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Rhubarb Coffee Cake

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Rhubarb Coffee Cake started from my recipe for Rhubarb Muffins. Muffins and cake are technically different but for my everyday style of cooking I like a versatile muffin recipe that can be baked as a cake when the occasion calls for it.

Nothing fancy, just a cake cut into squares.

The British version of coffee cake was originally flavoured with coffee. North American coffee cake is more typically a single-layer cake flavoured with cinnamon and possibly fruit. Sour cream is a common ingredient which activates the baking soda. My mom’s coffee cake always had sugary-cinnamon crumbles on top and in my mind they are absolutely necessary for coffee cake.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Rhubarb Coffee Cake -photo credit Jim Little

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Rhubarb, The Great Canadian Vegetable

I have a beautiful rhubarb patch in my garden but I never pick all of it. I love the look of its’ giant green leaves that grow all summer long and the way the sun shines through them at different times of the day.

Rhubarb is often free for the taking in gardens and alleys nearby. Home cooks love making the usual rhubarb pie, jam, crisp and cobbler but some go beyond making everything from barbecue sauce to sangria. 

Every year I pick some rhubarb and make my Rhubarb Streusel Muffins. Less often I make a Rhubarb-Raspberry Pie or Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp. That’s about it for me and my rhubarb.

A baking rack with rhubarb streusel muffins ready to eat.
Rhubarb Streusel Muffins -photo credit Jim Little
A Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp for Canada Day.
Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp -photo credit Jim Little


Gluten Free Baking and Structure

Inspired by my rhubarb patch I wanted to attempt my muffin recipe in cake form. If you are new to gluten free baking muffins is easy, it really is the best place to start because you can be successful quickly. Cake on the other hand presents a few challenges.

All baked goods require ingredients to create structure. The purpose is to make a muffin that can stay together or a cake that holds its’ shape. In gluten free baking we need to create structure without gluten.

As I baked more I learned more and started to notice these finer points such as structure. In my experience adjusting my homemade flour mix to include potato starch and millet flour improved the structure of my baked goods. I kept learning and discovered that adding an extra egg or egg yolk also improves structure. In this recipe I also increased the xanthan gum for good measure.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake Using A Gluten Free Flour Mix

As I have been writing my monthly blog post series on How To Use Gluten Free Flour I have learned a lot about baking so I know you can too. To me the goal of baking at home is to be able to successfully bake the foods you love. I turned my everyday Rhubarb Streusel Muffin recipe into this Rhubarb Coffee Cake and really, it was a piece of cake.

The four flour and starch combination for my gluten free flour mix
Gluten Free Flour Mix -photo credit Jim Little

Bakeware For Your Kitchen

Even people baking with wheat flour struggle with baking. Every oven is different and even standard baking pans vary a bit. Then there is the oven temperature and many more factors that challenge us everyday home cooks. Where you can improve is to be precise when you measure ingredients and use proper bakeware.

My advice is to buy quality pans since they will likely last you for more years than you can imagine. Here are three choices of modern baking pans that will yield great results. I always recommend buying them in pairs. This is most efficient when doubling recipes to feed a crowd so you don’t have to wait for a pan to cool then make the recipe all over again. It is also helpful when you want to make a layer cake like “that Quinoa Chocolate Cake“.

Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake on a pedestal tray.
Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake -photo credit Jim Little

Let me know in the comments below if you made this Rhubarb Coffee Cake or what else you are baking in your kitchen these days.



1⅓ cups GF flour (I use my GF flour mix)*
1 cup chopped rhubarb
⅔ cup brown sugar
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ cup yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp brown rice flour, sweet rice flour or GF flour mix
1 Tbsp melted butter
½ Tbsp orange zest (optional)
½ tsp cinnamon


In a small bowl combine sugar, walnuts, flour, cinnamon, butter, zest and cinnamon. Stir with a fork until well combined. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine flour, rhubarb, sugar, baking soda, xanthan gum, cinnamon and salt. Stir until evenly combined.
In a 2-cup measuring cup combine yogurt, oil and egg. Stir until combined. Pour into dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Spoon batter into prepared baking pan.
Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over the batter.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes until nicely browned.
*I have also made this substituting ⅓ cup of GF flour mix with ⅓ cup of oat flour, buckwheat flour and teff flour.


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