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Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

I wanted to get this Rhubarb Upside Down Cake into a post before the very last bit of rhubarb is gone for the season.

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I know, I know, it’s the second rhubarb post in almost as many weeks, but I didn’t want to wait until next year to share it. So here I am, taking one last plunge into rhubarb before it’s gone.

This was the year I tried rhubarb for the first time. I made these Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies and fell in love with it’s sweet tart flavor. I’m a lemon lover and so this whole rhubarb thing is right up my alley. Two posts is probably two posts too many for all the rhubarb haters out there, but if you really can’t “go there” then stick around because this upside down cake recipe works just as beautifully in it’s original pineapple glory. Just sub some pineapple and cherries in for the rhubarb and you’re good to go.

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As I mentioned, for my first foray into the world of rhubarb, I took along strawberries for the ride… just in case. I wasn’t sure how we would like rhubarb, so strawberries were kind of a familiar back up.  But, there was no need to be concerned. Everyone loved the little pies and I even made some extra filling and used it to top pancakes.

This time, I went solo with rhubarb and decided to try an upside down cake. This cake is so ridiculously easy to make that I always keep it on hand when we want a sweet treat in a hurry. The original recipe calls for jarred caramel sauce, but I always make my own buttery brown sugar sauce. This homemade version makes the fruit sink into the cake more with some defined edges, but that doesn’t bother me. I love the flavor and I figure that the crevices just help that delicious caramel flavor sink into the cake more.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

My design probably encouraged even a bit more sinkage since I decided on this pretty blossom arrangement. I just cut the stalks into about 3″ lengths for my “petals.” Then I measured how thick the stalks were and cut pieces that were a similar thickness. Mine were about 1/2-3/4″. I wanted to make sure that the height of all of my cut rhubarb in the pan was pretty similar so that I didn’t have anything sticking out.

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There’s no guess work as to how much you need to sweeten the rhubarb since it’s literally baking in a pool of brown sugar and butter. That’s the glory of upside down cake. The fruit and cake bake on top of sweet bubbly caramel and it creates the most delicious topping once the cake is flipped. I love the tiny bit of drama when I lift the flipped pan off of the cake. Did it stick? Does my topping design look good? To be sure, it is an unveiling of the sweetest kind.

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The cake is a one bowl cake. And it uses buttermilk, which some of you might cringe at, but I have plenty of recipes up on the site that will help you use up any leftovers. There are pancakes and biscuits and muffins and cakes, just for starters, that should easily use up that buttermilk.

Oh, and as an extra bonus, you don’t even need a mixer for this cake! (I know, when was the last time you mixed up a cake by hand?!?) It’s not a muscle busting cake to mix up either because you’re not creaming butter. This recipe uses melted butter and everything just mixes up pretty easily in that one bowl. Then you just pour it on top of whatever amazing or perfectly random design you made with your rhubarb.

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Bake and flip. You’ll have that deliciously tender sweet tart rhubarb sitting atop a tender buttermilk cake. Easy, easy, easy.

If you haven’t taken the plunge with rhubarb yet, this Rhubarb Upside Down Cake is a great place to start. Really. It cuts up as easily as a stalk of celery and pays you back with such a lovely flavor. I waited far too long to try this vegetable-that-works-so-well-as-a-fruit. Do not fear the big red stalk. Go get it before it’s gone.

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Then bring it home, chop it up and bake a cake with it. (Stick with me, rhubarb haters…next week, something chocolate this way comes….)

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Yield: 8 servings


For the caramel base:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons salted butter

For the cake:

  • 5-6 stalks of fresh rhubarb, see notes
  • 5 Tablespoons salted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large or extra large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, I used reduced fat
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9" cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. Melt the 1/2 cup brown sugar and 4 Tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan until sugar dissolves and mixture has fully combined. Do not cook or bring to a boil. You just need the sugar and butter to melt and combine. Remove from heat and pour into the prepared cake pan, tilting it back and forth to cover the entire bottom evenly.
  3. Decide how you want to arrange your rhubarb and cut it appropriately. I decided on a blossom design and cut enough 3" stalks to make it around the edge of the pan. Then I just chopped up enough to fill the center. I cut the chopped pieces about the same thickness as the stalks which was about 1/2-3/4" thick. That way, everything laid pretty evenly in the pan.
  4. Arrange the rhubarb pieces in the pan on top of the caramel sauce layer.
  5. Make the cake batter. Melt the 5 Tablespoons of butter in a large microwave safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 1 minute or until butter is melted. Add sugar, stirring with a whisk. Add eggs and whisk to combine.
  6. Whisk in buttermilk and next four ingredients (buttermilk through baking soda.)
  7. Add flour and stir just until blended (do not over stir.) Carefully pour the batter into the pan on top of the fruit layer.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Cool for just 1 minute in pan. Place serving dish upside down on top of the cake pan and invert the cake onto the plate. Cool completely. Serve.


*You could use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of prepared caramel sauce instead of melting the brown sugar and butter together. The original light recipe calls for 1/3 cup of fat free caramel topping drizzled in the bottom of the pan. The homemade version makes the fruit sink in a bit more, but I don't mind that at all and the flavor is so much better.

*Do not allow cake to fully cool in pan before flipping or you will have difficulty getting the cake to come out. Just let it cool for a minute then flip it out onto a serving plate where it can finish cooling.

*The amount of rhubarb you need will depend upon how you "design" your top and the size of your stalks. I cut enough "sticks" to go around the perimeter of my pan and then chopped up the rest in 1/2" slices to fill in the middle. You can chop yours up in whatever design you choose, or just chop them all up into chunks and scatter around the bottom of the pan randomly.

*For those that would prefer to make a more traditional pineapple upside down cake, click this link for that recipe. Or just arrange pineapple and cherries in your desired design, patting them dry with paper towels first to absorb any excess moisture.

*If you do check out the pineapple version, you'll notice that the rhubarb cake looks a bit denser. The rhubarb likely released more moisture than the other fruit. It made for a moister top...almost pie like, but we enjoyed it just the same. Cake adapted from Cooking Light, August 2001 Issue

The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2016

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Sunday 18th of June 2017

Do you think you could make this with frozen rhubarb? Or previously frozen? I always have lots of rhubarb in the freezer throughout the year, would love to have this during non-rhubarb season!


Monday 19th of June 2017

Leah, I think it's worth a try. Most rules for adding frozen fruit to things like muffins say to add the fruit while it's still frozen. That's what I would do. Since it sits on the bottom to cook with the brown sugar topping, I think it should work out fine. Baking time might increase a little, so check it at the normal recipe time and then add time as needed.

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Thursday 30th of March 2017

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Friday 10th of June 2016

You can't have too many rhubarb posts.


Friday 10th of June 2016

Awww...thanks, fellow rhubarb lover!

[email protected] a Dash of Cinnamon

Friday 10th of June 2016

You've been all about the rhubarb lately! I love it!


Friday 10th of June 2016

This is the last of it for the year, and normally I wouldn't have two posts highlighting the same ingredient so close together but the season for it goes fast, so I thought I might as well share the recipe now. So that's it for rhubarb for this year. It was fun (and delicious) while it lasted!

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