Musical pairing – Lucky by Jason Mraz

As a child, I remember having rhubarb plants in my backyard and my mother making stewed rhubarb – I L-O-V-E-D it; but I also remember mother saying that the leaves were toxic and gave me direct orders that I wasn’t to eat them . . . ‘hmmm’ . . . my defiant 8-year-old mind asked, ‘Is that really true or is she just saying that so I won’t eat it all raw?  Do I tempt fate, try it and see what happens?  What would happen if I only ate a teeny-weeny little bite – would I die and more importantly, would they ever find my body?’ (I was a bit dramatic).  In the end, I decided to obey – a rarity for those of you who know me well . . .  let’s just say that I have never been one to conform . . .

I don’t remember having rhubarb pies, tarts or cakes – only small bowls filled with light pink, sweet-tangy, soft, glistening strands of stewed rhubarb that I ate every summer of my childhood.  We moved to Arizona when I was 13 and I didn’t grow my own rhubarb until this year.

Before moving to Indiana and marrying The Professor, I lived in Olympia, Washington and was lucky enough to be surrounded by a great group of friends.  We’d get together on a regular basis to play cards, craft, laugh, shop and play jokes on one another – uhm, like the time they taped a ‘Wish Me A Happy Birthday’ sign on my back and then took me shopping all day – couldn’t figure out why on earth complete strangers kept saying, ‘Happy Birthday!!’  And you all know who you are:  Christine, Judi, Carol, Connie and Julie . . . I still get a good chuckle every time I remember that day.

Summertime get-togethers included this rhubarb cake from Christine’s mother-in-law, Lou; one bite and I was transported back to my little house on Ankeny street with those rhubarb plants.  A moist, not-to-sweet cake filled with chunks of rhubarb, chopped nuts and topped with cinnamon-sugar – it’s simple, uncomplicated and absolutely perfect, even for breakfast!  I had forgotten all about the recipe until last year when Melissa (Christine’s now grown daughter) mentioned the cake on Facebook – I shot her a quick note, ‘Can I please, please, please have the recipe?’  Within an hour, the cake was made and cooling on a rack.

The Professor took his first bite and began dancing around the kitchen singing, ‘I’m too sexy for my cake, too sexy for my cake . . .’  I’m going to take that as a sign – either he’s crazy or he likes it – probably a bit of both.  Now that we have our own rhubarb growing in our garden, he looks forward to this time of year with great anticipation.  And yes, The Professor danced for me again this year . . . love this man, my best friend – he makes me laugh!

Melissa has given me permission to post the recipe on Smith Bites, but she also has her own mommy blog – stop over and tell her you like Lou’s Rhubarb Cake!

Slightly adapted from Lou via Melissa Rich Moore

Zest of 1 lemon
3 cups sugar
1 cube butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 Cup Sour Cream (OR Greek-style yogurt)
4 Cups flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
4 Cups, 1/2 inch chunks of rhubarb
1 Cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts but pecans would be wonderful too)

1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Raw sugar (Turbinado)
1 teaspoon regular sugar

SMITH BITES NOTE: Using a mix of sugars for the cinnamon topping creates a slightly crunchy top and gives the cake added texture; cinnamon with regular sugar works fine too as was listed in the original recipe!  Feel free to adjust the measurements – more or less cinnamon and/or sugar to your taste.

Add lemon zest to sugar and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lemon is strong (don’t miss this step – it really makes a difference!).  Add butter and cream; add eggs, vanilla and sour cream (or yogurt) – mix well.

Sift together flour, Baking Powder and salt. Gradually add to creamed butter/sugar mixture, stirring after each addition. Add rhubarb, mix well (mixture will be stiff, but keep stirring adding a couple of teaspoons of water if needed.  Add 1 cup chopped nuts.

Spread batter in greased 9×13 pan. Mix cinnamon and both sugars in small bowl; sprinkle over cake and bake at 350. Start testing at 40 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick in center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or plain – The Professor says it’s particularly good for breakfast!

SMITH BITES NOTE: Since there are only two of us, I made a half recipe and baked in an 8×8 pan!

You might also like:

A Baking Life: Lemony-Rhubarb Custard Tart
Gluten-Free Girl:  Gluten-Free Rhubarb Muffins
TwoPeasandPod: Strawberry Rhubarb Galette


  1. Pingback: Rhubarb, Yoghurt and Pinenut Cake | Sasasunakku

  2. Can’t tell you how much I LOVE the musical pairing. This entire entry just looks like a happy summer day to me. 🙂

  3. I simple adore anything rhubarb, I’ve been eating it all my life, in many forms. Have also been posting a few things too and have a couple more to go. I’m really pleased to be adding this fabulous cake recipe to my repertoire! Can’t wait to make it!

  4. Wow, this sure brings back memories. We always picked rhubarb stalks and gnawed on them out in the backyard. I don’t think anyone ever told us not to eat the leaves, which is just as well, because that definitely would have prompted me to try them!

  5. I’m too sexy for my cake…too funny…love your cake, loving rhubarb


  6. Oh when I saw ‘Lou’s Rhubarb Cake’ my taste buds were all a quiver…. and the memories in my mind were good ones and the tears in my eyes were from happy memories of the Rich Family! Putting it in loaf pans is a great idea Melissa – going to do that!

  7. This looks so good, I may have to convince my husband to give rhubarb another try. He hasn’t been a huge fan due to some awful pies he once tried, he’s just never had rhubarb made the right way.

  8. Drool – I was waiting for this, now to find some rhubarb – I haven’t seen that much around recently…Why? Maybe it’s too late…Oh woe!

  9. Rhubarb & nuts – another combo that I’m now inspired to try! The cake sounds delicious (I really MUST stop reading rhubarb posts – there’s only so much rhubarb my family will tolerate), and I would definitely eat it for breakfast! Thanks for the link!

  10. I too grew up eating rhubarb, picked from the small garden on the side of our house. I remember yanking out those long red celery-like stalks and dipping them into a bowl of sugar. Then there was my mom’s Rhubarb Slush, which was made in a gallon ice cream bucket and featured liberal amounts of vodka.

    But you could never beat rhubarb cake for really making the most of the tartness of rhubarb. Yum, just the taste is summer to me.

  11. Liren ~ there are quite a few rhubarb cake recipes out there but this one is the best, IMHO! just so moist and flavorful – the rhubarb really stands out!

  12. Wow! This version of rhubarb cake is so strikingly similar to my favorite rhubarb cake recipe that I got from my friend Liz – her family recipe is a wee different in that there are no nuts or sour cream, but it looks the same, especially with the cinnamon sugar topping! I’ll have to agree with the Professor – rhubarb cake is awesome for breakfast 🙂

  13. It is an AWESOME cake Melissa – and truly The Professor’s fav-o-rite! Thanks for letting me share it!

  14. Grandma Lou would feel so loved!!! Looks yummy, as always, and I’m so glad The Professor loves it!! Teagan had some for breakfast this morning – I baked it in loaf pans the last time and froze one.

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