The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

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Rhubarb Almond Breakfast Cakes

At the beginning of the week, I submitted a first draft for the introduction of my cookbook. In it, I talk a little about my obsession and preoccupation with colors, and specifically, the colors of produce. Reading that gave my dad pause – he thinks that those words carry a negative connotation. He did, however, call me the next day to let me know that he’d heard a respected somebody on NPR also use the word obsession positively.

My life has always contained a string of obsessions and preoccupations, whether it’s over a new romance, the state of Montana, desert road trips, rock climbing, qualities of light, yoga, weird vegetables, or color. It’s just how I am: I love things, and I love them intensely. They preoccupy me.


So it was heartening last night to listen to Deborah Madison talk at Omnivore Books about her obsession with vegetables, vegetable families, and gardening, in reference to her astounding new book Vegetable Literacy. If my dad and I sent text messages to one another, I would have texted him immediately: Dad! People use the word obsession. It’s a good thing. (Although to his credit, I think he gets that now.)

Anyway, Deborah Madison was talking about the peculiar knotweed family, among them buckwheat, sorrel and rhubarb. Rhubarb is my current obsession. There’s so much to consider: who first figured out that this slender, rosy stalk, whose taste is bracingly tart, was edible? And how did this tart vegetable come to be adopted by the fruit family, once being called pie plant for its popularity in filling them, when it’s so intriguing as a savory thing?


This week I made some Rhubarb Almond Breakfast Cakes for Etsy, and while there is some sweetness to them, that tart flavor is preserved. It was kind of a revelation. I think that celebrating rhubarb’s tart flavor is really where it’s at where rhubarb is concerned. I see a lot of rhubarb preoccupation ahead. Find the recipe for the breakfast cakes here.

(And! Tomorrow is the last day to vote for The Year in Food in Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards under Best Cooking Blog! I’d be so thrilled if you cast a vote my way. THANK YOU!)


  • Kristen - I bet it feels great to hand in that first draft!

    Lovely photos as usual. I’m extremely excited to give this a go over the weekend. I may or may not attempt the recipe with almond flour (I’ll let you know how it goes).


  • Nicole - Your little cakes look divine! What a beautiful way to use rhubarb. Your conversation with your dad reminds me of one I had with my dad a few years ago. I was referring to someone we both know is very particular as anal and my dad threw a fit! He had never heard it used in that context before and he was appalled that I would call someone that. Sure, it’s not the nicest word and I’m sure somebody has used it a time or two describe me :) I now hesitate to use it fearing that someone will react the way my normally even-tempered dad reacted, ha. It’s funny how when we hear expressions out and about that they become more normal. Can’t wait to get my hands on your book!ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - Yes! The tartness of rhubarb demands to be celebrated as these little breakfast cakes do. And I definitely understand the obsession, I’m right there with you.ReplyCancel

  • Maggie at Eat Boutique - My favorite vegetable! xoxReplyCancel

  • Brian - So many wonderful things happening on your end. Really thrilled for you!ReplyCancel

  • Ashlae - Lady, I’m pretty sure this is your year! So excited for your book. And these little cakes (which I cannot wait to veganize).

    PS – do I get to meet you in Vegas?!? ;)ReplyCancel

  • Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl - Voted – love your blog. :) Congrats on the cookbook, I can’t wait to see it!ReplyCancel

  • tara - OH MY GOODNESS, yes please.

    I love the conversation with your Dad. I had such ones with my grandmother. And I like that you care about things intensely, too.ReplyCancel

  • Annie - Congratulations on the nomination. I am also preoccupied with rhubarb. Even though it’s still snowing in Minnesota I can’t wait to get my hands on some. Sweet or savory, I’ve done both. I’m craving a rhubarb custard pie and now these cakes. Cheers!ReplyCancel

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - These are gorgeous! Awesome recipe!ReplyCancel

  • Megan Gordon - YES to breakfast cakes! Man these look divine. Basically anything with rhubarb … I can relate to this post, too. I find myself telling people that I’m “passionate about grains!” and there is really, truly so much enthusiasm behind it but it comes off as uber-dorky regardless of pretty much any crowd you’re in :) Maybe I’ll start saying I’m obsessed with them … then it sounds a little more scientific, or something. Talk soooooon.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Congratulations on submitting your first draft manuscript!!!! That is squeee-worthy. Very exciting, and any time I see the words breakfast + cake together, I am bang up for a sample. these look delicious!ReplyCancel

  • Grace - These look just perfect! I’m definitely going to make them this weekend. I last minute decided not to go to Omnivore last night. Shucks, sounds like it was an inspiring talk. Again, huge congratulation on your cookbook and your nomination. Just submitted my votes. Best of luck to you!!ReplyCancel

  • EL - Maybe it’s a generation thing. I think you might be about 20 years younger than me and I also think of obsession as maybe not negative, but certainly not how I would want to describe my interest in something. My dictionary defines obsession as: ” an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind : he was in the grip of an obsession he was powerless to resist.” Preoccupation is better and I would say that passion or passionate is best. I think what I don’t like about obsession is the sense that you absolutely can’t control your thoughts. Are you really like that?

    As for rhubarb, I have never liked it too sweet. In fact, when my mother showed me how to make rhubarb pie, she always beat and egg and spread it over the top of the pie. She said that because of the calcium oxolate, the pie can have a funny taste (maybe you know what I mean — where your tongue kind of feels furry) and the egg counteracts that. In addition, it makes it into more of a custard which is wonderful and eliminates the need for a ton of sugar or for strawberries (which I really don’t like with rhubarb).

