This easy and delicious Norwegian Rhubarb Crumb Cake is a must-try treat for all of you rhubarb lovers out there....moist buttermilk cake studded with tart, fresh rhubarb and topped with a buttery cinnamon and brown sugar crumble.
It works for breakfast or alongside a cup of coffee in the afternoon. Or dress it up for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! This simple crumb cake is perfect for any time of day.
The Story Behind This Recipe
This recipe comes straight from the pages of my Norwegian grandmother's tattered church cookbook. Perhaps you have one or two of these gems in your cookbook collection as well. Spiral bound with very minimal instructions like, "mix all ingredients and bake in a slow oven for an hour", the recipes can be difficult to work with, especially if you are new to baking.
But never fear! I have updated this old-fashioned crumb cake recipe with clear, modern instructions that will set you up for cake baking success every time.
Why This Recipe Works
- The cake itself is made with buttermilk and brown sugar and is exceptionally tender and moist.
- It contains just the right amount of rhubarb to offset the sweetness of the cake.
- The crumb topping with just a hint of cinnamon brings a welcome buttery crunch finish this cake off perfectly.
For the Cake:
For the Crumb Topping:
Nothing but straightforward ingredients here. Know that either fresh or frozen rhubarb will work just fine in this recipe (and no need to thaw the rhubarb prior to adding it to the cake batter).
How To Make This Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin by making the crumb topping: Combine the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir until a thick, crumbly mixture is formed that sticks together when you squeeze it in your hand. Set aside.
- Make the cake: Grease and flour a 9-inch square cake pan. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Set both aside.
- Combine the softened butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.
- With the mixer at low speed, add one-third of the buttermilk followed by one-third of the dry ingredients. Repeat two more times, ending with the final third of the dry ingredients. Mix until everything JUST comes together (some visible streaks of flour at this point are just fine).
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the chopped rhubarb. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir the rhubarb into the batter until it is evenly distributed.
- Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan and smooth out the top with an offset spatula. Top the cake with the crumb mixture by squeezing the crumb mixture in your hand and scattering it evenly over the cake in "crumbs" that are no larger that ½ inch in diameter.
- Transfer the cake to the oven and bake until the crumb mixture is golden brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.
- Let cool to room temperature, cut and serve!
- Do not over mix the cake batter once you have added the flour. Over mixed batter can lead to a less than tender cake. At the end of the recipe, you are asked to add the buttermilk and dry ingredients in three alternating portions. Make sure the mixer is on low and that you move swiftly from each addition to the other. If there are still visible streaks of flour once you have stopped the mixer, that is just fine. We still need to fold in the rhubarb so any remaining flour will get incorporated then.
- Have leftover rhubarb? Freeze it! Rhubarb freezes really well. Simply chop it into ½ inch pieces and transfer it to a freezer bag or other tightly sealed freezer-safe container. It will keep nicely for 6-9 months and most recipes allow you to add frozen rhubarb strait to whatever it is that you are making without needing to defrost it first.
Store this cake tightly sealed at room temperature for up to a couple of days (although it is always best the day that it is made!)
Yes! Be sure to wrap it well (you could even do this in individual slices) and store the wrapped cake or cake slices in a tightly sealed freezer bag or other freezer-safe container. The cake will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer.
You can easily make a buttermilk substitute by combining ⅔ cup of regular or plant-based milk with 2 teaspoons of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice. Be sure to let it sit for at least 10 minutes to give the milk a chance to acidulate and thicken slightly. Give it a stir and use it in the recipe!
Looking for more easy Scandinavian cakes to try? I've got several favorites here on the blog for you:
I hope you have a chance to enjoy this cake before rhubarb season comes to an end. OR just freeze some rhubarb and bake it any time during the year! It's sure to please all of the rhubarb lovers in your life.
Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Crumb Cake
- For the Crumb Topping:
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- For the Cake:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature + more for greasing the pan
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour + more for flouring the pan
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- ⅔ cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 ½ cups chopped rhubarb fresh or frozen is fine
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the crumb topping: Combine the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Pour in the melted butter and stir until combined. Add the flour and stir until a thick cohesive dough forms that holds together when you squeeze it in your hand. Set aside.
- Make the cake: Butter and flour a 9 inch square baking pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed using the paddle attachment until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until fully combined.
- With the mixer on low, add one-third of the buttermilk followed by one-third of the dry ingredients. Repeat two more times, finishing with the dry ingredients. Mix until the batter just comes together. Gently fold in the rhubarb with a rubber spatula.
- Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan and sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top by squeezing the mixture in your hand and scattering it evenly over the cake in "crumbs" that are no larger that ½ inch in diameter. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the crumb topping is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.
If you loved this recipe, give it a star review! Also, snap a picture of your Norwegian Rhubarb Crumb Cake and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #truenorthkitchen and tagging me @true_north_kitchen.