For several years running, including this one, Maine Gardener columnist Tom Atwell has lugged a hefty bag of rhubarb from his garden to my office and graciously presented it to me. He grows it – in fact, the rhubarb in my own garden was split from his crowns – and has more than he wants or needs. I am the lucky beneficiary of his appointed rhubarb rounds.

Rhubarb is delicious in savory foods (and, of course, as jam, chutney or pie). But if you hold the misguided belief that the stuff is repulsive, then maybe the Mary Poppins technique – a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down – will change your attitude. These two recipes for rhubarb desserts are highly persuasive.

Do not eat the leaves of the rhubarb plant; they are poisonous.

Rhubarb-Rose Cobbler with Rose Cream 

Recipe from Claudia Fleming’s “The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern.”

Grodinsky: Doubters, I could sell you on rhubarb on the basis of a single recipe, that for Press Herald designer Sally Ericson’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Coffee Cake. But since we already published that recipe (June 10, 2015), here’s another dessert I’d be happy to eat for my last meal.


You can skip the rose preserves for the topping if you can’t find them, but they do add something special. (I found the similar rose petal Greek spoon sweets at Micucci’s in Portland.) Rhubarb, like all fruit, may be more or less watery. If the rhubarb filling is thin, you can very carefully pour the liquid off into a small pot and boil it down for a few minutes on the stovetop to thicken it, then pour it back into any bare spaces around the biscuits.

Yields 6 servings


1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder


1/8 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar


2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces (about 6 cups)


1 cup sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon rose water

1-inch piece of vanilla bean, split lengthwise, pulp scraped


1 cup crème fraîche


1/4 cup rose preserves

1. To make the cobbler dough, in the bowl of a food processor or an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse or mix to combine. Add the butter and pulse or mix until the flour resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup of the cream and mix or pulse until the dough starts to come together, scraping down with the dough paddle and mixing bowl if necessary.

2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it together, incorporating any stray crumbs. Using a small ice-cream scoop or a large spoon, form the dough into eight to 10 2-inch balls, then flatten them slightly into thick rounds. Chill for 20 minutes (and up to 2 hours). Preheat the oven to 350 F.

3. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl, toss together the rhubarb, sugar and cornstarch. In a small bowl, stir together the rose water and vanilla pulp, then toss with the rhubarb. Let the rhubarb macerate for 20 minutes.

4. Put the rhubarb in a shallow 2 1/2-quart casserole dish in an even layer. Arrange the biscuit rounds on top, leaving about 1 inch between them. Brush the biscuits with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cream and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake the cobbler until the rhubarb is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

5. While the cobbler is baking, prepare the rose cream. Beat the crème fraîche with an electric mixer set on medium-high speed until it thickens somewhat. Add the preserves and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. (The cream can be prepared ahead and refrigerated up to 8 hours.)


6. Serve the cobbler warm, with the rose cream.


Rhubarb Tosca Cake with toasted almond topping. Recipe from Darra Goldstein’s “Fire + Ice.” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Rhubarb Tosca Cake

Adapted slightly from Darra Goldstein’s “Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking.” Grodinsky: If my house were burning down and I could save just one recipe, this might be it.  I like to use 3 tablespoons of wheat germ in place of the same amount of flour, both to fool myself into thinking the cake is healthier, and for its nutty undertone.

Makes one 9-inch cake

2 to 3 stalks rhubarb, trimmed into 1/2 inch pieces (or slightly smaller), enough to just cover the top of the batter


1 cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons sugar

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, melted


2 teaspoons vanilla extract


6 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons flour

1 cup sliced almonds


1 tablespoon heavy cream

Toss the rhubarb with the 2 teaspoons sugar. Set aside while you make the rest of the cake.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a deep 9-inch cake pan, or a springform pan, with butter. Line with parchment paper. Grease and flour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and remaining 1 cup sugar on medium high speed until pale and light, 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the melted butter and vanilla to the egg-sugar mixture. Don’t overmix, but do be sure the butter is incorporated. Add the combined dry ingredients, beating just long enough to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and spread evenly. Scatter the reserved rhubarb over the batter, press down gently.

Bake until the cake is puffed and golden at the edges and just barely done, 50 to 55 minutes.


Ten minutes before the cake is done, make the topping. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Combine the sugar and flour in a small bowl, then stir into the melted butter in the pan, along with the almonds and cream.

Remove the cake from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Simmer the topping until bubbly, about 3 minutes, stirring only once or twice so you don’t break up the nuts. Quickly spoon the topping over the warm cake, spreading it evenly to the edges of the pan with a small spatula. Bake until the topping is golden and crisp, about 10 minutes more.

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. Finish cooling on a cooling rack.


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