Rhubarb Buckle

rhubarb buckle

In the wonderful world of bottom-crusted crumb-topped baked-fruit desserts, buckles are new to me. And I’m a fan. I love how the crispy top melts into the stewed fruit, which all sinks into the base. And I like that I can eat it as I would a brownie, out of hand, making for easy snacking morning, noon and night.

But I think I would like a buckle even more if it were different. I know, I hate to be picky, but I’m not looking to change much. The layer of rhubarb in this buckle is perfect — not too sweet, not too tart, which in my experience is a delicate balance to achieve with rhubarb. And the crumb top, while just a touch sandy, needs nothing more than a dab of butter to give it that crumbly, pebbly texture. The addition of lemon zest, adding a wonderful fresh, bright flavor, is essential.

It’s the base of the buckle that leaves me wanting. I want something less cakey, more sturdy, not quite a pie crust but something a little more buttery and shortbread like. Thoughts? Would a shortbread crust turn this dessert into a fresh-fruit crumb bar? Removing it from the buckle category altogether? I’m not sure I want that. Or do I?

rhubarb buckle

rhubarb buckle


rhubarb & lemon

rhubarb & sugar

assembling the buckle

rhubarb buckle

Update 4/27: I found the perfect crust. View this post: Rhubarb Buckle, Revisited

Rhubarb Buckle
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Yield = 16 squares

Note: I made a half recipe, but if you want to make the whole recipe, find it here.

Other notes: As I noted above, I am not totally satisfied with the base of this buckle, but just know that that didn’t keep me from eating five pieces within an hour of cutting it up. I’d like to try this recipe with more of a shortbread crust, but as of now, I don’t have a recipe for one. This is a work in progress. I’ll report back when I find a base layer that I prefer. Or if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Cake Ingredients:

13 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used table salt)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1.5 large eggs*
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream

*The doubled recipe calls for 3 eggs, so I whisked up 3, weighed them, and used half, which was about 1/3 cup or 2 7/8 ounces.

Crumb Topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened*

*I’ve upped the amount of butter here and changed it to softened rather than melted. I think the crumb topping needed more butter, and I like using softened butter in a crumb topping.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center position. Line a 9-inch square cake pan with parchment paper. Stir together rhubarb and 1/2 cup sugar; set aside to macerate.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together butter, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and the lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, a little at a time, then beat in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 2 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

3. Crumb topping: Stir together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and mix up with your fingers until clumps form. If it’s looking dry, add another tablespoon of butter and mix again until clumps form. Add remaining tablespoon of butter if necessary.

4. Spread batter into pan. Top with rhubarb mixture, and sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake until golden on top and cooked through, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on wire rack, then lift cake from pan using parchment. Remove parchment. Before serving, cut buckle into 2-inch squares.

rhubarb buckle


  1. says

    Ali, these are beautiful! I tore out this recipe to make immediately… now I am just waiting for my parent’s rhubarb to come up! I think a shortbread crust would work well – what if you just turned a cookie recipe into a crust and spread it out in the pan?

  2. Liz says

    Oh this is lovely! But maybe you’re looking for a sable Breton dough, which is like a shortbread but with egg yolks, and is traditional in some French tarts. Perhaps this would work for you?

    • says

      Liz — I think this is what I’m looking for. I have a French apple tart recipe that I’m going to look at. Also, Florence supplied a recipe that looks very promising. Thanks!

  3. says

    This looks fantastically tasty, a crumble/cake lovechild. However, looks like the kind of thing that would go a big soggy after a day or so…. Did you have any left over and if so how did they keep?
    Thanks for tasty distracting-me-from-revision recipes!

    • says

      Florence — Thank you so much for this recipe! It really sounds like just what I am looking for. I’m going to experiment again this weekend. Also, the buckle, surprisingly, didn’t get as soggy as you would imagine, but it definitely tastes stale. This is best eaten day of, at least with the base as it is no. Thanks again for the help!

  4. says

    how about you just airmail this batch to me and starting working on your next one? shortbread might be good…might maybe too too much? I’ve never made a buckle (love that name – might start calling all my creations buckles from now on) so I don’t really know what the consistency/taste/density is like. I guess the best thing for me to do is make this, eat piece after piece after piece trying to figure out just what is wrong with it slash also enjoying every bit, and then we can chat about how to fix it…and then eat that buckle and the following one until we’ve eat an entire shoe-shop worth of buckles. Sounds like fun! Happy weekend!

    • says

      Perfect plan Talley! My worry about the shortbread is that it might be a little too much. Florence has provided a promising looking recipe that isn’t as buttery as a shortbread, which I think I’m going to try this weekend. Also, what you describe doing is exactly what I have been doing — eating piece after piece analyzing each bite hoping each bite might taste a little bit better but ultimately just getting uncomfortably full. Oiy. Happy weekend to you!

  5. says

    This recipe is also quite similar a rhubarb tart recipe from the Nordic Bakery recipe book. For their base they just used 150g flour, 1tsp baking powder, 100g softened unsalted butter, 85g caster sugar and 1 egg yolk. Makes for a crumbly biscuit base. Might be worth a shot and with less moisture in it it might be firmer.

  6. says

    Love rhubarb, and this looks delicious! I’ve never had a buckle, so I’ll definitely have to try this! And these are gorgeous pictures, I wish I could just sit down next to this at your kitchen table. =)

  7. says

    I am so jealous that you already have rhubarb. I think mine might just be poking out the start of some leaves. I am going to bookmark this recipe though for when mine finally starts to form stalks.

    Thanks for sharing,

  8. says

    I’ve never made a buckle before, but this one with rhubarb sounds incredible. I bet a shortbread crust would just take it to the next level.

  9. Cooknotchef says

    Just whipped these up last night. Mmm…delicious! I can understand the shortbread crust craving, but I thought these were wonderful as is. More ‘cakey’, or bar like, than what I can consider a buckle. I doubled the batch and made it in a 9×13 with no issues- maybe an extra 5 mins in the oven to slightly brown the top. Yet again, thanks!

    • says

      Lee — I’m so glad you had success with the cake-bottomed variation! I think some people might prefer it cakey in fact — I’m definitely a sucker for thin and crisp and buttery. Thanks for writing in!

  10. Nancy says

    What about this for a crust?

    Butter Crunch Crust
    1/2 cup butter
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1 cup flour
    1/2 cup chopped nuts

    Heat oven to 400. Mix all ingredients like for a pie crust and spread in spring form pan and tap down. Bake 15 min. and cool.

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