Easy Rhubarb Coffee Cake

published Apr 15, 2020
Snapshot Cooking
Rhubarb Coffee Cake

A simple coffee cake recipe made with boxed cake mix and fresh rhubarb.

Serves8 to 10

Prep15 minutes

Cook35 minutes to 45 minutes

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closeup of rhubarb coffee cake
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Coffee cake is the ultimate breakfast pastry. It’s light, fluffy, and incredibly comforting — especially when cut into oversized squares. And thanks to the sweet, warming flavors of cinnamon and brown sugar, it is, of course, the perfect companion to a hot cup of coffee.

This springtime version, which features a layer of tart jammy rhubarb, is sure to liven up any brunch spread. It’s also incredibly easy to make, so you’ll be digging in shortly after you stumble out of bed. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Start with Boxed Cake Mix for the Easiest Coffee Cake

This recipe starts with a standard 15.25-ounce box of cake mix. In addition to helping you get the cake into the oven faster, starting with cake mix means you need fewer ingredients, and also ensures you’ll dirty fewer dishes. You’ll even reserve 1/4 cup of the mix to make the cinnamon crumble that goes on top, eliminating the need for extra flour.

We like to use standard yellow cake mix (it gives the cake a nice golden color), but you can use just about any boxed cake variety you have on hand. A standard white mix would work wonderfully — but hey, we’re not opposed to getting creative with Funfetti.

More Coffee Cake Recipes We Love

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

A simple coffee cake recipe made with boxed cake mix and fresh rhubarb.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info


  • 1 pound

    rhubarb (5 or 6 (6-inch) stalks)

  • 1

    large lemon

  • 1 2/3 cups

    packed light brown sugar, divided

  • 3 tablespoons


  • 1 1/4 cups

    water, divided

  • 12 tablespoons

    (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, divided

  • 1 (15.25-ounce) box

    vanilla or yellow cake mix

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons

    ground cinnamon


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper so that it hangs off two sides to form a sling. Cut 1 pound rhubarb crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 cups) and juice 1 large lemon.

  2. Place the rhubarb, lemon juice, 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/4 cup of the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the rhubarb is slightly tender and the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool while you prepare the cake mix.

  3. Place 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power in 10-second increments until melted. (Alternatively, melt on the stove, then pour into a large bowl.) Set aside 1/4 cup of the cake mix. Add the remaining cake mix, remaining 1 cup water, and 3 large eggs to the butter and whisk until smooth.

  4. Place the remaining 1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar, reserved cake mix, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon in a medium bowl. Cube the remaining 4 tablespoons unsalted butter and add to the brown sugar bowl. Using your fingers, press the butter into the dry ingredients until small clumps form.

  5. Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared baking pan. Evenly distribute the cooled rhubarb mixture over the top. Top with remaining cake batter and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle with the topping. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Grasping the parchment, lift the slab out of the baking dish and place onto a cutting board. Cut into 16 pieces.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Tightly wrap in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 4 days.