A classic coffee cake gets a fruity update with spring rhubarb and sweet, red cherries.
Of all the spring fruits and vegetables available to us, I wonder if rhubarb is the wallflower of the group? Whenever I’m in the checkout lane, I see people with boxes of strawberries or maybe some spring greens, but nobody is carrying rhubarb to their cars.
Am I weird to get tickled when I spot beautiful pink stalks of rhubarb in the market? Oh, what can I do with these beauties that I found at The Summit market in Kirkwood, Missouri? Should I go with the classic strawberry-rhubarb pie or try a new savory dish? I decided to update an old-fashioned cake with this misunderstood culinary ingredient and made a wonderful Rhubarb and Cherry Buckle.
Even if you’re a novice baker, making a buckle is within your wheelhouse. A buckle simply is a cake baked with fruit. They’re called “buckles” because the streusel topping often causes the top of the cake to fall in the middle. It’s a dense, moist cake that’s perfect any time of day, whether it’s enjoyed with your morning coffee (like I did last week) or to cap off an evening meal (OK, like I did last week, too).
Historically, I think buckles get confused with cobblers and crisps, but I see these as separate desserts, although all feature luscious fruit. Cobblers have dough dotted over the fruit (resembling a cobblestone street) and fruit crisps have a streusel topping that includes flour and oats.
Buckles, as far as I can tell, are an old New England dessert that date to the 1700s. The most traditional of buckles feature blueberries, for which New England is well known. It’s delightful to take a bite of this cake and experience a burst of fresh fruit in your mouth! Blackberries would be wonderful in a buckle, as would strawberries. But I wanted to feature seasonal rhubarb and pair it with sweet, red frozen cherries. Raspberries could also be a good pairing with rhubarb.
While not a fruit, rhubarb often is used in pies, cakes, muffins, and other desserts. A rhubarb simple syrup is a fantastic base for a cocktail, too. A member of the Polygonaceae family, rhubarb is more closely related to buckwheat than celery.
To make my Rhubarb and Cherry Buckle, which yields eight servings, you’ll need these ingredients:
2 stalks fresh rhubarb
1½ cups frozen cherries, thawed
2 ounces butter
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
For the streusel topping, you’ll need:
1/3 cup flour
2 ounces cold butter
½ cup brown sugar
Directions for Rhubarb and Cherry Buckle
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Wash rhubarb and cut lengthwise in half. Chop the vegetable into bite-size pieces and place in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over rhubarb and simmer until vegetable starts to soften but still retains its shape. Drain but save the liquid for other use if desired.
To make the cake, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.
Cream the remaining sugar with room-temperature butter. Add egg and beat one minute. Add half the dry mixture, then milk, and remaining flour mixture.
Add vanilla and lemon zest. If you don’t have a fresh lemon, use ½ teaspoon lemon extract.
Fold in the rhubarb and drained cherries. Pour into buttered 9-inch round cake pan. Save the cherry juice if you’d like to use later. I mixed one part juice with two parts sparkling water for a refreshing drink I enjoyed while the buckle was in the oven.
To make the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour, and cold butter that’s been cut into small cubes. Work the mixture with a pastry cutter (or use your hands) until it’s combined, and the butter is about the size of peas.
Sprinkle the topping over the cake batter. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
You can serve a slice of Rhubarb and Cherry Buckle with a scoop of ice cream or top with whipped cream. What a wonderful spring treat!
Can buckle be frozen?
Yes! I froze about half the cake to enjoy later (which showed amazing restraint on my part.) Slice the cake into desired servings and wrap in parchment paper. Place each slice into a zip-top bag and freeze for up to four weeks.
I hope you’ll bake yourself a buckle soon, whether it’s with rhubarb and cherries or some spring or summer berries. Our colonists certainly knew what they were doing, and I salute their creativity!
Another classic dessert for you that incorporates rhubarb
Here’s another twist on an old-fashioned cake. Rhubarb and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is a good balance between tart rhubarb and sweet pineapple. So good!
About the blog
Three Women in the Kitchen is an award-winning food blog offering today’s home cooks comforting, hearty recipes with a personal touch. The website also pays tribute to Deborah’s mother, Katie Reinhardt, and paternal grandmother, Dorothy Reinhardt (the “three women” in the kitchen). Whether you’re an experienced or a novice cook, you’ll find inspiration here to feed your families and warm your heart. Subscribe today so you won’t miss a single delicious detail.