A perfect way to use early spring produce, this rhubarb upside-down cake is a beautiful sweet-tart dessert. From Zoë Bakes Cakes by Zoë François.
Photography by Sophie MacKenzie.
Zoë Bakes Cakes is the newest cookbook from baker Zoë François, with more than 100 beautiful cake recipes plus tips on baking basics, like how to cream ingredients. You might be familiar with some of Zoë’s other books from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes series.
This upside-down rhubarb cake is a wonderful early spring recipe, with pretty pink rhubarb topping a buttery cake base. Crème de cassis adds a hint of currant flavour and helps colour the rhubarb even more.
Related: Plum and Pear Upside Down Cake
Use the JUMP TO RECIPE button at the top, or scroll to the bottom of the post to see the printable recipe card with full ingredient measurements and complete instructions.
Baking pan: You’ll need a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan for this recipe. A springform is key as it’s much easier to release an upside-down cake from! We think a slightly smaller pan would also be fine as so many people have 8-inch (20cm) pans, but the baking time would probably be slightly longer in that case as it would be a thicker cake.
Parchment paper: using greased parchment will make for the most beautiful cake and easiest release. Fruity upside-down cakes have a tendency to stick to pans and the parchment will reduce that risk.
- Unsalted Butter: it is possible to use salted in a pinch, but then be sure to omit the added salt in the recipe and note that the flavour might be saltier than it should be.
- Granulated Sugar: this is just the most common sugar for baking and what you probably have in your house, fine grain white sugar.
- Crème de Cassis: a sweet liqueur made from red currants. The dark red colour adds a pretty pink shade to the rhubarb and a nice pop of flavour (see subs below).
- Kosher Salt: use a tiny pinch if subbing sea salt, as the grains are finer.
- Rhubarb: Zoë specifies fresh or frozen. Frozen might make the cake a bit soggy but it doesn’t note this in the recipe.
- Vanilla Extract: pure vanilla for best flavour. You can use powder or paste, but half the amount as extract.
- Eggs: room temperature is important to avoid any curdling once the eggs are mixed in. These are large eggs (American).
- All-Purpose Flour: aka white flour. Don’t use self-rising.
- Baking Powder: a pretty small amount for this recipe as the eggs assist in leavening. Don’t mix it up with baking soda/bicarbonate.
- Buttermilk: either buy it or make it yourself. To quickly make buttermilk, mix a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into the milk and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Keep scrolling to see clear and detailed process shots, as well as tips and notes to help you make Upside Down Rhubarb Cake perfectly the first time!
1. Use forced rhubarb – if you can get it! It has the best pink colour and most tender stems. See below on peeling.
2. Room temperature ingredients. if your eggs are cold, submerge them in a glass of warm (not hot) water for a few minutes to bring them to room temp quickly.
3. Mix in batches. This recipe uses the ⅓ method of dry then wet, and don’t change it! Mixing this way makes for the lightest, best crumb.
Tips and Notes
- If using late-season rhubarb, Zoë recommends peeling the outer layer off with a vegetable peeler, as it will be tough. This is common with rhubarb in Canada (and Minnesota, where Zoë lives) as the quick movement into hot summer temperatures can make the rhubarb grow really fast.
- The crème de cassis topping will leak a bit while the cake is baking, since this is made in a springform pan. Don’t skip placing a baking sheet underneath while baking, as otherwise you’ll have a burnt mess on the bottom of your oven.
- Even if your rhubarb isn’t particularly pink, the colour of the butter and liqueur mixture should add a nice reddish tone while baking.
- Note that the metric measurements are slightly different to what we show with our recipes on Baked. For flour in particular, the form of measurement if a baker is using cups-first will determine the weight – flour that’s been spooned and leveled is much lighter than scooped and leveled (most home bakers do the latter, so that’s why we also use it in our recipe measurements).
How to Store and Freeze Upside Down Rhubarb Cake
- To Store: while upside-down cakes are usually best fresh so that the fruit doesn’t soften the crumb too much, this can be stored. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days, or refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. Add a piece of paper towel to the container to help reduce the humidity.
- To Freeze: wrap well or place in an airtight container and freeze up to a month. Thaw at room temperature until ready to serve. You can freeze the whole cake or individual slices, but note that the texture isn’t as good after thawing.
Zoë notes a variation in the book, for cranberry Grand Marnier upside-down cake:
Around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, try this cranberry version, which is equally tart and wonderful but has an even more spectacular colour. Replace the rhubarb with 4 cups (400g) fresh or frozen cranberries, swap the crème de cassis for Grand Marnier, and proceed as directed.
A good substitute for crème de cassis is Chambord or another raspberry liqueur. You can also use black currant syrup or another berry syrup for an alcohol-free option, though it might be a bit sweeter.
Use a good vegan butter and buttermilk (dairy-free milk with a splash of vinegar) for a dairy-free option.
Greasing both adds an extra bit of buttery flavour (yum) but also ensures that the cake and rhubarb base will release perfectly from the tin.
If you’re a gardener, Victoria rhubarb is excellent and tends to have slimmer, more red stems. If you’re buying it, there’s not too much of a difference but thinner is usually better for rhubarb. Avoid super thick stalks.
It does! You can wrap individual pieces well and freeze for a little treat, or freeze the whole cake. An airtight container should do the trick and thaw at room temperature.
More Rhubarb Recipes
If you make this recipe, let us know by tagging @baked_theblog + #bakedtheblog on Instagram! We love to feel like we’re in the kitchen with you.
Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
- Parchment paper
- Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
- Stand mixer
- Small saucepan
- Wooden spoon
- Mixing bowl
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided
- 4 tablespoon crème de cassis, divided
- Kosher salt
- 4 cups rhubarb, coarsely chopped fresh or frozen, 1-inch (2.5cm)
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Generously grease a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan, then line the bottom and sides with greased parchment paper.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, combine ¼ cup (55 grams) of the butter, ½ cup (100 grams) of the sugar, 2 tablespoons of the crème de cassis, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until melted.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, then arrange the rhubarb over the top and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), cream the remaining ¾ cup (165 grams) butter on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute.
- Turn the mixer speed to low, add the remaining 1 cup (200 grams) sugar and the vanilla to the butter, and mix until incorporated. Then turn the speed to medium-high and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl often for even incorporation.
- Turn the speed to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Scrape the bowl after each addition.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt.
- In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the buttermilk and remaining 2 tablespoon crème de cassis.
- Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed, just until combined.
- Add one-half of the buttermilk mixture and mix to incorporate.
- Repeat with another one-third flour, the remaining liquid, and then finish with the final one-third flour, scraping the bowl and paddle after each addition.
- Scrape the batter into the pan, covering the rhubarb, and smooth the top with a spatula, Gently tap the pan on the counter several times to release excess air bubbles. Set the pan on a baking sheet.
- Bake until the cake is golden and a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and undo the side of the springform.
- Invert onto a serving plate, allowing the base to drop with the cake, and gently peel off the base and parchment. Serve the cake slightly warm.