…
If you adore rhubarb be aware that it's available frozen year round. Shop Rite usually has it. But you just get little chunks. Taste is great for most cooking but you don't get those pretty red stalks.