Rhubarb ‘Big Crumb’ Coffee Cake

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I wanted to post this recipe before the rhubarb season escapes us. It’s pretty late now, but it’s still findable in small quantities, and really that’s all you need for this cake. I’m also pretty certain that it was be almost as good without the rhubarb filling, or with some other seasonal crop in there, like cherries or berries. Why not?

I got my 3 stalks of rhubarb from my CSA and needed something to do with them. The internet is filled with sweet recipes using rhubarb, including our rhubarb tarts, but aside from that we don’t have much experience with the tart celery-looking veggie.

So I searched and I searched and I found a recipe for rhubarb big crumb coffee cake. It’s three layers of cake, rhubarb compote and big crumbs; it’s incredible. I had all of the ingredients already (except for cake flour which I substituted with all-purpose; it came out fine) which is always a plus!

All you do is separately mix the three components and then build them together in the baking dish. Bake and eat with a cup of freshly percolated coffee for breakfast today (and tomorrow, and the next day… if you live with only one other person, like myself).

Rhubarb ‘Big Crumb’ Coffee Cake from The New York Times


For the rhubarb filling:

  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumb topping:

  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (I used AP)

For the cake:

  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.


  1. Preheat oven to 325 and grease a baking pan. The original recipe calls for an 8-inch square, but I used a 9×12 oval au gratin dish instead.
  2. Make the filling: slice the rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.
  3. Make the crumbs: in a large bowl, whisk sugar, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Add flour with a spatula until it forms a solid dough. Set aside.
  4. Make the cake: in a small bowl, stir sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Set aside.
  5. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of the sour cream mixture and mix at medium speed until the flour mixture is moist. Increase speed and mix for 30 more seconds. Add the rest of the sour cream mixture in two batches. Set aside 1/2 cup of the batter.
  6. Assemble: Fill prepared baking dish with the rest of the batter. Pour rhubarb mixture over the batter. Dollop the 1/2 cup of batter over the rhubarb. Use your fingers to break apart the topping into big crumbs (about 1/2to 3/4 inch) and sprinkle over the cake.
  7. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and serve.