Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake Recipe (2024)

By Melissa Clark

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour 45 minutes
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Take advantage of rhubarb season with this easy dessert. Baked and unmolded, this cake resembles a pale pink mosaic atop velvet-crumbed and vanilla-infused cake. The rhubarb, which you’ll add in raw, is tangy and tender, firm enough to give you something to chew over. It’s an easy half-hour of prep and another hour and change in the oven, ample time for a light supper, anticipation of dessert hanging in the spring air.

Featured in: The Upside of Rhubarb

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Yield:8 servings

  • sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, more to grease pans
  • pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into ½-inch cubes about 4 cups
  • 2teaspoons cornstarch
  • cups granulated sugar
  • ½cup light brown sugar
  • 2cups cake flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • ½teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4large eggs
  • cup sour cream
  • 2teaspoons lemon juice

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (8 servings)

636 calories; 33 grams fat; 20 grams saturated fat; 1 gram trans fat; 9 grams monounsaturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 79 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 48 grams sugars; 7 grams protein; 253 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Wrap two layers of foil under the pan, and place it on a baking sheet.

  2. Step


    In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch and ½ cup granulated sugar.

  3. Mix the brown sugar and ½ stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.

  4. Step


    Whip 2 sticks butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment for 2 minutes. With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup sugar with lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color. Cream together with the butter at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. (It’s O.K. if the mixture looks curdled.) With the mixer set to low speed, add the flour mixture, ¼ cup at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the mixer bowl in between the additions.

  5. Step


    Pour the brown-sugar mixture into the cake pan, then spoon in the rhubarb and its juices. Spoon in the batter so it covers all of the rhubarb. Smooth out the top.

  6. Step


    Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out without any large, moist crumbs.

  7. Step


    Place the pan on a wire rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the cake, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it upside-down. Release the cake from the pan while still warm or else it will stick.



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Cooking Notes

Eva Galson

This recipe can be made simpler by baking the cake in a 10" cast iron frying pan. There will be no preparation of baking pans, no chance of run over spills in the oven, and the brown sugar and butter can be heated directly in the frying pan before adding the rhubarb, thus saving an extra pan.


Just DO NOT, as I did a couple of years ago when making this recipe, accidentally buy red-stemmed Swiss chard instead of rhubarb!


Looking at the recipe initially, I agreed with previous users that it seemed to be heavy on sugar. I used 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup brown sugar, and it still tastes great.


My family has made a cake similar to this for decades, but one difference is that we use brown sugar, not white, with the rhubarb. We also make it much easier than is described here: preheat the oven, put the cake pan with the two sticks of butter in the oven, mix up a yellow cake mix (the only thing we ever use cake mixes for, ever!), pull the pan with the melted butter out of the oven, stir in the brown sugar, sprinkle the rhubarb on top, then pour the cake mix over. Easy peasy and yum.


Made this again in a round 9" cake pan that had a 3" side. For me it worked out better. The cake was moister and the juices stayed in the cake rather than the tin foil. I had no problem getting the cake out. I used parchment and generously buttered the pan.


Made this last night. Two notes: wait more than 15 minutes to flip and release from pan. More like 30. Mine fell apart because it hadn't set. Too, the whole thing is too sweet: cut sugar. It's delicious and moist but the first thing you taste is sugar, instead of rhubarb and cake.


I didn't have cake flour at home and made it with regular, all-purpose. It was delicious! If you find yourself in this predicament don't worry the cake the will still be light and buttery.


It worked well in the nine inch springform I had, but better in a brownie pan. The resultant cake comes out just as easily if you use the parchment paper [that holy grail of the baking world!] and you don't lose half the brown sugar sauce, so it's moister and better incorporated as a single dessert, not cake-with-topping.

I'd err on the side of too much rhubarb rather than too little for the recipe, definitely [again, moister]. And really, is there such thing as too much rhubarb?


My family has been making rhubarb upside down cake for at least 50 years (since before I was born anyway!) and we do two things differently: We use only 1 cup brown sugar (no white) and 2 sticks butter for a 13x9 inch pan, and we use (horror!) a yellow cake mix. This is the ONLY time I would ever use a cake mix but it works and it's ultra easy. Be sure to serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream. An old North Dakota tradition.


Apparently rhubarb is just like an apple. Some varieties cook differently than others. Using bright red rhubarb from the farmer’s market, vendor A’s rhubarb produces no juice in the foil lining, the chunks of rhubarb soft but distinct, and the cake sweetness just right. Using vendor B’s rhubarb, there is a lot of juice in the foil lining, the chunks of rhubarb have softened and disintegrated and the cake seems too sweet. I now understand why the comments on the recipe have been so diverse.


