Warm Rhubarb Caramel Cake

What do you do when you crave spring flavors on a cold and damp spring night? Eat your rhubarb warm around the woodstove!

by John D. Ivanko
Warm Rhubarb Caramel Cake - Photo by John D. Ivanko/farmsteadchef.com
Photo by John D. Ivanko/farmsteadchef.com

What do you do when you crave spring flavors on a cold and damp spring night? Eat your rhubarb warm around the woodstove! That’s what we did this past Saturday night here at Inn Serendipity. With the cold spring we’ve been having here in Wisconsin, our rhubarb patch has been slowly popping up and we could finally start to harvest this weekend. We cranked up the woodstove (hopefully for the last time this season) and shared a piece of Warm Rhubarb Caramel Cake with our bed-and-breakfast guests.

The tartness of rhubarb begs a sweet accompaniment, and this cake definitely delivers. This recipe acts like two cakes in one: When served warm, it’s has a soft, almost pudding-like consistency, and you can serve it with a spoon; however, as the cake cools, the sauce hardens and takes on a glaze-like consistency as the whole cake firms up.

Don’t have buttermilk in the house? No worries, we rarely do either and you can easily make the following substitution: Pour 1 cup milk over 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar. Let sit about 5 minutes, and you will see the milk start to curdle. This adds the nice tart flavoring of buttermilk using basic pantry staples you already have around—no waste!

The sun will shine and temperatures perk up to the 80s this week, so we’re looking forward to the spring gardens moving into growing overdrive. That rhubarb patch of ours will definitely take off. We think some rhubarb fritters are in our near future.

Recipe: Warm Rhubarb Caramel Cake

Yield: 12 servings

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1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1½ cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2½ cups flour
1 cup buttermilk (see substitution options)
4 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 T. milk
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9×13 pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, mix baking soda, salt and flour. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter/sugar mixture. Blend well. Fold in rhubarb.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle brown sugar evenly on top.Bake for about 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, brown sugar, butter and milk and bring to boil. Remove from heat and stir in almond and vanilla extracts.

Pour hot sauce over center of cake as soon as it’s is removed from oven. Allow sauce to sink in. Spoon any sauce liquid that pools up along sides of cake pan back to the center of the cake to allow more to sink in.

Serve immediately or allow to cool.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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