Strawberry-Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Hi. Hello. Welcome back. How was your weekend? I know. I can’t believe it’s Monday, either. Missed you. I’m so sleepy. I dreamt last night about the weeds that grow … more »

Hi. Hello. Welcome back.

How was your weekend? I know. I can’t believe it’s Monday, either.

Missed you.

I’m so sleepy. I dreamt last night about the weeds that grow in my garden, and all about my house. As a general rule, I don’t like anyone or anything that doesn’t respect boundaries. Weeds respect no boundaries. Some people respect no boundaries.

Vile weeds. They grow everywhere, no encouragement required. Entirely self-sufficient. So smug and entitled. They’re even growing in my dreams!

My mean little white adorable fluff-between-her-ears dog has never even heard the word “boundary.” Or “respect” for that matter. The world is her oyster. And she eats weeds. And dirt. And she would totally eat oysters if she could get her hands on some {what? I would swear she has proper hands}. If there has ever been an oyster on the ground anywhere within a 3 mile radius of my house, she’s eaten it. That, and lollipops. I don’t know how she does it, but she finds lollipops all over the freaking place. And she eats them stick-first. Lucky for her, she gets by on her good looks, not on her smarts.

Maybe she has a gizzard . It would explain a lot.

Let’s talk rhubarb. I found some in my CSA vegetable box last week. The stalk is so bright and tart, and pairs so beautifully with strawberries that you’ll think you died and went to heaven. You’d better be careful, though, ’cause the leaves will kill you, so you might actually go to heaven {I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt on the whole heaven thing, since I’m pretty sure you’ve earned the benefit of the doubt}.

I want to know the name of the poor sap who first discovered that rhubarb leaves are poisonous, but the stalks make great pie. And then I want to shake his hand. Talk about taking one for the team.

Did you know that the word “rhubarb” also means a heated dispute or controversy? Me either. But I kinda get that.

You teach me so many new things. One of the many, many things I love about you. *romantic sigh*

Relax about the whole poisonous-rhubarb-leaves thing, though, mkay? And I say that with L-O-V-E. To myself. This is me, talking myself down. The truth is that the leaves tend to scare me. But you’d basically have to make rhubarb leaf chips or something, and eat the whole bag, for it to kill you. At least that’s what Lance Armstrong seems to be suggesting. When and how did Lance Armstrong become the new wikipedia?

Seriously, though, just trim the leaves as best you can, discard them right away in your neighbor’s trash, and you’ll be fine. If you ask me, and I know you didn’t, it’s worth the risk. These coffee cake squares are light and creamy, tangy and sweet, and really hit the Summer-is-sucking-the-life-out-of-me spot.

Prep time: 15 minutes       Cook time: 50 minutes       Yield: 1 square cake

8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup (140 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar

1/3 cup (73 g) packed light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 pound rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thick

3 tablespoons (40 g) light brown sugar

1 1/4 cups (175 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 tablespoons (48 g) vegetable shortening

6 tablespoons (84 g) plain yogurt

3 eggs (180 g, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8-inch square pan: grease the bottom and sides with unsalted butter, then line with criss-crossed strips of parchment paper that cover the bottom of the pan and overhang the sides. Grease in between the layers of parchment, and on top of the final layer. Set the pan aside.

  • First, make the crumble topping. Combine all of the topping ingredients (8 tablespoons butter, 1 cup flour and xanthan gum, granulated and brown sugars, and salt), and blend with a fork until well-combined. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

  • To make the cake batter, first combine the rhubarb, strawberries, 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour in a medium-sized bowl. Stir gently to combine, and set it aside. Combine the remaining 1 cup flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the 2 tablespoons butter, vegetable shortening, and plain yogurt, and mix to combine well. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, beating well after each addition. The batter should be thick, but not stiff. It should spread easily. Fold the rhubarb-strawberry mixture into the batter until just combined.

  • Scrape the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan, and spread evenly. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven, and bake for 30 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of baking, remove the crumble topping from the refrigerator, and fluff with a fork. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle with the crumble topping in an even layer. Return the pan to the oven, and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

  • Remove the pan from the oven, and allow it to cool completely in the pan before removing the cake from the pan by holding on to the overhung pieces of parchment paper. Slice into squares with a large, wet serrated knife.


