Rhubarb Cake

This old fashioned Rhubarb Cake has a crunchy pecan & coconut topping. It’s the perfect dessert for spring!

slice of rhubarb cake on a white plate.

Spring is rhubarb season, and this easy Rhubarb Cake is the perfect way to celebrate.

It’s a moist and tender cake, full of rhubarb, and topped with a coconut pecan crumble topping. Whipped cream on top is a must!

The recipe is from an Indiana women’s club cookbook from the 1980s. It makes a 13×9 inch pan, so there’s plenty to share.

It would be a great ending to Easter dinner, or a dessert for a spring potluck (so would this Coconut Poke Cake!). I personally love it as a mid-afternoon treat with a cup of tea.

If you love rhubarb, don’t miss this easy Rhubarb Sauce recipe, Rhubarb Bars, and this list of 15 Rhubarb Desserts!

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rhubarb cake in a metal pan with slices taken out.

When is rhubarb season?

Rhubarb is in season from late March until early June. You can find it in the produce department of your local grocery store, or at the farmer’s market.

Its bright red stalks resemble celery but they taste quite sour, which is exactly why a rhubarb cake or rhubarb muffins are the perfect use for it!

Cake ingredients

ingredients for rhubarb cake on a white table.
  • You can find rhubarb in the produce section of your local grocery store or at the farmer’s market. Look for bright red stalks!
  • Butter, buttermilk, and an egg keep this cake tender and moist. See below or in the recipe notes for how to make your own buttermilk from vinegar and milk.
  • A combination of white sugar and brown sugar add sweetness to the tangy rhubarb.
  • All-purpose flour is the best choice for this cake—it’ll keep the rhubarb suspended in the cake beautifully.

Crumble topping ingredients

topping ingredients for rhubarb cake on a white table.
  • A mixture of sugar, butter, and cinnamon create the crumbly streusel.
  • Chopped pecans and coconut make it crunchy! You could substitute walnuts or almonds in place of the pecans, if you wish. I used sweetened coconut for this recipe, but unsweetened coconut would work well, too.

How to make rhubarb cake

Start by combining the flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.

Then, cream the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar together with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.

butter and sugar creamed together in a glass mixing bowl.

Add the egg and vanilla, and mix to combine.

Add half of the buttermilk, then half of the flour mixture. Fold with a spatula to combine. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk and flour mixture, then fold in the chopped rhubarb. Don’t over mix the cake, which can make it tough.

rhubarb cake batter and a spatula in a glass mixing bowl.

Spread the batter into a greased 13×9 inch cake pan.

How to prepare the crumble topping

Prepare the topping by placing the sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter (cold from the refrigerator) into small cubes, and work the butter into the sugar with your fingers. You want to have clumps of butter about the size of peas.

butter and sugar in a glass mixing bowl.

Stir in the cinnamon, pecans, and coconut.

coconut pecan topping in a glass bowl.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake batter, then bake the cake for 45–50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

freshly baked rhubarb cake in a metal pan.

Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing it into squares. I got 15 squares out of this cake (3 squares from the short end and 5 squares from the long end).

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does rhubarb cake keep?

Store rhubarb cake in a covered container at room temperature for 3–4 days or in the refrigerator for 6–7 days.

How do I make my own buttermilk?

To make homemade buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a glass measuring cup. Fill the cup the rest of the way with milk, up to the 1 cup line. That’s it! You just made your own buttermilk.

Can I freeze rhubarb cake?

To freeze rhubarb cake, cover the cooked and cooled cake with plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to one month. Alternatively, cut the cake into squares and wrap the individual squares in plastic wrap, then place them in a resealable freezer bag or freezer-safe container. The topping on the cake will not be as crunchy as a freshly baked cake, but it’ll still taste delicious.
To defrost, leave the cake at room temperature overnight or for at least eight hours.

slice of rhubarb cake on a white plate, topped with whipped cream with a metal pan of cake in the background.

Serving suggestions

This Rhubarb Cake already has a built-in pecan-coconut crumble topping, but in my opinion, the addition of whipped cream is a MUST!

The cool and creamy sweetness of the cream contrasts perfectly with the soft cake and crunchy topping.

You can use either store-bought whipped cream/whipped topping, or make your own.

To make your own, combine 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a stand mixer. Mix on high until soft peaks form (take care not to over mix it!). You can also use a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer.

slice of rhubarb cake with whipped cream on top, with a bite taken out.

Rhubarb Cake is best served the day that it’s made (the topping will be the crunchiest then!) but it’s still delicious several days later. Keep it on the countertop for 3–4 days or in the refrigerator for 5–7 days. Either way you store it, make sure to cover it with foil or a lid!

Want more rhubarb recipes? Check out 15 Delicious Rhubarb Desserts here!

Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!

📖 Recipe

slice of rhubarb cake on a white plate topped with whipped cream.

Rhubarb Cake

Published by Kate
This old fashioned dessert is perfect for spring!
4.50 from 14 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 15 servings
Calories 287 kcal


For the cake:

  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup butter softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk (see notes for a homemade version)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb

For the topping:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • To serve: whipped cream or Cool Whip


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13×9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  • Place the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter in a large bowl. Mix on high with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix to combine.
  • In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add half of the buttermilk to the butter/sugar mixture and mix to combine. Pour half of the flour mixture in, and stir with a spatula to combine. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk and flour mixture. Do not over mix the batter! Fold in the chopped rhubarb.
  • Spread the mixture into the greased 13×9 inch pan.
  • Cut the 3 tablespoons of butter into small cubes. Place it in a medium bowl along with the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the sugar until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Stir in the cinnamon, coconut, and pecans. Scatter the mixture over the cake batter.
  • Bake for 45–50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool and serve with whipped cream or Cool Whip.


To make your own buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a glass measuring cup. Fill the cup to the 1-cup line with milk. That’s it—you just made buttermilk! You can use white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar for the vinegar. 


Calories: 287kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 3gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 185mgPotassium: 133mgFiber: 1gSugar: 26gVitamin A: 320IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 52mgIron: 1mg
Keyword rhubarb cake
Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a star rating and comment below!


  1. 5 stars
    I chose this recipe based on the photo alone. It looked light, tender, moist, flavorful. It delivered. I used chopped almonds instead of pecans. I used half and half with vinegar and a little water in place of buttermilk. And I added extra streusel topping, approximately 1.5x the amount called for, and I added a pinch of salt. I will tell you, I did NOT need the extra streusel topping. It was too much and I should have stuck with the recipe. I did like the tiny bit of added salt though. For picking a random rhubarb cake recipe off the internet, this was a surprise huge hit and I will be making it again. Thank you!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for taking the time to share your modifications. I, too, am always tempted to make more streusel. 🙂

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