Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Strawberry-Rhubarb Buttermilk Coffee Cake

One of the first things I ever planted while growing up was rhubarb. It was a sure thing every spring with little trouble. Always set in a corner to give it plenty of growing space, it was guaranteed to give any child gardener confidence with its gigantic, exotic leaves and stalks as red as any Radio Flyer wagon.

Alas, here in the South, because of the heat, it is a rare find in any garden. Or grocery store. When I worked in a produce department, it shipped from Washington State and was actually available year-round. "Yankees" were always thrilled to find it for their annual spring strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Pairing it's tart taste with sweet strawberries is a match made in heaven. I tend to use more berries than rhubarb. You do you.

I first made this coffee cake while I was staying with my sister and her family. After her second piece, she put on her slippers buttoned up her robe and trotted across the street to share it with her neighbor. 

It is like something one would find in a good bakery. Use a quality butter.

I prepare the filling and the topping the day before. And I do use frozen berries but throw in some fresh ones, mashed..

It has been a cool spring here in the South (I'm not complaining) and rhubarb picked from the mountains is a plenty at farmer markets. I choose the smaller stalks.

This dough is thick, be forewarned. Drop by small tablespoons before attempting to spread it smooth. Use an off-set spatula or, if you don't have one, use a butter knife.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

  • For the Filling:
  •  cup sugar
  •  cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen sliced strawberries, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • For the Cake:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the Topping:
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

In a medium/large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix the sugar and cornstarch. Add rhubarb, strawberries. Bring to a slow simmer over medium heat and cook for about two minutes until thick. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Allow to cool. If making ahead, cover well and refrigerate. This must be brought to room temperature the next day to be able to spread evenly and easily on the batter, so keep that in mind.

For the cake: combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until coarse crumbs form.
In a small/medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened. Avoid overmixing.

Spoon 1/2-2/3 batter into greased dish. Spread filling on top. Cover with remaining batter. Batter is thick, so this requires some patience.

For the topping: Simply combine sugar and flour. Cut in butter until mixture resembles large crumbs. You want crumbs, not a dough batter. 

Sprinkle crumbs on top of cake. Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting. 

Some suggest making a bit more filling than necessary to serve alongside slices. I don't think it is necessary.


Panera used to sell mini loaves of something similar--if not the same. So that is another option. Baking times will not be the same.

Notes: Rhubarb freezes well. I cut into chunks and store in 1-cup and 1/2-cup increments.