Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Who says upside-down cakes must be pineapple?! Here, the upside-down fruit is fresh rhubarb made slightly unusual with just a kiss of anise.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

TESTIMONIALS

"... it tasted great." ~ Nat
"Nice light, soft and moist cake without being too gooey heavy or sweet." ~ Kari


Battling the bunnies. It’s an endless fight this time of year. A particularly persistent little guy is tearing up new impatiens in the shade garden. Every night he digs up a dozen plants, every morning I carefully restore them to the dirt. Something’s nibbling at the hostas as well. And the shasta daisies. And ...

The other day, my neighbor Mr. McGregor (okay, that’s not his real name) was perplexed to see dirt flying out of a grassy rise behind the house. He approached cautiously to find the muscular hind legs of a bunny digging to China the long way, sideways.

Ah, the joys of summer.

One of summer’s true treasures is rhubarb. This year’s crop is abundant and seems particularly sweet. I’ve frozen a few quarts for next winter but couldn’t miss this lovely upside-down cake, a perfect example of what my mom called “a good dessert when supper’s a little skimpy”.

It’s also a good example of how serving size, fat and sugar can be cut without loss of satisfaction or taste. In fact, testers here actually preferred my lower-fat, less-sweet version to the original. I agree: the anise’s light sweetness is more apparent when it doesn’t compete with so much sugar.

ALANNA's TIPS If you find anise extract, it really bumps up the flavor. To freeze rhubarb for later, wash well and cut in half-inch pieces. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze. When frozen, transfer to a freezer container.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

RHUBARB UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
10 servings
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 pounds rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped (about 3 cups, see Later Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed ground in a mortar & pestle or a spice grinder
  • 1-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 209 grams
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract (or vanilla)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and brown sugar over medium heat in a well-seasoned, nine-inch cast-iron skillet (see Later Notes). Stir to combine, then simmer 2 – 3 minutes, being careful not to burn.

Remove from heat and arrange rhubarb evenly over top without disturbing the butter-sugar mixture.

Meanwhile, stir together anise seed, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream 1/2 cup softened butter and sugar. Add anise extract. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, taking care to not overmix.

Spoon batter over rhubarb without disturbing the fruit. Bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per serving: 283 Calories; 13g Tot Fat; 8g Sat Fat; 38g Carb; 1g Fiber; 348mg Sodium; 81mg Cholesterol; 4g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 6.5, PointsPlus 8 This recipe has been 'Alanna-sized' with reductions in fat and sugar and increases in the low-calorie and fiber-rich rhubarb.

LATER NOTES
My cast iron skillet has disappeared (how does that happen?) so this last time I cooked the butter and brown sugar mixture in a skillet and then poured it into a cake pan. After arranging the rhubarb, I greased the sides of the cake pen. This worked great!
You want enough rhubarb to densely cover the butter-brown sugar mixture. This last time, the perfect amount was three cups of chopped rhubarb weighing just three-fourths of a pound after trimming.
Originally published in print in 2003, first published online in 2008, updated and republished in 2011.

More Rhubarb Recipes

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Rhubarb Country Cobbler Rhubarb Sorbet How to Make Rhubarb Jelly & Jam in Just One Hour
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I'm going to have to give this a try, Alanna -- I adore rhubarb in all forms, and this is a new recipe for me. Hooray! My cast-iron pan isn't quite in California yet, but I'm hoping it'll be here soon. In the meantime, I might pick up some rhubarb at the farmer's market and freeze it so I have some when the pan is in place.

And...another virtual high-five on 9Rules -- congratulations! I'm so glad you're in, and just favorited you in my 9Rules profile. 'Cause, well, you're one of my faves.
 
Congrats on being accepted to 9Rules! And thanks for this recipe -- I love the whole notion of upside-down cakes, because they are always such a surprise.
 
This just came out of the oven. It smells just delicious!
 
Rhubarb is such a joy, color and taste. Have to try the anise flavor.
 
Great recipe, but did you intentionally leave salt out of the recipe? Having made cobblers before, I added 1 teaspoon of salt to the dough, and it tasted great. Just wondering. Thanks for sharing your recipe.
 
Hi Nat,

I didn't intentionally leave out salt but since I've been making this for so many years, I don't know the recipe's provenance and it's sure possible that I omitted an ingredient when copying it over a few times. That said, I always cook straight from my own columns (not prior recipe cards, etc) so that I'm cooking from exactly what readers cook from.

Glad you like the cobbler, me too!

PS If you're following responses to this post, you might wonder why there's been no response for a few days. For some reason, Blogger hasn't posted your comment so I posted it manually.
 
Love this one and I am not usually a cake person! Nice light soft and moist cake without being too gooey heavy or sweet. I skipped the anise this time and added orange oil to the cake batter and chopped pecans to the brown sugar topping but I will definitely try the anise next time. I did find that 1-1/2 pounds of rhubarb (I weighed it first) cut to about 1/2 inch chop was a lot more than 3 cups though. I ended up using a little over 3 cups of it and will go more next time even though it looks like too much in the pan. My rhubarb looks to have cooked down more than yours as well so perhaps you cut larger chunks. Thanks for the recipe
 
Kari/Tom ~ Orange oil is inspired! I can even imagine it with the anise, should you go that direction another time.

Readers are reporting different volumes on the rhubarb jam, too. I wonder if different varieties of rhubarb are quite different. I'm quite sure I've made this with at least two different kinds, however. Hard to say.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your results!
 
You have bunnies and rhubarb already? Aaargh! It's still snowing today here.
Susan K. from Thunder Bay
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna