Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ravishing Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake by Lucy Burdette

With the weather so warm this year, tis almost the season for rhubarb in our neck of the woods. We have quite a handsome specimen just outside our garden--in fact I bet this plant is at least fifteen years old and was transplanted twice from house to house. I’m not crazy for rhubarb–my mother used to stew it into a slimy, sinewy mass that didn’t hold much appeal for a kid. But I hate to see it go unused and I imagined there might be an easy way to make it into a tasty coffee cake.

My first attempt was from a newspaper column--it was delicious but it called for a package of dried strawberry Jello, which bothered me a little. (All that red food dye...) Then I fooled around with a recipe from and came up with just the right combination, easy and tasty, with ingredients I had on hand. We liked it well enough to repeat, only this time I added chopped strawberries and a crunchy oat topping. And vanilla ice cream on top. I give you this!

Rhubarb-Strawberry Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping


1 1/4  cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup strawberries, chopped

For the topping:
1/4 C. butter, 1/3 C brown sugar, 3 TBSP flour, 4 TBSP rolled oats

Cream the butter and sugar, and add the egg. Sift together flour and baking soda and add to creamed mixture with the milk and vanilla. Fold in the rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into greased 9 x 11″ pan. Blend topping ingredients until pea-sized with a pastry blender and sprinkle on top of the cake. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

This is one of the recipes included in the back of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES (coming in September.) Hayley's good friend Eric makes it when Hayley's mom is coming for a visit.  Because doesn't a homemade coffee cake cure just about all ills? Here Hayley's getting ready to attend the Key West Loves Literature conference and wishing she'd invited her mother another time:

"But right now, I had big-time nervous jitters about meeting my writing idols and trying to sound smart. And I wished that my Christmas present brainstorm for my mother had been something other than tuition to this seminar. She was completely thrilled to be visiting here from New Jersey, and who wouldn’t feel good about making her mother happy? But for one of my first major (and paid!) journalistic assignments, having my mom tethered to my side felt a little like looking through the oven door at a falling soufflé." From DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, NAL 9/2012.

For all the news on the Key West food critic mysteries, please follow Lucy on twitter or facebook. The new cover for DEATH IN FOUR COURSES will be unveiled on Sunday on Lucy's facebook page--please stop over and have a look--and click "like" while you're there:).


  1. Lucy, it's so funny, I was watching a rerun of Ina Garten's show yesterday and saw her make a strawberry and rhubarb crisp. They must be a great combination. I've never been a rhubarb person, but then I've probably never had it properly I'm going to try this. I think the Fates are daring me. I love your new series!!! Every morsel of food sounds delicious. Oh, to be a food critic and not put on weight. LOL


  2. Thanks Avery--I hope you like it! I'm just back from Murder 203, Connecticut's mystery conference. Wonderful day, though exhausting. Had a great time meeting our own Cleo:). And handing out tons of recipe cards...

    And by the way, made Wendy's shortbread cookies last night. Delicious though not as beautiful as the ones she posted on our blog:)

  3. Lucy, I was never a big fan of rhubarb, either. My dad couldn't get enough of it. A couple of years ago the guys who mowed our lawn were thrilled to find we had rhubarb. Seems they weed-whacked a customer's rhubarb, and he was furious. They were thrilled to be able to take ours to him.

    This coffee cake sounds wonderful! I'll have to see if anyone weed-whacked our rhubarb yet . . .

    ~ Krista

  4. I grew up eating rhubarb in various forms, sauce, crisp, cake, jello salad, bars, pies (my favorites had custard or sour cream in the filling and canned for winter eating. Unfortunately, it is too hot to grow rhubarb where I live now. I have one lonely bag of frozen rhubarb in the freezer that I am still pondering about best way to fix it.