Breaking New Ground with Rhubarb Buckle

I’ve played with rhubarb (here and here), and I know my way with a buckle, but I gotta say, this is my first adventure marrying the two.

(Kim O'Donnel)

Rhubarb buckle.

Those words certainly got my attention as I paged through a copy of “Rustic Fruit Desserts,” a new cookbook by Portland, Ore.’s Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. I’m so intrigued I can hardly stand it, and I’ve got five stalks of rhubarb from the farm market. And then I notice -- these baking bandits are stealing my heart -- they've added candied ginger to the batter -- bringing the flavor profile to all-time tantalizing high.

Well, it wasn’t just in my head; this fruit vegetable-forward cake with a slighty crumby topping is possibly one of the most interesting desserts I’ve made in a long time. In every bite, I get a rhube-y tang that I can’t enough of.

Go on, give this a whirl for Momma this weekend. She’ll lick her plate. (Don't forget to snag a piece for breakfast; it's killer with coffee.)

(Kim O'Donnel)

Rhubarb Buckle with Ginger Crumb

Adapted from “Rustic Fruit Desserts”
by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson


Butter or favorite fat, for greasing the pan

Ginger Crumb Topping
1/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup finely chopped candied ginger
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 2 ½ cups, or 5 stalks)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan.

To make the topping, mix sugar, flour and candied ginger together in a bowl, then stir in melted butter, until well combined. Place crumb in freezer while you mix cake batter – this chills the crumb so it will not immediately melt into the cake when baked. (KOD: Despite the freezing, my crumb did in fact melt into the cake – there is a noticeable ripple on top, but it’s not a distinct crumb, as there is with this blueberry buckle.)

To make the cake, whisk flour, baking powder, ginger, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Using a hand-held mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and scraping down sides of the bowl as you progress. Gently fold in rhubarb.

Spread batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle ginger crumb over the cake. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm on top. (KOD: Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then invert. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.)

Wrapped in plastic wrap, the cake will keep at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Makes 8-12 servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 7, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Baking , Spring Produce
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This sounds great and I could do an "eating down the pantry" by using up the last of a package of candied ginger that mocks me every time I open my spice cupboard. The rhubarb is going great guns here and is available at farmers markets. I had a great plant at our old house, but sadly, it remained there when we moved.

Posted by: khachiya1 | May 7, 2009 10:32 AM

Question: I thought that a "buckle" was typically closer to the "pie" end of the spectrum. Could you please explain pie vs buckle vs crumble vs crisp vs cobbler vs cake?

Posted by: mee3c | May 7, 2009 2:31 PM

Mee3c, Nope, a buckle is closer to a cake than any other treat in the lexicon of American colonial-era desserts. Cobbler is closest thing to a pie, more deep dish, usually with a pastry/biscuit o top, completely covering the fruit. And it's baked.
Crisp and crumble are also baked and very really similar to one another -- fruit filling with some kind of streusel-y topping.
Betty is also baked, usually with bread mixed in w/ fruit
Grunt/slump -- very similar to a cobbler, but it's cooked on top of the stove. Biscuit topping is steamed on top of fruit.
"Rustic Desserts" is a great primer on this fine topic, by the way.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 7, 2009 2:38 PM

I can't tell how the buckle differs from cake. Is it about the crumb topping rather than no topping?

Posted by: esleigh | May 7, 2009 4:09 PM

Esleigh, it is about the crumb topping, but it's also about all the fruit within. A buckle made with berries, which tend to burst during baking, is gooier, and the rhubarb buckle is drier overall -- altho when you get fruit, it is almost like pudding.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 7, 2009 4:19 PM

Thanks for this, Kim! I will add it to my batch of rhubarb recipes. My rhubarb plant is doing well this year, even after our rotten, cold winter. I pulled some of the first stalks a couple of weeks ago and made a pie - what a treat! I'll soon be making a new batch of rhubarb schnapps, as well as your buckle.

Posted by: susaninseattle | May 7, 2009 7:13 PM

Hello Kim

Rhubarb? No thanks, I pass. My mother used to turn it into a compote with lots of sugar, but I couldn't stand the weird 'metallic' flavour. What is it? Oxalic acid? And my palate still gives it 'thumbs down.'

Salutations, David L

Posted by: davidlewiston | May 8, 2009 4:48 AM

I tried this recipe and it tastes delicious - especially the crumb, which was distinct on my buckle. However, my cake expanded over the sides of my 9" round cake pan and I had little success inverting it out of the pan. I noticed that the instructions lack specific direction for how the wet and dry ingredients are combined before the rhubarb is folded in, and I am wondering if my method here was the root of my problem. Please advise - as I would love to make this again with "cleaner" results.

Posted by: iowa100 | May 9, 2009 4:15 PM

Iowa100, for whatever reason, a sentence from my original document got lost when it was copied into the blog platform, and for that I'm sorry! You'll notice now that the recipe calls for alternating dry ingredients and buttermilk, then adding rhubarb. Hope you'll want to try again. I apologize for the omission -- all better now.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 11, 2009 11:54 AM

Kim, made this weekend to finish a brunch for my Austrian host-father (was an exchange student EONS ago). It was the perfect American ending to the meal - and I found out later he wouldn't have said "yes" to rhubarb if he'd known, but loved it.

I ended up mixing the dry ingredients to the creamed ingredients, then adding the buttermilk after that, but before rhubarb. Sounds from your descriptions like I got the right consistency.

Any idea how much rhubarb would be too much? That's my only complaint - could be "fruitier."

Posted by: alisoncsmith | May 11, 2009 12:01 PM

Alisoncsmith, I noticed that, too. I would have liked a little more rhube. I may increase the amounts next time 'round.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 11, 2009 12:09 PM

I tried this recipe out this weekend and loved it. I agree on the more rhubarb though. That or less sugar so the rhubarb's tartness really shines.

I got a pretty good crumb on mine by rubbing the butter into the flour and sugar cold, then tossing in the chopped ginger and freezing as per the recipe.

Posted by: noramunro | May 11, 2009 6:25 PM

Pair this with the new Ginger Haagen Dazs "5" Ice Cream, their new five-natural-ingredient offering. Bliss, and I didn't have to prepare it myself this time!

Posted by: etsweiler | May 14, 2009 11:19 AM

This might sound heretical, but my MIL makes a rhubarb dump cake w/ boxed cake mix and jello -- I can hear the gasps now ;-) -- that is out of this world. I could eat a whole cake at one sitting and still want more. It's even better when she slices up strawberries and adds them to the mix.

Not sure how this buckle would taste (although I'm sure it's good), but I think I'll pass. The dump cakes directions couldn't be easier.

4 c. rhubarb
1 c. sugar
1 (3 oz.) pkg. strawberry Jello
1 white or yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, cubed
2 1/2 c. water

Layer in 9x13 inch pan in order given. DO NOT MIX OR STIR. Pour water over all and dot the top with butter cubes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Posted by: SamFelis | May 14, 2009 11:47 AM

to susaninseattle
can we have the recipe for rhubarb schnapps? please?

Posted by: redfox23 | May 17, 2009 9:30 AM

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