Rhubarb Ribbon Cake Recipe for Father’s Day (photo, recipe)

June 13, 2018 GMT

Rhubarb Ribbon Cake Recipe for Father’s Day (photo, recipe)

Why should pineapple be the only luscious fruit to meet an upside-down cake? Local, in-season rhubarb is an appropriate substitute, full of tart, jazzy flavor. It also adds a snazzy graphic dimension when vibrantly-colored strips are baked into the top of the cake.

Expect a lot more, though. This triple-duty rhubarb dessert bakes sugared fruit slices into the tops of the lower two cake layers, and combines cooked puree into the buttercream frosting.

The last step is a revelation: rich, sweet buttercream tempered by rhubarb’s peep of bright, spring flavor.

Not only does the buttercream look good, it brings smiles to generations of dessert lovers who don’t know anything but pre-made supermarket frosting.

I like this frosting so much, I dream of testing other assertive pulpy fruit the same way, from local strawberries to tart cherries to MacIntosh apples.


The cake calls for three plain yellow layers. You can use your own recipe, including gluten-free, or turn to a boxed mix. Duncan Hines is preferred by my personal cake mentor. Instead of adding vanilla to the mix, she replaces it with an equal amount of almond extract. The cake comes to life on yet another level.

And, since this cake has big, manly stripes, consider it for Father’s Day. Dad just has to be man enough to accept soft pink frosting.

Rhubarb Ribbon Cake10-12 servings


1½ pounds fresh rhubarb, washed, ends and leaves trimmed, divided use

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar, divided use


3 three layers of yellow cake from your favorite recipe or boxed mix


1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 32 pieces and softened

½ teaspoon salt

4 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar

Equipment notes: A stand mixer and immersion (stick) blender are helpful. You’ll need a good, sharp vegetable peeler, and some parchment or waxed paper. As an option, you can add a pastry bag and basket weave nozzle for frosting.

Cook’s notes: “Trimmed” rhubarb means both the stem and leaf ends are cut cleanly off. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, anyway. You can bake your cake layers up to a month ahead of time and freeze individually, using plastic wrap and then foil.

Preliminaries: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line bottom with parchment (or waxed) paper. Grease paper, and flour pans. Tap out excess flour.


Prepare rhubarb for cake top:  Using a vegetable peeler, peel 1 ribbon from each of the two wide sides of rhubarb stalk. An easy way to do this is to start the peel for an inch or two while holding the stalk close enough to see the peeling blade has grabbed it, then lower it to a cutting board, applying pressure to the peeler and pulling the stalk through in one motion. Don’t worry if some strips come out badly. They can be used in the puree. But make sure you have enough wide strips to cover the top of the cake. Toss ribbons and ¼ cup sugar together in a bowl and set aside.

Prepare rhubarb for layering: Slice remaining peeled rhubarb thinly (you should have 4 cups) and toss with ¼ cup sugar in a second bowl.

Layer pans: Arrange half of the colorful rhubarb ribbons in one prepared pan in a neat single layer to cover entire pan bottom, cutting edges to fit with a sharp knife or pizza wheel. Arrange remaining ribbons on top, perpendicular to first ribbon layer, cutting edges to fit. Place 1 cup sliced rhubarb in even layers in the remaining two pans.

Make puree: Combine remaining 2 cups sliced rhubarb (including any peeled mistakes, chopped) and remaining ½ cup sugar in medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Using an immersion blender, process rhubarb mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds; let cool completely, even if it takes refrigeration or time in the freezer.

For the cake: Make batter for three cake layers using your own recipe or a boxed mix. Distribute cake batter evenly among pans, smooth tops and gently tap pans on counter to release air bubbles. Bake until tops are light golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 22 - 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cakes cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discard parchment and let cakes cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours.

For the frosting: Using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip butter, salt and cooled rhubarb puree on medium-low speed until combined. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar and continue to mix until smooth, about 2 minutes longer. Increase speed to medium-high and whip frosting until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Assembly: Reserve cake with rhubarb ribbons for top layer. Place another cake layer, sliced rhubarb side up, on a cake plate and spread 1 cup frosting evenly over top, right to edge of cake. Repeat with second cake layer and 1 cup frosting. Top with ribbon cake. Frost sides of cake with thin layer of frosting, about ¾ cup. Using basket-weave pastry tip, pipe remaining frosting in horizontal bands around sides of cake. Or frost the sides in your usual manner, leaving the rhubarb ribbons on top to put on their show. Serve.

Source: Adapted from Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchen’s book, “The Perfect Cake.”