Rhubarb is common in Iowa, but these tasty recipes give it some spice

Rhubarb is common in Iowa, but these tasty recipes give it some spice

I have to admit that this tweet was more entertaining than it should be.

I am a Twitter newbie. In other words, I follow hundreds of other people on the social media app, but rarely post anything myself.

I usually follow Hawkeye Sports and other bakers to see if I can get new ideas for this section. However, I never expected that it would be Matt Baume who would inspire my writing.

Baume is a pop culture blogger who focuses on 1970s and 80s television. That’s definitely in my wheelhouse, so I started following him a few months ago.

Over the weekend, Baume posted a very non-pop culture tweet that made me laugh. It was just a picture of him holding a rhubarb leaf in front of his face.

“I grew a rhubarb,” he explained. “A growing barbel.”

I know it’s corny, but I laughed. He was so proud.

A few hours later, he posted another photo, this time of what appeared to be a rhubarb cobbler. Again, I smiled and immediately liked his post.

I think part of what I found amusing was his enthusiasm for something that I find completely ordinary. When I was a kid, rhubarb grew like a weed in my small town. Every yard had at least one patch.

One summer, we even used a giant rhubarb leaf for first base at our backyard baseball games. That is, until my mother pointed out that the neighbor whose plaster had contributed the sheet may have been less pleased.

My point is that I don’t get that excited about rhubarb, although I know a lot of people around the world love the stuff. Rhubarb pies and jams and chips are everywhere at this time of year as people are falling over themselves to take advantage of the crimson stems.

And so I thought, why not? Why not join in and produce another column complete with fresh suggestions for something known in cooking parlance as “the pie plant?”

Below you will find the results of my efforts. I’ve tried to stick to things that are simple yet more than pie.

If, like Baume, you’ve “grown a rhubarb,” you can celebrate that too.

Oven Rhubarb Jam

This incredibly simple recipe is an adaptation of a recipe that appeared in Saveur magazine. It has very few ingredients and even fewer steps to follow. Really, you just finely chop the rhubarb, mix it with some sugar and orange zest and pop it in the oven for 80 minutes. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, but not much.

The only caveat here is that you cannot make this jam. It will keep in your fridge for about a week. You can also freeze it. That said, the recipe only produces about 2 cups, so you’ll probably eat most of it before it hits the freezer.


  • 2½ pounds rhubarb, washed, trimmed and diced
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 (2-inch pieces) orange zest
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together the rhubarb, sugar, salt, and orange zest in a 9×13-inch saucepan. Place in the preheated oven and let it cook for about 80 minutes, stopping to stir every 20 minutes or so. The juices should be thickened and the rhubarb almost completely broken down.

If you like a firm jam, stir in the rest of the ingredients and let it cool. If you’re like me and you like a smooth jam, fish out the orange zest and put the mixture – plus the extra ingredients – in your food processor and give it a few pulses. Then let it cool.

See storage notes above.

Grandma’s Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Every year I ask the other Michael what he wants me to make for his birthday in May, and every year he asks for something with rhubarb. This cake was his request this year. It was incredibly easy to throw together. Besides, he really liked it.

However, it is more of a coffee cake than a pure dessert cake. That said, it’s perfect for a snack or for breakfast.

The recipe comes from the Allrecipes website.


For the cake:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 cups diced rhubarb

For the streusel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch pan. Put aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs and sour cream and mix until combined. Finally fold in the rhubarb.

Scrape the mixture into your prepared pan. Then prepare the streusel.

Mix all the ingredients for the streusel (this can be done in a food processor or by hand). The mixture should be crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the cake. Bake for about 45 minutes.

rhubarb pie

Technically, this is not a torte, but a delicious dessert. It’s also my brother-in-law, Nolan’s, favorite.

My mom orders this to be baked in a 9 by 9 inch square pan, but when I went to find mine, it was gone. That’s why I used a springform pan like you might use for a cheesecake. It worked beautifully. Just be sure to give it enough time (at least two hours) to set before removing the outer pan. This will give the filling time to thicken enough to stand on its own.


For the crust:

  • 1 cup flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup butter, chilled

For the filling:

  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 cups rhubarb, cut into small pieces

For the meringue topping:

  • 3 proteins
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Grease a 9×9 inch square pan. Put aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

To make the crust, mix the flour, salt, sugar and butter until crumbly (like making a pie crust). Pour into your prepared pan. Press into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.

To make the filling, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Combine the sugar, flour, milk, egg yolks and rhubarb in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until thick and the rhubarb is very soft. Pour over the baked crust. Finish with the meringue.

To make the meringue, in a medium mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar. Beat on high until stiff peaks form.

Spread meringue over the top of the dessert. The meringue should be strong enough to hold decorative peaks.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the meringue tips begin to brown.

Let cool completely before serving.