I made this by combining two of the comments' suggestions. Use the cake mix idea (one package that normally makes two 8" layers). Melt half stick butter in 10" cast iron pan. Add brown sugar and cook it, and assemble the dessert in the cast iron pan the way the original recipe directs. name 350F ~ 45-50 minutes. Delicious!


To control the leaking, I prepared the pan as directed and set in on a rimmed sheet. I put a 1/2 inch band of the cake batter around the edge using my finger, much like you would grout a bath tub. Made sure the batter was sealed against the pan side and parchment round. Then poured in the butter/brown sugar mixture and proceeded with the rest of the directions. Took one minute extra but only a couple of drops of liquid leaked out during cooking. Seventh time I have made this recipe.


Metric vs. non-metric wouldn't make the measurement more accurate. Perhaps you meant the New York Times should provide weights instead of volume measurements for baking ingredients? I would agree with that.


May I suggest using raspberries instead of strawberries to achieve the red color? If you don't like the seeds, simply freeze the berries, then puree, cook lightly and strain. Thicken with a tsp of cornstarch to thicken and mix in with the layer of rhubarb.


It's spring and time for rhubarb, and while my guests loved this (especially for breakfast the next day), I wasn't happy with the appearance. Cooked rhubarb is not as red as the photo, and the bland color was not a show stopper. Adding a few strawberries (and less sugar) would perhaps enhance both the balance and appearance.

Stripes Jaeger

There are times when I try a NYT’s recipe and am delighted with the outcome. Alas, a previous baker left a note stating that they felt this recipe result was insipid. I laughed when I read that comment but I should have paid heed to it instead. This cake was heavy, dry within 12 hours, a bit slimy on top with no flavor character whatsoever. Perhaps a dash or two of cinnamon could have salvaged it to some degree. I feel as though I wasted $10 on rhubarb by squandering it on this wretched cake:(


Use full 1.5 lbs rhubarb (which will make more than 4 cups)


I lightly toasted the flaked almonds and much preferred them that way; they’re less rubbery. I’ve made this recipe twice, once following the recipe and the last time with about a quarter cup less sugar (and the toasted almonds). People liked the sweeter version. I preferred the less sweet one because the rhubarb flavour comes forward.

awesome Swordfish

Doesn’t cast iron turn the rhubarb grey?


I didn’t have brown sugar so used 1/4 c maple syrup instead with 3/4 c sugar in the cake. Perfectly tart and sweet and moist. Ideally served with whipped cream or crème fraiche. Will definitely make this again!


Substituted strawberries for part of the rhubarb because I was short about a 1/2 cup. Reduced sugar per other recommendations. Baked in 9x13 pan.Delicious with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


Delicious! Will definitely make again.

Emma Rose

Mine was terribly underbaked. I couldn’t tell (knife came out clean, top was brown and firm) but when I cut into it the center was raw. Wish I’d done it at 350. :(


I thought Melissa Clark was known for brilliantly simple dishes so I trustingly followed the recipe to the letter. Wishing I had read the comments and 1) used a cast iron pan and 2) changed the order of prep, which seemed odd even at the time. Next time I believe I can improve on this significantly - even without a yellow cake mix!

Mimi Wheeler

Delicious. Not the beautiful presentation as depicted. The crust of brown sugar-butter might add a rich taste but a brownish look. I'll likely try the recipe without. I used yogurt (full fat) in stead of sour cream. I served with a yogurt, vanilla bean and sugar concoction. Delicious.


Use cast iron pan!

Ella G.

This was amazing but I feel like there has to be a better way than a pan that all the butter immediately leaks out of? Might just risk a nonstick pan next time and see what happens.The cake itself is moist and delicious

jen r

I’ve never had rhubarb before nor made an upside down cake! It was amazing. So delicious and the cake was light and airy. Per the comments, I did use less sugar. Make sure you place the cake on a cookie sheet with a lip around it. I have to go clean my oven.


Don’t make my mistake on step 3 (which is really 2 different steps)! After melting the brown sugar and butter, It says sift together flour, baking powder, salt. I assumed it meant sift those together with the brown sugar and butter… oops! You melt the brown sugar and butter and set aside until you put all the ingredients in your pan!


Shout out to John for the tip to prevent leaking by sealing up the edge of the springform pan by smearing a bit of cake batter into the crease before adding the rhubarb. Genius! I had zero leaking! Love these helpful comments!

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Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake Recipe (2024)
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