Grandmother Neill’s Rhubarb Coffee Cake

This recipe is from the grandmother of a friend of a friend!

My friend Carolyn and I have worked a local music festival for many years, and catering the green room for the artists has been one of our pleasures. Since the festival is in early June, Carolyn often brought this cake made from fresh rhubarb from her own garden, and it is always a hit. Not too sweet, balanced with just the right amount of tartness.

We love hand-me-down recipes!

The recipe comes third-hand from the grandmother of Carolyn’s friend Dave Crittenden. It is incredibly quick to put together, so you can pick up the phone, invite a friend over, make the cake, and pop it in the oven. Make coffee, say hello to your friend at the door, and your cake is done. At least that is what grandmother probably did!

As unusual as it may seem, I’ve left this recipe mostly in tact. The only thing I did different is use vanilla bean paste which has tons of both flavor and vanilla bean flecks. I also topped half the cake with white sugar and half with brown, just because I couldn’t leave it alone, and I wanted to see if the sweet-eaters in my family had a preference.

The result? Split decision, but everyone agreed both were absolutely delicious, just a tiny bit different. Well, my husband doesn’t like rhubarb, so he did not vote…

Grandmother Neill’s Rhubarb Coffee Cake

1 egg

3 tbsp. melted shortening or oil

½ cup milk

½ tsp. vanilla

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ cup sugar

2 cups rhubarb, cut up

¼ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.

Beat egg, add the shortening, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar, and stir into the egg mixture. The batter will be thick, it needs to be so the rhubarb does not sink to the bottom.

Add the rhubarb and gently fold it in. Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the top with last ¼ cup granulated sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

“This is good the next day too,” so reads the recipe!

Brown sugar variation: Use brown sugar instead of white in the final sprinkle.

P.S. Don’t miss the Roots on the River Festival  June 7 – 9.


IMG_0747© Copyright 2019 – or current year, The New Vintage Kitchen.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. I like the idea of inviting a friend for tea (or coffee) and then making the cake to be ready when they arrive. I heard of something similar – someone who had a family favourite called ‘Visitors Biscuits’, where they were mixed and in the oven in 5 mins of the guests arriving and on the table 20 mins later. Great standbys.

    1. I love the name – Visitors Biscuits– and something tells me those biscuits were probably made during berry season when everyone was making jam. “Come have a biscuit and strawberry jam, oh, and yes, I do need a little help canning…”

  2. Oh my I am making this one, thank you!

  3. Sheryl says:

    I’ll have a give this recipe a try. It’s rhubarb season, and I’m looking for good rhubarb recipes.

    1. This one is really quick to make, and a nice balance between sour and sweet. I’m making it again today for a gathering!

  4. Alicia says:

    I made this cake and it is really delicious. Thank you so much for posting it. I have tons of rhubarb. It was really quick to put together, no time at all like you said. I used brown sugar on top and everyone loved it.

    1. I’m so glad you made the cake, thank you! And I’m awfully glad you enjoyed it. PS I like the brown sugar topping best as well.

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