‘Tis the season — for a delicious rhubarb dessert!

Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Crumb Cake

Photo: Kristi Bissell
Moist buttermilk cake studded with tart, fresh rhubarb and topped with a buttery brown sugar cinnamon crumble, makes for a delicious summer dessert.

Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American

This easy and delicious Old Fashioned Norwegian Rhubarb Crumb Cake is a must-try treat for all of you rhubarb lovers out there. It’s a moist buttermilk cake studded with tart, fresh rhubarb and topped with a buttery cinnamon and brown-sugar crumble. It works for breakfast or alongside a cup of coffee in the afternoon. Or dress it up for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! This simple crumb cake is perfect for any time of day.

This recipe comes straight from the pages of my Norwegian grandmother’s tattered church cookbook. Perhaps you have one or two of these gems in your cookbook collection as well. Spiral bound with very minimal instructions like, “mix all ingredients and bake in a slow oven for an hour,” the recipes can be difficult to work with, especially if you are new to baking.

But never fear! I have updated this old-fashioned crumb cake recipe with clear, modern instructions that will set you up for cake-baking success every time.

While this cake is incredibly easy to make, I’ve got a few expert tips that will ensure perfect results every time:

•  Either fresh or frozen rhubarb will work  just fine in this recipe (and no need to thaw the rhubarb before adding it to the cake batter).

•  Do not over mix the cake batter once you have added the flour. Over mixed batter can lead to a less than tender cake. At the end of the recipe, you are asked to add the buttermilk and dry ingredients in three alternating portions. Make sure the mixer is on low and that you move swiftly from each addition to the other. If there are still visible streaks of flour once you have stopped the mixer, that is just fine. We still need to fold in the rhubarb so any remaining flour will get incorporated at that point.

•  Store this cake tightly sealed at room temperature for up to a couple of days (although it is always best the day that it is made) or freeze (wrapped tightly) for longer storage.

•  Have leftover rhubarb? Freeze it! Rhubarb freezes really well. Simply chop it into ½-inch pieces and transfer to a freezer bag or other tightly sealed freezer-safe container. It will keep nicely for six to nine months and most recipes allow you to add frozen rhubarb straight to whatever it is that you are making without needing to defrost it first.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy this cake before rhubarb season comes to an end. Or just freeze some rhubarb and bake it any time during the year! It’s sure to please all of the rhubarb lovers in your life.


Old Fashioned Norwegian


Makes 1 9-inch square cake



For the Crumb Topping:

½ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ tsp. fine salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

6 tbsps. unsalted butter, melted

1 cup + 2 tbsps. all-purpose flour


For the Cake:

4 tbsps. unsalted butter, room temperature + more for greasing the pan

1½ cups all-purpose flour + more for flouring the pan

1½ tsps. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. fine salt

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 ½ cups chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen is fine)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the crumb topping: Combine the brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Pour in melted butter and stir until combined. Add the flour and stir until a thick cohesive dough forms that holds together when you squeeze it in your hand. Set aside.

Make the cake: Butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium high using the paddle attachment until fluffy,
about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until fully combined.

With the mixer on low, add one-third of the buttermilk followed by one-third of the dry ingredients. Repeat two more times,
finishing with the dry ingredients. Mix until the batter just comes together. Gently fold in the rhubarb with a rubber spatula.

Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan and sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the top by squeezing the mixture in your hand and scattering it evenly over the cake in “crumbs” that are no larger than ½ inch in diameter. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the crumb topping is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.


Also see For the love of rhubarb, (June 16, 2020 issue of The Norwegian American) and A new approach to rhubarb (May 13, 2019 issue of The Norwegian American).

This article originally appeared in the June 24, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Kristi Bissell

Kristi Bissell is the founder of True North Kitchen, a Nordic food blog designed for the American home cook. She enjoys creating recipes that celebrate her Scandinavian heritage and that approach traditional Nordic ingredients in a modern, fresh and approachable way. Kristi is a native of Minneapolis and currently resides in Omaha, Neb. When she’s not cooking and baking in her cozy kitchen, Kristi teaches private and corporate yoga classes and leads Scandinavian cooking and baking workshops. For more information, visit her blog, www.true-north-kitchen.com.