Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

I really love the taste of rhubarb, but I just haven’t been able to break away from my trusty rhubarb crisp routine. So when I happened upon this recipe for rhubarb upside-down cake, I just had to try it. This cake is really something special. The sour cream makes the batter so moist, and the orange zest adds an extra layer of flavor. But make no mistake–the rhubarb is still the star of the show.

Rhubarb comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Because of this, no two rhubarb upside-down cakes will come out looking the same. If symmetry and predictability is your thing, this may not be the recipe for you. You can try to position the rhubarb just perfectly, but when it cooks, chances are it will shift around a bit. There is something beautifully imperfect about this cake–just go with it!

The original recipe is from Martha Stewart, but I felt like there were a couple crucial steps left out of the written directions. Hopefully my additions help!¬†Also, a quick note. I understand that some upside-down cakes can be made in a spring form pan. Unfortunately, a lot of liquid is released from the rhubarb when it is cooked, which may leak through the spring form and start a small fire in your oven. I may or may not know this from personal experience…

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Yield: 10 servings

  • For The Topping
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • Coarse salt
  • For The Cake
    • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for buttering pan
    • 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut on a very sharp diagonal about 1/2 inch thick
    • 1 3/4 cups sugar
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • Coarse salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the topping: Stir together butter, flour, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until moist and crumbly. Set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. Make the cake: Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). Dot with 4 tablespoons butter (cut into pieces). Toss rhubarb with 3/4 cup sugar; let stand for 2 minutes. Toss again, and spread in pan with red side of the rhubarb facing down so it will show when the cake is flipped.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Set flour mixture aside.
  4. Beat remaining stick butter and cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in orange zest and juice. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, until smooth. Spread evenly over rhubarb. Crumble topping evenly over batter.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and top springs back when touched, about 1 hour. Let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake, and invert onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. The rhubarb will be too hot to handle safely right after baking. But if the cake sits much longer, it may stick.

The rhubarb I picked up from the farmers market was adorably small, so I had to pull quite a few stalks to make a pound.

I chose the reddest rhubarb at the market, but this is just an aesthetic preference–greener rhubarb will taste just as good.

Dot the butter in the pan and wedge in the rhubarb. If there is sugar left at the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle it on top of the rhubarb.

The batter will be a little thick, so gently smooth it over the rhubarb with a spatula.

The crumb “topping” will become the bottom of the cake once it is flipped.

Ta-da! Rhubarb upside-down cake in all its glory.

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