Rhubarb Mania

I think rhubarb is fantastic. Not only is it a harbinger of summer in the Midwest, it is so perfectly tart that I never grow tired of it. A couple of weekends ago, I bought about 4 pounds of rhubarb at the market, and proceeded to find delicious ways of using all of it up. This buckle was up first.

One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago is Nightwood and so this recipe for a rhubarb buckle from Nightwood pastry chef Matthew Rice was a must-try in my book. Part of what makes Nightwood so great is that it manages to be both totally elegant and really casual at the same time. Kind of like this buckle. It is the kind of neighborhood restaurant that you could eat at once or twice a week and never get bored. It is pretty perfect. I especially love brunch there, complete with their delicious donuts and other morning pastries. If you are in Chicago and haven’t been to Nightwood, you need to go.

Everyone else can make this buckle.

This is delicious warm from the oven with a scoop of ice cream. But it also is great the next day, and I even enjoyed a final slice the day after that. It can be cut in half and prepared in an 8×8 pan or even in ramekins for individual cakes.

What have you been making with rhubarb? I’d love to hear how you’re taking advantage of the abundance of stalks at the markets right now.

Rustic Rhubarb Buckle (recipe by Matthew Rice via TimeOut Chicago)


  • 3 pounds rhubarb, cut into half-inch chunks (about 8 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

Crumb topping

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp chopped oats
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and chilled


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss the rhubarb with the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch slurry and vanilla seeds. Let it macerate for about 30 minutes.

Make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, work the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until combined. You’ll have small to medium crumbs. Refrigerate until needed.

Make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk the flours with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and honey. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk.

Assemble the buckle: Pour the fruit filling into a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Spoon the batter over the fruit filling, spreading it to the edge. Sprinkle with the crumb topping. Bake in the center of the oven for about one hour, until the filling is bubbling and the crumb topping is golden.

Serves 12.

41 comments to “Rhubarb Mania”

  1. I just made some muffins this weekend and just ate 3 (oof!) for breakfast. SO GOOD.


  2. Sounds yummy! I just made a fluffy cheesecake over the weekend with a vanilla bean rhubarb sauce on top. I am also obsessed with rhubarb!

  3. Tim! I too have succumbed to rhubarb mania. And I love recipes that showcase rhubarb by itself, rather than as a sidenote to strawberries. Most recent sweet-tart project: rhubarb peach galettes.

    Lately I’ve been a bit obsessed with the idea of a savory rhubarb dish, but haven’t had any inspiration…yet…

  4. This buckle looks amazing. Three pounds of rhubarb all-together! I’m always pushing for fruit-filled desserts, and it is waaay too hot in Chicago to think about making proper pastry right now. I might have to try this out this weekend. Or…maybe I’ll just have to stop by Nightwood.
    Another rhubarb idea I’ve been playing with lately is some sort of rhubarb-jam and vanilla-buttercream macaron. I just need to find some time to work it out.

  5. I’m all for rhubarb – in any shape or form. This looks really delicious though….

  6. I’ve been making a rhubarb pie I learned from a French woman. The rhubarb filling is flavored with 1 tablespoon (that’s not a typo though i know it seems crazy, it works!), a little nutmeg and orange zest, in addition to the sugar. It’s a lattice top pie and is fragrant, haunting almost and delicious with whipped cream. Exact ration: 5 cups, thinly sliced rhubarb, zest of one orange, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, scant cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons flour.

  7. I made an open-faced rhubarb tart with orange glaze on filo dough this weekend with rhubarb I got from Green City Market on Saturday. Yum! I love buckles and crostatas and the like. You’ve definitely convinced me to check out Nightwood!

  8. My friend introduced me to the delights of savoury rhubarb. I made an amazing slow cooked pork casserole with cumin seeds – well I guess it is a vegetable after all!

  9. Nice rhubarb ideas, all! I would also like to try out some savory applications- pork seems like a good pairing.

  10. That looks fantastic. I’ve been going crazy over rhubarb lately but my favorite so far is in a galette. I also want to try a savory dish as well, but I’m not sure what to try yet.

  11. “both totally elegant and really casual at the same time” …always the goal! Great post!

  12. I’m always on board for a buckle (or cobbler, or pie… or most things with fruit and butter). But, pork and venison are my favorite applications for rhubarb, rather than in sweet contexts.

  13. Katherine,
    Flavored with 1 Tablespoon of what?

  14. This reminds me something my dad used to make many years ago. I have family coming to dinner this weekend and am thinking I’ll serve this– tasty and nostalgic at the same time. Thanks for the post!

  15. Last year I made pork tenderloin with a rhubarb and shallot compote that turned out pretty good. So far this year I have just made a rhubarb and St. Germain (elderflower liqueur) sorbet but I have another bundle in the fridge to use up, so we shall see. Probably something simple like a free-form galette with a cornmeal crust.

  16. Oh yum! We’ve been making buckle with raspberries – but i did see rhubarb on sale at the farmer’s market last week. I think we’ll try this out soon.

  17. mm, rhubarb! we have some growing in our garden. been on a pie kick: apple-and-rhubarb!

  18. Oh yum! Rhubarb is one of my favourites too, this is what I made!

  19. LOVE rhubarb! I’m a Chicago native, but have been living in Portland,OR for the last ten years. We are spoiled w/the bounty that grows freely in Oregon. Rhubarb is the antithesis of Spring and to me never gets old w/it’s sweet and tart flavors. I love to turn into a flavorful compote w/hints of vanilla bean. Top that on some luscious lemon panna cotta…it’s heavenly. I’m also prone to using it crostatas w/a nutty brown butter filling. Big fan of your blog:) Coming home soon…will check out Nightwood and Floriole!

