April 20, 2018
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Coffee cake, bread tasty end to rhubarb season

Getty Images | BDN
Getty Images | BDN
Stems of rhubarb on kitchen counter
By Sandy Oliver Special to the News, Special to the BDN

Despite the warm weather of late, my rhubarb is holding up well. I whacked off the flower stalks long ago so that the plant wouldn’t go all seedy on me. I can tell though that the rhubarb season is winding down so this will be the last time this year for a rhubarb dish. Among the rhubarb recipes many of you offered up were some unexpected ones. I had, for instance, never dreamed of a rhubarb coffeecake, or a rhubarb bread. I suppose I thought rhubarb would be too juicy and stringy to use that way — that we’d end up with a soggy middle. Not so.

Rhubarb coffeecake and bread usually sport some streusel or other crumb topping with or without nuts, or at the very least, a glaze. The cake varies quite a bit in sweetness and quantity of rhubarb. It was hard to pick the one I liked best.

Mary Ann Tucker, an island neighbor of mine, sent along a coffeecake that suggested placing the rhubarb on top of the cake batter and the streusel on top of that. You could do that, too, in the following recipe. Ruth Thurston in Machias sent along two coffeecakes, one of which had a layer of rhubarb strawberry filling, and a crumb topping. The other had a simple nut and crumb topping. Peggy Tracy sent a coffeecake recipe by e-mail that called for a coconut and walnut topping.

Marie Smith in St. Albans sent a lovely rhubarb bread recipe made with Canola oil instead of butter or shortening, and, you guessed it, a crumb topping. Helen Damuth in Orrington supplied a rhubarb bread recipe very similar to Marie’s, but made with less rhubarb which suggests to me that rhubarb, even though it is a key ingredient, can be adjusted to your taste or supply. Both were baked in loaf pans.

Many thanks to all for their recipes. I ended up using Ruth’s plain rhubarb coffeecake and Peggy’s topping which I think would be good on other cakes, not just rhubarb ones. You might want to use either all pecans or all walnuts. In the recipe that follows, though, I will include both Peggy’s topping and Ruth’s original topping recipe in case you don’t have, or like, coconut. That way you can have a choice.

Rhubarb Coffeecake

2 cups of flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ cups chopped rhubarb

2/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Peggy Tracy’s Coconut Topping

2/3 cup flour

2/3 cup shredded or flaked coconut

½ cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 ¼ cups chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a nine-by-twelve inch baking pan. Combine flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Cut the butter in as if making biscuits. Mix together the brown sugar, egg, milk and vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Mix just until well moistened then add the rhubarb and nuts. Spread in the baking pan, and mix the topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes until as tester inserted comes out clean. Serve warm or cold.

Ruth’s Original Topping

1 ½ tablespoons butter

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup chopped pecans

Combine and spread on top of the cake mixture. Bake as above.

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