The rhubarb cake that’ll be right

Here’s a tip-top baking secret: don’t overfill a cake tin – if it looks too full, it probably is.  I know, I know, I’m just too generous giving you such ground-breaking advice for free.  What can I say?  I’m really nice like that (please, don’t kill yourself laughing).  Unfortunately, this advice is based on first-hand experience.  An experience which comes courtesy of my (non-existent) entry for last month’s Simple and in Season event.  As I poured the batter into my prepared cake tin, I watched the batter level creep further and further up the side of the tin.  The batter level stopped about 5mm below the rim of the tin and I thought to myself well that looks a bit full.  Should I transfer some of it to a different tin?  Nah, she’ll be right.  “She’ll be right” is the Kiwi version of “it’ll be fine” – I’m clearly doing a fabulous job of adapting to my current host country.  So I popped the cake into the oven, expecting some sort of magic to take place.

It didn’t.  The cake proceeded to slowly rise and – you guessed it – spill down over the sides of the cake tin in what looked rather like lava flows.  I’d had a moment of clarity and put the cake tin on a baking tray which thankfully caught all the cake lava, so I didn’t have to deal with a cake-covered oven.  Too bad that moment of clarity didn’t extend to not overfilling the cake tin in the first place…  Needless to say that, whilst totally delicious, the resulting rhubarb cake was not particularly presentable, so I didn’t get my entry in (obviously this didn’t happen the evening before the deadline… ahem).  Luckily my labmates don’t discriminate against misshapen cakes as long as they taste good.

I made the cake again last night, but with reduced quantities to avoid another overfilled-cake-tin situation.  It was all going well… until I realised that I’d used up all the eggs in the omelette I’d made myself for dinner…  Great planning skills right there.  I could have nipped down to the dairy (corner shop) across the road, but it was raining and cold outside and I had a bunch of bananas, so I decided to just go for the banana-instead-of-egg approach – she’ll be right.  Because that attitude worked so well for me the first time I made the cake…  Thankfully this time I was rather more successful and out of the oven came a presentable, moist, spiced, rhubarb-y cake with a slightly crunchy cinnamon sugar topping.  Phew!  Since rhubarb is still in season here, I’m submitting it to this month’s Simple and in Season event which is back over at Fabulicious Food! where Ren is also celebrating her second blog birthday.  So here’s a rhubarb cake to wish you a happy blog birthday, Ren!

Rhubarb cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from Bubby’s Brunch Cookbook

If you don’t have any buttermilk, just use 315 ml of normal milk and add 2 tbsp lemon juice, mix and allow to stand for about 10 mins.  Then just add it as instructed (though sieve it first in case any lemon pips snuck in).  You can use two eggs instead of the mashed ½ banana – when the recipe specifies to whisk in the banana, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.  A lot of the rhubarb seems to sink to the bottom of the cake, so you may wish to try dusting the rhubarb with flour before folding it in (I haven’t tried this though, so no guarantees that it will prevent the rhubarb from sinking!).  The cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box.


For the cake:
400g rhubarb
Caster sugar, to sprinkle
335g all-purpose flour
1⅓ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Good pinch of salt
400g dark brown sugar
150g unsalted butter, softened
½ banana
315 ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
65g light brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon


1.  Wash the rhubarb stalks and slice into 1 to 1.5 cm pieces.  Place in a sieve or colander over a bowl, lightly sprinkle with some caster sugar, mix together and allow to stand until whilst preparing the rest of the cake.

2.  Preheat the oven to 195°C/fan oven 175°C.  Line a 24 cm round cake tin (at least 5cm deep) with baking paper (the baking paper makes it easier to lift the cake out.  If you have a deep enough springform tin, this would be a great time to make use of it).

3.  Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cardamom, cinnamon and salt to a medium mixing bowl and stir together.  Set aside.

4.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter with an electric whisk until creamy.  Mash the banana in with a fork in a small bowl, and whisk into the sugar and butter mixture.  Then add the buttermilk and vanilla extract and whisk well until smooth (at this point, the mixture may curdle a little and it might not look terribly appetising, but adding the flour will sort that out, I promise).

5.  Add the flour mixture a third at a time, whisking until just combined between each addition.  Fold in the rhubarb and pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, smoothing the top with a spatula.

6.  Make the topping by stirring together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Sprinkle evenly over the cake and bake for 1h10 to 1h20 until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cut into slices or squares and serve.




Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

9 responses to “The rhubarb cake that’ll be right

  1. This cake looks great! Shame about the original – I’ve had it happen to me before but luckily it was an iced cake so I could cover the misshapen mess up. I really need to try a cinnamon topping on something as it always looks great and I love cinnamon.

    • Mel

      Thanks! Ya, icing is great for covering all manner of mishaps! Luckily the original was perfectly edible though, so my labmates helped me hide the evidence of its existence…

  2. Colin

    Deconstructed rhubarb cake…It’s the way forward, Mel !!

  3. strongassoup

    That’s a lovely looking cake. It’s oddly easy to overfill a cake tin in my experience. I still remember my attempt at an angel food cake that threatened to fill the entire oven.

    • Mel

      Thanks! I’ve done it a few times with cupcakes that rose far more enthusiastically than I was expecting – I find it more difficult to judge amounts for small cakes because it never looks like very much batter to me. Oh gosh, I hope your oven didn’t grow angel wings and try to float off…

  4. Pingback: Simple and in Season November Round Up and December Link Open - Fabulicious Food

  5. Oh what a drama with this cake! At least the rhubarb behaved and stayed lovely and pink. Thank you so much for entering Simple and in Season. Always lovely to feature your recipes x

Share your thoughts…

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s