Food with JP passion: Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Food with JP passion: Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

By JP Kennedy

Growing up I was never a huge fan of rhubarb! It’s probably because it evokes memories of over-boiled stringy rhubarb with lashings of Bird’s yellow glutinous custard poured all over it. I’ve always liked the smell – I guess back as a child it was the texture that turned me off.

Today it’s a flavour I have come to enjoy and I love cooking with. I don’t grow it myself, but plenty of friends do and I never say no to an offer of a fresh bunch of homegrown rhubarb.

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I cut it up into bite-size pieces, pop into a freezer bag and store in the deep freeze – that way I always have a stash if required, especially for making this delicious cake, it is incredibly simple to make.

Another recipe from one of my favourite Irish chefs, Clodagh McKenna, I’ve made this cake many times and, ironically, adore it served with lashings of warm, good quality custard, if not homemade custard.


This is a very adaptable cake in that you can make with whatever fruits are in season, such as apples, pears, blackberries and peaches – whatever takes your fancy. Adding the crystallised ginger gives a real wow factor and sweet bite to the cake. You will need an ovenproof frying pan for this recipe.

Rhubarb & Ginger Upside Down Cake


  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of fine chopped crystallised ginger
  • 200g plain flour
  • 350g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into even bite-sized pieces
  • I teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 200ml buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • Vanilla custard to serve


1. Like with all cakes first step is to preheat your oven to 180° Celsius.

2. Melt the butter in your ovenproof frying pan on a medium heat and stir in half the brown sugar and cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in one-third of the crystallised ginger. Then remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining rhubarb pieces to cover the full base of the pan.

3. Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining sugar with the buttermilk, eggs, oil and the remaining crystallised ginger.

5. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well to combine.

6. Pour the cake batter over the rhubarb, ensuring every piece is fully covered with the cake batter

7. Pop into your preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. To test if your cake is fully cooked, touch the centre of the cake with your fingertip, it should spring back.

8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to your serving plate. Serve with lashings of good quality vanilla custard and enjoy.

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Rhubarb season is very short, so the great thing about freezing rhubarb is that it can be stored for up to a year in the deep freeze.

This ensures there is always a plentiful supply to hand. This means I can make this cake anytime of the year and while now most seasonal fruits can be sourced throughout the year, rhubarb tastes best when in season.

My late father Paul, or PK as he was often referred to adored this cake, as it had two of his favourite treats, rhubarb and custard. While he always claimed he didn’t have a sweet tooth, I can still visualise him pottering around my kitchen sourcing seconds, turning around with a smile on his face as I shouted out ‘caught you’.

I hope you will give this recipe a try and that it becomes a firm family favourite that in years to come will be associated with great family memories as it was and always will be in my family.

Contact JP On:

Twitter: @JPKCooking
Instagram: jpkennedy.kennedy

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