Rhubarb Lunar Coffee Cake


“Mission Control to Earthlings:  Volunteers needed to test Lunar Cake recipe.  Only rhubarb lovers need apply.”       

Rhubarb is one of those foods you either love or hate.   I never liked rhubarb until a few years ago, but then my entire culinary experience consisted of a very tart rhubarb pie my mother would make for my dad once a year.   We had a big rhubarb patch on the farm, and no matter how much sugar she used in the pie, it was so sour no one else would eat it.   The rhubarb patch was rectangular in size and was beside a row of red currant bushes, with one black currant and one gooseberry bush at each end.   Behind it, the odd spike of asparagus would appear in the early spring, these all being old-fashioned farm staples from a century ago.  Today they would be considered heirloom varieties.   Once established, those old rhubarb patches would live forever.   I would sometimes volunteer to pick the red currants, as my dad would get his very own red current pie too.   In retrospect those pies must have been something his mother had made, nostalgic reminders of childhood.   We just thought they were sour.

Rhubarb patch (6)

Because the patch was so large and prolific and had been there for many years, people from town would stop by and ask if they could buy some.   If you are a rhubarb-lover you always know where a good patch is.   We would see the same people year after year, so one day we kids had the ingenious idea that we would have a roadside stand and sell bundles of rhubarb for 25 cents –  a country version of a lemonade stand. 

The rhubarb stand lasted all of one Sunday afternoon.  There was little traffic on our dusty country road and we soon grew bored laying on a blanket under the big tree out front.    On the rare occasion someone did stop, we would run to the house to get our parents, because we had been drilled in school not to talk to strangers, even those innocent souls out for a Sunday drive.   (Makes sense right, well in the mind of a child).   I think we grossed 75 cents.  

rhubarb and dogs (5)

Luckily we had our guard dogs to protect us and the rhubarb patch!

Now as an adult, count me in as a rhubarb fan too.   I especially love strawberry-rhubarb jam, rhubarb scones, and most recently a rhubarb coffee cake, which I’ve made the past few years from a recipe a dietitian friend gave me.    This Canadian recipe is called Lunar Rhubarb Cake and was developed by an editor of Canadian Living magazine back in the 1980’s.   It was so good, it went viral before viral even existed, with everyone saying they got it from their mother, aunt, neighbor.   (A recipe which promotes sharing like that, is one small step for food-kindness).    According to the food column in the Ottawa Citizen, the name lunar comes from the appearance of the top of the cake, similar to the crater-like surface of the moon.   



1/2 cup butter (softened)

1 1/2 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour    

1 Tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sour cream (you can use 2% if you wish)

2 cups chopped rhubarb (you can increase by 1/2 cup more if you wish)

1 tbsp. floor  


1/4 cup butter (melted)

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon  (I omitted this, as in my opinion cinnamon goes with apple pie, not rhubarb)


Chop the rhubarb and toss with 1 tbsp flour.   Cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.   Mix 2 cups flour, soda and salt together.  (I buy the premixed flour with the baking soda and salt already in it which is more expensive but saves measuring).   Alternatively add the flour mixture and sour cream to the creamed mixture.   Add the rhubarb to the batter.    Pour into a buttered 9 X 13 inch cake pan.    Mix the topping ingredients and spread evenly over the top of the cake.   Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, until the top is pitted and crusty and a skewer comes out clean.    (It was 15 minutes longer for me, as my oven always cooks slow).    Recipe serves twelve hungry astronauts.

Some versions of this recipe call for buttermilk or sour milk instead of sour cream.   The batter will be quite thick with the sour cream.  Rhubarb

The cake keeps well in the fridge and was incredibly moist even after a week.  It transports well too, should you wish to take it to a party in another galaxy.  I think it would work well with blueberries when the season arrives, because as we all know rhubarb season is way too short!     

Maybe if my mother’s old-fashioned rhubarb pie had a crumble topping we might have eaten it too, as the sweetness balances out the tartness of the rhubarb, similar to the popular combination of strawberries and rhubarb.  Although I’m not a huge fan of strawberry-rhubarb pie, mostly because of the pastry, I have made a compote by stewing equal parts of rhubarb and strawberries on the stove and adding sugar to taste.    It’s nice mixed with vanilla yogurt or ice cream or just eaten plain. 

Strawberry-rhubarb compote

I’ve been envisioning my own rhubarb patch in the backyard, so I bought home this last week, although it’s been too cold to plant it.   Rhubarb plant

Although eaten as a fruit, rhubarb is actually a vegetable.   While the stalks may be edible, the leaves are toxic to humans and animals due to a high concentration of the poison, oxalic acid.   It is a perennial which likes cooler climates.   Plant in full sun, spacing 3 or 4 feet apart in a row.    Patience is required as you can’t harvest the first few years until established.   Newer varieties last about 15 years.   You can also divide existing rhubarb plants (root balls) in early spring, so I might be on the hunt for an old patch down a country lane….

Flash forward to 2025 – mission accomplished….hopefully? 







19 thoughts on “Rhubarb Lunar Coffee Cake

  1. Ally Bean says:

    I LOVE rhubarb, vegetable or fruit I care not. As a child my parents grew some in the backyard of the first house we lived in. Living where we now it is almost impossible to find it, fresh or frozen. Neighbors tried to grow some here but it didn’t take. Our soil is too clay. Still I’ll save this recipe in case I find some rhubarb… because I LOVE rhubarb.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Ally our old farm soil was clay-like too, but I admit it is hard to get a patch established, which is why you don’t see many patches around here either. Apparently it doesn’t so well in the southern US at all. I see it at the farmers market in late May/June but it’s a short season. I plan on trying the recipe with blueberries this year too! I found it best with the sour cream as it was very moist and kept well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jo Shafer says:

    Hubby grew a small patch of rhubarb for a few years after we moved to the Pacific Northwest. His mother used to make rhubarb pies at his childhood home in New Jersey. I never developed the taste for it, but I did appreciate those large leaves in our garden! My front entry garden has a water dish made from a single rhubarb leaf, adding a quiet but distinctive accent.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lindasschaub says:

    When I was young, I’d go out in my grandmother’s backyard, she with her paring knife and we’d lop off a few stalks and come in the house, wash it under warm water, and she put out two little piles of sugar and we’d dip the stalks in there – sweet and tart. My mom loved her red currant pie. There was only one produce market in the area that carried red currants and so one pie per year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Hey I did read that about dipping the rhubarb stalks in sugar! Red currants are really hard to find now, although I occasionally see the homemade jam at the farmer’s market. Ours were so sour, I can still remember the taste.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Yes that is how we ate the rhubarb at my grandmother’s house. My mom would stew up the strawberry and rhubarb together and put it over ice cream or sometimes just on buttered toast. We got the berries maybe once a year and the then the farm market closed so no more pies. The red currant pie was really tart as I recall. When my great grandparents had the farm in Ariss, Ontario, they had a lot of berry bushes, every kind my mom said, so while the grownups brought in the hay, the youngsters would be gathering berries and my great grandmother and my grandmother would be putting up preserves. My great grandmother would do all the baking, berry pies and currant bread.


  4. J P says:

    This looks really good! An aunt who lives in a small town in northwestern Ohio grew rhubarb. My cousins and I would eat stalks right out of the ground, so the first time I had rhubarb pie it wasn’t the least bit tart. 😀

    I don’t see it much where I live now, but was given some by a northern relative a couple of years ago and we found a recipe online for a rhubarb crisp that came out really well and was great with vanilla ice cream.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kim of Red Dirt Farm says:

    Joni – what good memories and photos. I can see you sitting there thinking you were going to get rich with your 25 cent rhubarb endeavors – that makes me smile. I didn’t care for it either as a child. My mom made one pie a year for my dad too, my sisters and I were all too willing to let dad have it for himself. I saw it for sale in the store the other day, and now I wish I had gone ahead and purchased it, your recipe sounds good. Best, Kim

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I can’t wait until I see it for sale, as that recipe is good, and I’m dying for some! Back in the 60’s 25 cents could probably still buy you something….some penny candy at any rate!


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