    Now that I’ve seen your cakes, I am thinking that I might try rhubarb popovers. . .ReplyCancel

  • Laura - Ha! There was just an article in the NY Times about how popular/common the word “obsession” has become.ReplyCancel

  • thelittleloaf - Deborah’s book is AMAZING. I bought it for my Mum’s birthday and had to get my own copy because there were so many recipes I wanted to make.
    Your little cakes look divine and I can’t wait to see your finished book.ReplyCancel

  • Sophia - What beautiful little cakes! I love the idea of pairing rhubarb and almond – sounds like the perfumed almonds are the perfect antidote to the tart rhubarb.

    And this sentence: ” There’s so much to consider: who first figured out that this slender, rosy stalk, whose taste is bracingly tart, was edible?” – I hear you! I have lost count of the number of times that I have wondered how so many things we take for granted came about – eating ripe fruit I can get (at least the aroma must have tempted someone to try mangos, strawberries etc). But cheese? How did that come about. Or bread, who thought about grinding wheat etc kernels and mix them with water and bake the result? I am equally astounded and grateful for everyone who has been here before us and dipped their fingers (quite literally) in all the produce there is to try so that we now just have to head to the market to fill our bags with the bounty of spring and summer (although it does make you wonder what other delicious treasures are out there that we just haven’t identified yet!).ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - I laughed a the comment from you dad and can see my dad saying the same thing. :) I must admit I love that word and use it frequently when talking about food. Congrats on submitting the first draft introduction. Cannot wait to see it all come together! I only started cooking with rhubarb last year and absolutely adore it. These almond cakes will be happening. p.s. best of luck with the Saveur nomination…well earned!ReplyCancel

  • Dan from Platter Talk - Lovely post, as always. Looking forward to indulging in fresh rhubarb with this idea, once spring decides to get serious! Thanks for the great post.ReplyCancel

  • sara - Fantastic! These little cakes look super tasty…I LOVE rhubarb!ReplyCancel

  • Viktoria - I love this post. I love the writing and the message. And this: “… love things, and I love them intensely. They preoccupy me.” gave me pause as I forgot for a moment that the words were about someone other than me. They fit me to a tee!
    Thanks for this lovely (gluten-free!) recipe.ReplyCancel

  • Ginger - Yes! Springtime is here and my rhubarb is gearing up. What’s more, your gluten-free recipe is perfectly timed for my current cooking adventures. Can’t wait…ReplyCancel

  • Ai - Yum!! I’ve never cooked rhubarb even though I LOVE rhubarb. These cakes look really tasty!ReplyCancel

  • Nik@ABrownTable - I love the second and last photographs! The rhubarb with almonds sounds and looks delicious!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - I agree, rhubarb is at its best when it’s allowed to be tart. The first thing I do with rhubarb every spring is cook it down with just a little sugar or maple syrup and eat it for breakfast with plain yogurt. I’m going to have to make these. I make lots of rhubarb pies and crumbles but I’ve never thought to put rhubarb in a cake.ReplyCancel

  • Kathryne - Your passion shines through in all that you do, Kimberley! I love it. I’m glad I’m not the only one who is obsessed with vegetables, too. These little cakes look like delicious spring treats.ReplyCancel

  • Bob Hasselbrink - Aha, using me as a foil again! Love you! DadReplyCancel

  • Kasey - Clearly, we were meant to be friends because my life is a series of obsessions. Congrats on the 1st rev! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Hezra - Just couldn’t resist bringing home a big stash of rhubarb yesterday. Fixing on making a compote that I can eat around the clock and the kids and hubby can spoon over their vanilla ice cream. This recipe looks very tempting! Will set aside some stalks and give it a try! Sadly no cute molds in the household (unless we are talking about the ones in the way back of the vegetable drawer…)ReplyCancel

  • Carole - Carole’s Chatter is collecting links using rhubarb today. This is a nice one. I do hope you pop over and link in. CheersReplyCancel

  • sarah - I know exactly what you mean! I get so stuck on certain things. The last two weeks has been rhubarb and raspberries. Everything can be made with those ingredients! I can’t stop envisioning recipes with them.

    I love these little cakes! They are perfect.ReplyCancel

  • Ole @cookingbrains - It’s funny, I never thought about obsessions as something negative, especially when it comes to food :-D Sure it is distracting to have your head constantly filled with thoughts about this one dish and one dish only, but in contrast to most other obsessions it is ever so rewarding.
    I’m on the fence with rubarb, always have been. But your cakes look so good, that I might just give them a try.ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - I COMPLETELY understand the obsession with color. It permeates every aspect of life, so why not love it and obsess over it? I so wish rhubarb was grown in my area so I could make these! I’m always sad this time of year because we never have any at the market. Perhaps I’ll just sub in some tart berries.ReplyCancel

  • J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats - I think adding dried strawberries to this would be magical :)ReplyCancel

  • Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) - These cute breakfast cakes are just so perfect! Better than muffins!ReplyCancel

  • Brian S. - These look delicious! I love rhubarb but I haven’t cooked with it in a long time, I might have to try out this recipe, Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • cucee sprouts - I tried this with my home-made vanilla – loved it. Have you tried making vanilla? I just posted a REALLY simple recipe on my blog

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