  • Anneke

    Hey Nicole — This looks good! Any suggestions for using frozen rhubarb and strawberries? And how might you translate the pounds into cups? I have both, and would probably make this for a taste of summer in the winter. I generally don’t use fresh rhubarb much past June, mine gets pretty tough by then, but I have lots in the freezer! My kids aren’t huge fans, so I have to spread out the deliciousness. Thanks, always nice to see you back on a Monday! Anneke

    • Nicole

      Hi, Anneke,
      One half pound of rhubarb or strawberries, chopped, is about 1 1/2 cups. So 3 cups total for the strawberries and the rhubarb. Frozen fruit will always give off more liquid than fresh, so I would just keep an eye on the consistency of the batter. If it seems to thin, add some flour by the teaspoon to the mixture. I wouldn’t thaw the fruit first – I would just use it from frozen. I hope that’s helpful!
      Have your kids ever had rhubarb together with strawberries? Mine don’t really care for rhubarb alone, but love it with strawberries. It really takes on a totally different, much more balanced, character.
      Always nice to hear from you. :)
      xoxo Nicole

      • Anneke

        They do prefer it with strawberries, but still look suspiciously at it whenever it appears. I don’t get it, it looks like dessert to me!

        • Nicole

          Hi, Anneke,
          It IS dessert! Figuring out my children’s food preferences is like nailing jello to the wall, so I get what you’re saying! :)
          xoxo Nicole

  • Ruthe

    Good morning Nicole,
    I’ve been talking about rhubarb for days now. Think I call Whole Foods and see if they have any. I noticed several people mentioning not turning on their ovens due to the heat. I can understand that living in the South myself. My answer to that has been my toaster oven (not a dinky one) and I use it for all baked goods in the summer. It puts out heat, but not nearly like my large oven and if it is really hot, like now, I put the toaster oven on my screened front porch. I had to make adjustments. I turn down the temperature by 10 degrees and bake 8-10 minutes less. I put a thermometer in the oven to get the correct temp. Works like a charm for me. I see no sense in doing without baked goods I love.
    Hope your day is good and thank you so much for your work in giving us delicious recipes. If I can get some rhubarb I’ll let you know how it turns out. Super I’m sure. xoxo

    • Nicole

      Hi, Ruthe!
      That is such a brilliant solution to beating the heat, without giving up baking! I love that. I should get myself a larger toaster oven. So smart that you use an oven thermometer inside! So often, when readers ask questions about less-than-successful baking experiences, the problem is a poorly calibrated oven. The oven thermometer is as essential to proper baking as a good flour! Thank you so much for posting this. I hope it will encourage others to keep baking, even in Summer! I would love to hear how it goes in the toaster oven. If it helps, try baking this recipe as muffins in individual baking cups (if you have them) instead of a cake. I love baking popovers in individual baking cups in a toaster oven. They look so fancy!
      My day is good – and better with your comment. :)
      xoxo Nicole

      • Kadren

        Here’s another way to beat the heat while baking. I use my 18 quart electric roasting pan all summer long on my breezeway. :) Just make sure that you put a wire rack under the pan and you are good to go. I generally have to cook mine a bit longer in there, but it is well worth it to not have to heat up my kitchen. I’ve made pies, cakes, brownies… And I always use it for chex mix and caramel corn. Happy baking!!!
        Kadren :)

        • Nicole

          Hi, Kadren,
          Thanks for the tip!
          xoxo Nicole

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  • Saints and Spinners

    Coming in here late… I love rhubarb. I tried growing it in my front yard, but even though the front yard gets direct sun, it doesn’t get enough sun. So, I shipped my plants off to a friend in NYC and have been depending upon the farmers. Only thing is, rhubarb this year has been 4 dollars a pound around these parts. I am used to getting it for 2 dollars a pound (and found some up north on a trip to Orcas Island). So… like Anneke, I freeze it for winter. In addition to strawberries, rhubarb combined with raspberries makes a wonderful compote (the fibers of the rhubarb help keep the raspberries together). I had to laugh at your comment “taking one for the team” in regard to discovering the stalks were edible but not the leaves. I have the same scenario in my head regarding mushrooms and sumac.

    I’m going to save this recipe for next year, when rhubarb season just begins. Don’t worry, I’m patient. My devotion to rhubarb and GF on a Shoestring is legendary.


    • Nicole

      Hi, Farida,
      $4 a pound for rhubarb? *ouch* It came in my CSA box. It seems so much like a weed, that it is crazy they are charging that much for it.
      I think about the which-mushrooms-are-poisonous question all the time! Somebody had to take it on the chin for that knowledge. Glad it wasn’t me!
      I agree with you about rhubarb and raspberries. Yum. So bright and well-balanced. I wish I were more bright and well-balanced, come to think of it.
      Your devotion to rhubarb and GF on a Shoestring makes me smile. :)
      xoxo Nicole

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This recipe was brought to you by Nicole Hunn of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring:
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