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Easy Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Cake Recipe

This easy, Old Fashioned Rhubarb Cake recipe has a tender crumb with a sweet crunchy top making it a family favorite. You know a recipe is good when it has been passed down from one generation to the next and remains a family favorite.

Top down view of a slice of cake topped with a crunchy sugar walnut topping - Hostess At Heart

Moist and flavorful, homemade rhubarb cake works just as well for breakfast as it does after dinner for dessert. This simple recipe makes the perfect dessert when entertaining or when you’re taste buds are craving a sweet cake with delicious tart rhubarb.

What is rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a vegetable that looks a lot like celery, except that when ripe the stalks are a green, deep pink, or red color. The only edible part of the plant is the stalks, and these are usually baked in pies like this Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. Rhubarb is tart and is often mistaken for a fruit. Strawberries or other fruits and sweeteners are complementary and make this Strawberry Rhubarb Bread out of this world.

Rhubarb season is usually late winter to early summer and can be found in most grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

Ingredients for the Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Cake Recipe

Ingredients for the Old fashioned rhubarb cake recipe: flour, rhubarb brown sugar, milk, vinegar, egg, shortening, salt, baking soda, walnuts, sugar, and ground cinnamon.
Rhubarb Cake Ingredients
  • Brown Sugar. Light or dark brown sugar will work. White sugar is interchangeable with brown sugar. However, brown sugar gives this cake a richer flavor.
  • Shortening. Crisco is our brand of choice.
  • Salt.
  • Egg. We use large eggs for consistency in our baking.
  • Milk. Sour milk is an old-fashioned term for buttermilk. It’s made by combining 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. If you wish, you can replace the milk and vinegar with buttermilk.
  • White Vinegar. If you use real buttermilk, it eliminates the need for vinegar.
  • Baking Soda.
  • All-Purpose Flour.
  • Chopped Rhubarb. One pound will yield about three to three and a half cups of chopped rhubarb.
Rhubarb Cake Topping Ingredients including sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts.
Cake Topping Ingredients

Ingredients for the Streusel Topping

  • Sugar.
  • Walnuts. You could also use pecans or slivered almonds.
  • Ground Cinnamon.

How To Make Old Fashioned Rhubarb Cake

Please note, that the printable recipe card has ingredient quantities, complete instructions, and nutritional information. The following is a quick overview of the recipe.

Step One. Get everything ready.

Preheat your oven and prepare the cake pan. Gather all of your ingredients. Chop the rhubarb. If you are mixing milk and vinegar (instead of using buttermilk) mix those two ingredients now.

Step Two. Make the Rhubarb Cake Batter.

Combine the shortening, brown sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour and baking soda. Next, add the sour milk and the egg. Fold in the sliced rhubarb. Place the batter in your prepared pan.

Fresh sliced rhubarb folded into cake batter - Hostess At Heart
Fold in rhubarb

Note: You can mix this recipe by hand in a large mixing bowl.

Cake pan filled with a batter topped with sugar, cinnamon and walnuts - Hostess At Heart
Rhubarb Cake Topping

Step Three. Mix the topping.

Combine the sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of the batter.

Step Four. Bake your Rhubarb Cake.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with just a few crumbs. Cool on a baking wire rack.

Note: The cracks in the topping are normal. It happens when the steam from the cake escapes through the crunchy topping during baking.

Top down view of a cake pan holding a fresh rhubarb cake topped with a sugar and cinnamon topping. Hostess At Heart

What to Serve with Old Fashioned Rhubarb Cake

We serve this easy rhubarb cake warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A warm vanilla sauce or whipped cream would be equally delicious. Macerated berries are also a lovely touch.

Frequently asked questions.

Can I use frozen rhubarb to make rhubarb cake?

Yes, you can use frozen rhubarb. Thaw and drain and then pat the rhubarb dry to remove any extra liquid. In fact, any time I have extra rhubarb, I’ll slice and freeze it so I can have my favourite rhubarb recipes all year long.

Can rhubarb be eaten raw?

Yes, you can eat the rhubarb stalks even though it’s a bit sour. The leaves of the rhubarb plant contain a poison called oxalic acid. Do not eat the leaves. Rhubarb contains vitamins A and K as well as other health benefits.

Does rhubarb have to be peeled before use?

No, you do not need to peel the stalk of rhubarb. Older rhubarb near the end of the season can become fibrous and woody. We don’t use them at that stage.

Should red or green rhubarb stalks be used?

Either! If you’re baking the rhubarb, especially in a recipe that adds sugar, it doesn’t matter. If you’re eating it raw the red rhubarb may be a little less tart.

Can old-fashioned rhubarb cake be made ahead of time?

Yes, you can make our sweet rhubarb cake one day in advance. Even though it’s edible several days after that, it will lose some of its freshness. Bake the cake and let it cool completely. Store it in an airtight container at room temperature, and serve it 24 hours later.