  20. I recently started reading your blog and think it’s great! I was also psyched to see this recipe in TimeOut and made it to rave reviews a couple of weeks ago – so good!

  21. Rhubarb grows easily and abundantly here in Vancouver. Our favourite is an old family recipe for rhubarb custard pie, inherited from my mother in law. Not super original, but super easy and super delicious! Looking forward to trying the buckle now, thanks!

  22. I am in the middle of my annual binge: rhubarb syrup, crisp (sometimes with an oaty topping, sometimes with a buckwheat-almond one), pavlova, ice cream, jam, upside-down cake, lots of stewed rhubarb with vanilla or cardamom, puff pastry tart, custard tarts. Shall I go on, or just enjoy some rhubarb and yogurt?

  23. I just made strawberry rhubarb pie, and then a crisp this weekend! They were a hit! I’ve found southern Illinois strawberries at my local farmer’s market (I live slightly west of you in Downers Grove), so I was able to make it all with local produce.

  24. Katie- nice! I haven’t seen any strawberries yet, but am looking forward to them.

  25. Matthew H says:

    May 31st, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Due to rainy spring, rhubarb is a bumper crop on the East Coast. You should be so lucky too!

  26. I just recently had a strawberry rhubarb crumble this past Sunday and I love how the sweetness of the strawberries goes with the tartness of the rhubarb. I wonder how many more perfect combinations exist that are yet to be discovered.

  27. I’ve been using rhubarb in a savory application lately. (Years ago, I jotted down ingredients for a sauce using rhubarb, but I can’t recall the source. I hate that I can’t give proper credit for this, but I’m guessing it was Giada or Nigella.) Anyway, the original author accidentally arrived at this outcome, attempting a rhubard chutney. When things went awry with the addition of too much liquid, they pureed everything and came up with this amazing brown sauce that became one of their favorite recipes. It has quickly become a favorite of mine too. It combines rhubarb, red onions, red chilies, garlic, apple, ginger, paprika, golden raisins, dried cherries, red-wine vinegar, salt, and sugar. Everything gets simmered for about 45 minutes and is then cooled and blended into a sauce which is heavenly on pork!

  28. This does sound divine. I think I must get my wife to make some.

  29. This looks so wonderful – where is your gorgeous baking dish from?

  30. Hi Christina, That dish was a part of a set of 3 from Crate & Barrel. I bought it a year or two ago and don’t see it online now. Maybe at an outlet store?

  31. Buckle, such a cute name ^_^ I just made (and posted) a rhubarb fool recipe which was a lovely way to use rhubarb and also has rather an amusing name.

  32. This was really nice! I only had a little over a pound of rhubarb left (I went on a freezing spree last week and put up 10 lbs) so I halved it and made it in a 9″ pie dish and it was perfect. There was a bit of cake batter left over so I cooked that up by itself in a ramekin and the baby ate it in 2.2 seconds. I was out of milk, so I subbed sour cream and it was really moist.

  33. I adore rhubarb too and every week during its season, I make a rhubarb chutney with apples, dried cranberries and ginger that I eat with greek yogurt and almonds. I also love rhubarb muffins made with spelt flour.

  34. Thank you, it looks gorgeous. I grew up with rhubarb and ginger jam, still my favourite spread on crusty white bread with some butter. I’ve never really paired it with other fruits, but did make a half and half rhubarb and apple crumble for friends this year. A hit with the 5 + 7 year old who had never seen rhubarb before. It’s not much of a queensland fruit, but it’s readily available.

  35. I made this last night. It was a huge hit with the family. Next time I’ll cut down on the sugar just a bit (in the cake and topping).

  36. I have some rhubarb in the fridge right this very second!! My mom-in-law makes an amazing rhubarb custard pie, I wish I had the recipe to post! Also, I’ve been hearing a lot about rhubarb sauce (like applesauce) — has anyone tried that??

  37. Aw, Mathew is the best and it’s good to see him getting some love. Cannot wait to see what he’s doing at Nightwood.

  38. My mom always made an amazing Rhubarb Meringue Pie from an old Mennonite cookbook called “Food that really Shmecks”. It is so good. I think I’ll make one after I serve this buckle for Father’s Day brunch. yum.

  39. I made the buckle with a few modifications and simplifications — turned out delicious!

    left out the lemon juice (I think the rhubarb is plenty sour)
    added some balsamic vinegar and cinnamon
    used vanilla extract (that was I all had on hand)
    I only had potato starch, so I used only 1/4 tsp (I don’y like my fruit too gooey)
    added some fresh blueberries sand raspberries (turned out great — who said rhubarb should only be paired with strawberries?!?)

    Didn’t have the whole-wheat flower, so I substituted 1/4 cup all-purpose
    Used greek-style kefir in place of the buttermilk
    …and committed the biggest sacrilege of all — used a food processor! Mixed the ingredients In exactly the same order as listed, used only a few pulses after the flower was added.

    Because I used more filling (due to the berries), it was enough for two medium-size pans. There was plenty the batter and the crumb topping to go around. Oh, and added some chopped pecans to the topping — probably unnecessary, but not bad.

    Loved it, can’t wait to make it again! Thanks for the recipe.

  40. Oops, per my comment above, 1 tablespoon of cardamom. Sorry about this critical omission.

  41. Deborah Mintcheff says:

    June 28th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    My husband and I love, love, love rhubarb. I often make a rhubarb-raspberry crisp with an oatmeal-toasted hazelnut topping, recipe courtesy of MS Living. The cake looks like something we would really enjoy. By the way, when I want to make a rhubarb something that is very simple, I slice it up, spread it in a baking dish and sprinkle it with a little sugar. Then I pop it into a hot oven until almost tender. Baking the rhubarb, rather than stewing it, enables it to retain its shape…if that matters to you.

What do you think?