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College Kitchen: Rhubarbarians

Invest in the stalk market.
A sweet rhubarb cake with fresh rhubarbs, cake batter, and a crumb topping bottom.
Image by Ichigo Takikawa
A sweet rhubarb cake with fresh rhubarbs, cake batter, and a crumb topping bottom.

Rhubarb is one of the earliest vegetables available for harvest each year. In early spring, plants can be seen sprouting from every backyard plant patch and greenhouse garden.

Ruby red stems push through the cold, damp earth, sprouting huge, umbrella-like green canopies until they’re snipped by a keen gardener’s shears and taken into the kitchen.

Often treated like a fruit, the tart celery-like stalks are chopped up and tossed into desserts. Their earthy, biting tang is unmistakable, and their crisp color is a welcome addition to any sweet or savory spring plate.


Sour Hour Cocktail

A punchy play on a whiskey sour, this drink will keep your palate pleased and those at-home karaoke tunes flowing freely.


1 tablespoon rhubarb syrup

2 ounces blended whiskey

1/2 lemon



Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the syrup, whiskey and juice from the lemon. Shake. Strain the drink into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with a small rhubarb stalk for stirring.


Rhubarb Syrup

2 cups chopped rhubarb

2 cups sugar

3 cups water


Mix the three ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the rhubarb is completely disintegrated and mushy. Let cool. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth until only the bright pink juice remains. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.


Glazed Drummies for Dummies

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that rhubarb is a key ingredient in whipping up some delightfully simple sweet and sour drumsticks. Using an au naturel alternative to that packaged pink goo brings out flavors with more depth and cuts down on processed ingredients.


1/2 cup rhubarb syrup

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 dash soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon pepper

Sesame seeds

1 dozen chicken drumsticks


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the syrup, vinegar, orange zest and spices in a small bowl.

Dump a small pile of sesame seeds onto a plate. Dunk the head of the drumstick into the bowl of glaze. Shake off any excess sauce, and then roll the leg in the sesame seeds. Place the leg on a greased baking sheet. Repeat until all the legs are coated. Bake in the oven for half an hour. Rotate the pan, and bake for another half hour.


Reverse Rhubarb Cake

This cake bakes upside down, keeping the rhubarb stalks moist and fruity under a layer of thick spongy cake and crumbly sweet topping. When it emerges from the oven, flip it over and a picturesque pink topping will be glazed and ready to go, no frosting necessary.


1 pound rhubarb

2 cups sugar

2 sticks butter

1 and 1/2 cups flour

1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

2 large eggs

1 cup sour cream


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the rhubarb into sharp, diagonal strips. Toss it with three-fourths cup sugar, and let stand.

Mix the cake while you wait. Mix together one cup of flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together one stick of butter and one cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the orange zest and juice. Beat in the eggs and sour cream. Add the flour mixture a little at a time until an even batter is achieved.

For the crumb topping, melt a half a stick of butter. Slowly add a quarter cup of sugar and a half cup of flour. Add a pinch of salt.

Take a 9-inch cake pan, and use half a stick of butter to grease it. Cut the butter up into pieces, and place them in the pan. Using the pieces to hold up the rhubarb, lay the strips down in a mosaic pattern. Pour any leftover juice into the pan. Spread the batter evenly over the rhubarb. Finally, add the crumb topping. Bake for about one hour or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and let the cake cook for about 15 minutes. Place an upside-down plate on top of the cake pan, and slowly flip the plate over. Gently lift the pan away and voila, upside-down cake — right-side up. Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake.

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