mini rhubarb cakes on a wire cooling rack
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Mini Rhubarb Upside Down Cakes

This recipe makes 18 mini upside down cakes OR one 9 inch deep dish cake OR one 10 inch regular depth cake.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Dessert


For the Topping

  • 1 lb (450g) rhubarb
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest from half a lemon
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 pinches of salt

For the Cake

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


  • Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.

Prepare the Topping

  • Trim the rhubarb to a length that matches the width of your cake pan or cupcake tins. Slice each stalk lengthwise into ribbons. (For mini cakes, try to cut them around 1/8 inch thick. For a full size cake, cut them about 1/4 inch thick.)
  • In a large frying pan or skillet, add the sugar, lemon zest, butter and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted.
  • Add the rhubarb and cook until softened by not falling apart. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the Cake Batter

  • In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Stir in the vanilla.
  • Add the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, and beat to combine.
  • Add the buttermilk and stir again. The mixture will look curdled and rather thin.
  • Add the flour and mix until just combined. 
  • Arrange several pieces of cooked rhubarb into the bottom of each cupcake tin. Spoon a little of the juice from the cooked rhubarb into each tin as well (it's okay for it to be quite wet).
  • Drop a large spoonful of cake batter into each cupcake tin on top of the rhubarb. You can spread it around a little bit with a spoon to flatten it out, but it doesn't have to be perfect. It will spread itself while it bakes. 
  • Bake mini cakes for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for just a couple of minutes, before flipping them onto a wire rack to cool. (Don't let the cakes cool down too long, you want to flip them while they're still hot so they don't stick).


  • Recipe Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • The original recipe suggests making this cake an oven proof skillet. Cook the rhubarb topping directly in the skillet, spoon the batter on top, then transfer the whole thing to the oven. It's a single pan cake!
  • You can also make this cake in a 9 inch deep dish cake pan, or a regular 10 inch cake pan.
  • If baking a large cake (not the mini cupcake sized ones) bake for 30-35 minutes.
  • If you don't have buttermilk, you can add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice to the 1/2 cup of milk, and let it sit for 10 minutes before adding it to your batter.