A sideview of a slice of rhubarb cake topped with walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon. Hostess At Heart

How To Reheat & Store Rhubarb Cake?

Best way to store

Cover the cooled cake with aluminum foil and store your cake at room temperature for up to five days.

Can I freeze

Yes. Freeze a whole cake or individual slices in airtight containers. Thaw cake at room temperature. Thaw individual slices in the microwave for thirty seconds.

How to reheat rhubarb cake.

No need to eat warm! If you prefer it warm you can heat a slice in the microwave for ten seconds at a time.

Hostess Tips for the Perfect Rhubarb Cake

  • Slices of rhubarb should be the same thickness so they cook at the same rate.
  • If you don’t have enough rhubarb, you can use chopped strawberries to make up the difference for a total of three and a half cups of fruit.
  • Rhubarb should be firm with no bruising and have a clean, sweet scent. It should not be limp, but try reviving it in a cup of water if you harvest it too soon and don’t get to it in time.
  • Do not overbake this rhubarb cake recipe. Doing so will turn a moist cake dry. Bake until one or two crumbs come out on the toothpick.

If you love cooking with rhubarb or have lots to use up, be sure to check out our recipe for a Rhubarb Custard Pie with Lattice Crust, this quick and easy Rhubarb Crunch, and our Rhubarb Sauce recipes.

Sideview of a moist cake with fresh rhubarb and topped with a crusty sugar, cinnamon, and walnut topping. Hostess At Heart

I hope you enjoyed this delicious recipe as much as we do. Drop me a comment below, and don’t forget to give it a star rating. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐. Your comments and ratings help others decide if this recipe is for them too.

Sideview of a moist cake with fresh rhubarb and topped with a crusty sugar, cinnamon, and walnut topping. Hostess At Heart

Rhubarb Recipe Cake Recipe

Author: Julie Menghini
This easy, Old Fashioned Rhubarb Cake recipe is a family favorite. It's an easy sweet, tender recipe with a delicious crunch.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword: Cake Recipe, Rhubarb Dessert, Rhubarb recipe
Servings: 12



  • cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup shortening (Crisco)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • cups chopped rhubarb



  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease and flour a 9×13 baking dish.
  • Make the sour milk by combining the 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Set aside.


  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the shortening, brown sugar, and salt together. Cream together.
  • Add the flour and baking soda. Mix together until combined.
  • Add the sour milk and the egg. Mix together until combined. Batter will resemble creamy peanut butter. Using a spatula, fold in the chopped rhubarb.
  • Add the batter to a prepared baking dish, smoothing it out until even.


  • In a small bowl, combine the sugar, nuts, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake batter.


  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with just a few crumbs. Cool on a baking rack.


Sour milk is an old-fashioned term for Buttermilk. If you choose, you can replace the 1 cup of milk and the white vinegar with 1 cup of buttermilk.
Cake can be served with a dollop of whipped topping.


Calories: 365kcalCarbohydrates: 59gProtein: 5gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 308mgPotassium: 225mgFiber: 2gSugar: 37gVitamin A: 91IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 92mgIron: 2mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

This recipe was calculated using the exact brands and measurements I used to make this recipe. If you are following a strict diet please note changing anything will cause the nutritional info to change. My calculations are intended as a guide only.

Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!

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Side-angle of a slice of rhubarb cake topped with sugary walnut crust - Hostess At Heart
Recipe Rating


Tuesday 26th of March 2024

SO GOOD! I am such a rhubarb fan and always looking for new ways to bake with it! Thank you!

Julie Menghini

Tuesday 26th of March 2024

Thank you, Lynn! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Laura Johnson

Monday 25th of March 2024

This cake was 10/10! Made me want to try so many more rhubarb recipes. Thank you for the recipe...will definitely be making it again!

Julie Menghini

Monday 25th of March 2024

Thank you, Laura! It's such a good way to use rhubarb and we've got several recipes that I hope you'll try.

Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man!

Sunday 24th of March 2024

I love rhubarb. I used to steal if from my neighbor's garden when I was a kid. Now I steal it from grocery stores. Just kidding! But I do love rhubarb desserts, and cake is one of my favorite desserts, so there you go.

Julie Menghini

Monday 25th of March 2024

I love it! My sister and I used to lift a couple stalks from the neighbors too, LOL! It's one of our favorite dessert too. Thank you!


Thursday 21st of March 2024

I just got my first little crop of rhubarb and made this cake, reminded me of one that my Grandma used to bake!


Thursday 21st of March 2024

@Kathleen, originally....from France this writer grew up eating a lot of rhubarb; mother made the tarts every year( it grew in the garden).... Somewhat hard to find in the US....really! Want to say that I miss it! Extra good for the intestines!intent to made this it promises to be delicious as cake

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