Manly Hands at Home: A Cake for All Seasons

Why, yes, that is rhubarb. And, yes, I know that rhubarb is a spring treat and it is not currently spring anywhere.

But, when there’s a man in the house who loves to cook and is willing, nay, eager to cook, you mustn’t quibble when he wants to bake with rhubarb out of season!

My husband is the main cook at our house. He likes it and is amazingly good at it. And since I’ve already posted the three or four recipes that I know how to make, it’s time to move on to sharing some of his concoctions!

He found this recipe for Rhubarb-Pecan Upside-Down Cake in a back issue of Yankee magazine, a US magazine featuring all things New England. And even though he is usually more of a cook than a baker, this recipe seduced him and he could not rest until he made it!

I hope it’ll seduce you, too, and that, even if you believe that rhubarb can only be cooked with in spring, you will remember it when the time comes. It’s a lovely balance of sweet and tart, crunchy and crumbly. Plus you get to use a springform pan, which, if you’re like me, will make you feel like a real cook!

Rhubarb–Pecan Upside-Down Cake by Jane Walsh

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Overview: You start with pecans, brown sugar, butter, and rhubarb, then cover those ingredients with the cake batter. When the cake is baked and inverted, the rhubarb, sugar, and nuts create a caramelized topping that is delightful!

General instructions

Preheat oven to 350° and set a rack in the middle position. Butter a 9-inch springform pan; then cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. (The original recipe says you can use a cake pan). Place the pan on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, in case your springform pan leaks. (Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do).

Ingredients for the topping (which will be at the bottom for now!):

  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • ¾ pound rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-inch-long diagonals
  • ½ cup pecan halves (we used a full cup and we toasted the pecans in the oven first; see notes)
  • ½ cup firmly packed light-brown sugar (we used more!)

IMG_8742Instructions or the cake topping:

To create the topping, start by arranging the pecan halves in the bottom of the pan and pour melted butter over them. Arrange the rhubarb, then sprinkle all over with the ½ cup of brown sugar. Set aside.

Ingredients for cake batter

  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup whole or reduced-fat milk

Instructions or the cake batter:

In a food processor, pulse the pecans until very finely chopped.

Mix the nuts with the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. You can do this mixing of dry ingredients in your food processor or by hand in a bowl.

In a large bowl, beat the remaining ½ cup of butter with the granulated sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times.

Add the remaining ½ cup of brown sugar

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Add vanilla.

Add the milk in two batches, alternating with the dry ingredients, and scraping down the bowl as needed.

Pour the batter over the rhubarb mixture, and smooth with a spatula.

IMG_8748Bake until the sides of the cake are beginning to pull away from the pan and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, run a knife around the edge to loosen, and invert the warm cake onto a serving plate. (If the cake cools too long, it will be hard to remove from the pan.) Serve warm or at room temperature.


Toasting the pecans before using adds a great deal of flavor. I toast pecans in the oven, set at 350 degrees, for about 12 minutes. I use a heavy cookie sheet and stir the nuts every few minutes. They will start to smell yummy; be sure not to let them burn!

You may be tempted to use more than the called-for amount of rhubarb. If you do, you’ll be adding extra moisture to the cake and it will take longer to cook and may not cook fully in the center. Don’t ask me how we know that. We just do.

We served this with vanilla ice cream and a puree made from the leftover fresh rhubarb. YUM!


41 thoughts on “Manly Hands at Home: A Cake for All Seasons

  1. I love rhubarb; love upside-down cake; love pecans. Only one ingredient missing…the manly hands. But, I suppose, at a pinch (of something? cinnamon?) I could be persuaded to make it myself. 😀 Looks delicious.

  2. One can never have enough recipes for rhubarb. I love the tartness of this strange vegetable (note from Wikipedia. Rhubarb is usually considered a vegetable. In the United States, however, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.) and had a strawberry rhubarb pie for my birthday cake this year. Now I have to go find my recipe for rhubarb dream bars so I can augment my rhubarb recipe collection with yours.

  3. Cakes forever!!! I love it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!! And good recipes are always welcome. These photos make me want to bake cake myself right now! I love the plate too btw. Have a great day!

  4. Looks tempting… except there’s a problem. Some of us in Europe have a lot of trouble with ‘cups’. How do you use them for best? Packed tight with ingredients? Loosely levelled off? Heaped? I do own a standard cup measure, but very rarely use it.

    • Rats. I’m sorry not to think about my non-American readers on this. With baking recipes, flour should always be loosely placed into the cup and leveled off. Many recipes seem to be moving toward giving weights of ingredients these days but I guess telling you have many ounces to use would cause a different kind of confusion. Why can’t we all use the same measurements? (I think I know the answer–Americans are to stubborn to change . . . )

      • And in the UK there’s that whole pounds-and-ounces vs. grams thing. I’m happy with either, but was raised on pounds and ounces: younger readers will definitely prefer grams. So complicated….

  5. First up, congratulations on having a man who both cooks and bakes! And he plays the guitar and sings too doesn’t he? You did pretty good there! The recipe sounds delicious, and if I ate cakes it would surely be high on my list to try………. I am tempted to keep the recipe just in case there is ever a need for cake 🙂

    • So, you don’t eat ice cream or cake? Is the rule no refined sugar? I should eat less of it, I know. And, yes, I did do well with my husband–he’s a keeper!

      • Yes, that is the rule. It has made a phenomenal difference to my health [I’m not exaggerating] yet I do not go without as I have learned to make treats with coconut oil and cacao and mashed pumpkin or avocado and even beetroot – all naturally sweet vegetables 🙂

  6. This looks so delicious. I love pecan pie, and I love rhubarb so this is the perfect combination! The rhubarb puree looks good too, I bet that would be tasty with breakfast 🙂 xx

  7. I still have rhubarb out there. I didn’t want to bother the gray fox family and the rhubarb was close to where they were staying. I will have to harvest what I have and try this.

  8. I love rhubarb , but it is hard to get some here in the south. Pecans problem! There are 12 trees in my yard.
    Hubby likes to grill often, and trust me I never complain when he mentions grilling!

      • Yes! We have a place in town to take them to so that we can either sell them or just get them cracked. Those trees can give me a lot of nuts I sell some and keep some. We all love pecan pie!, or sugar coated pecans and a sweet potato casserole with pecans!

  9. oh my this looks so good! I just stumbled upon your blog! And wow it is amazing, definitely one which is great for inspiration. I love this post specially the great vivid pictures! I would love for you to check out my blog, which by just scrolling through your page, I know you will love!! Keep up the good work

    • I need to get a rhubarb plant–I’ve never grown it and I think that needs to change. Do try adding toasted pecans to your recipe sometime–it’s a nice combo!

  10. Pingback: How Was Your Weekend? | Mrs. Walker Goes Back to School

    • Hi, Karen! I should’ve known you’d be looking at the accessories, too! 🙂 The canister is one of a set of 3, in graduated sizes, that I got for $2 at a garage sale!

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