After a totally dreadful winter that seemed to go on for ages, we’re finally starting to see the first signs of spring here in London.  The crocuses have been up now for a couple of weeks, the forsythia is in full bloom and the daffs are about mid-way through their bloom.  But, my favorite sign of spring is … EARY RHUBARB!!!  Yep, those farmers that cover up their rhubarb crowns with inverted buckets just to bring those gorgeous pink stalks to market a few weeks early – they are my food heroes.  Like sour string-less celery, rhubarb is perfect for almost every dessert from creme brulee to pie to muffins to cake.

In England, they have a fabulous tradition called elevenses – that late morning time when you’re hungry but it’s still way too early for lunch – it’s the perfect time for a slice of coffee cake and a cup of something hot.  Enter marvelous Martha.  This month’s “Living” had a feature about coffee cake, that seemed serendipitous for the arrival of those pucker-up-sour pink beauties.  So, I adapted a little bit here, took from a little bit there and came up with this … Rhubarb Streusel Coffee Cake.  Perfect for before lunch … or after lunch … or late afternoon … or to accompany your favorite evening sit-com (although I know we’re all so sophisticated, we only watch documentaries and very serious dramas). 

Rhubarb Streusel Coffee Cake

Rhubarb filling

  • 1 1/2 lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2″ diagonal pieces
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar


  • 4 oz butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt

Streusel topping

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 1/2 oz butter, chilled

First things first, make your rhubarb filling by tossing the chopped rhubarb with the dark brown sugar and vanilla, putting it in a large, shallow pan with a lid and heating it, covered, over low for 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and raise the heat to medium, cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb has thickened.  It’s done when you can leave a trail in the pan when you drag a spoon through the mixture.  While that’s cooling, preheat the oven to 350 and butter a tube cake pan.

Next up, start working on the cake.  In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.  Add the vanilla and yogurt and stir well.  In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then mix into the butter and egg mixture until just incorporated – don’t overbeat.

Put half the mixture in the prepared cake pan, then cover with the rhubarb mixture before adding the last half of the mixture.  Quickly make the streusel topping by tossing the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon together before using a cheese grater to grate in the butter.  This makes rubbing in the butter a lot faster and easier.  Once the butter is completely rubbed in, top the cake mixture with the streusel and bake for 55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.