Sweet Taste of Summer

Jun 7, 2023

The rhubarb plants at Rabbit Hill this year are magnificent. The white, frilly blooms are nearly seven feet tall, and abuzz with tiny, native pollinators. Against a backdrop of stately spruce, the view is not unlike a scene from a Monet painting.

Surely this was why rhubarb was once grown solely as an ornamental.

Rhubarb in full flower is my reminder that it needs to be harvested, processed, and enjoyed as products from the kitchen. Ruby juice, rhubarb sauce, ketchup and chutney, and of course, tempting and tasty baked goods, like pies, cobblers, muffins and cakes.

Because our crop of rhubarb here at the farm often yields over 100 pounds, I’m always the collector of recipes. And when I tasted Arlene’s Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake, she was happy to share the recipe.

Arlene Wusterbarth is a beautiful baker and a dedicated, community volunteer. She bakes every week and delivers her delicious goods to the Community of Christ Church. Seniors enjoy her treats in Healthy Island Project’s programs like Lunchbox, that delivers 125 meals to seniors weekly, and Coffee Socials, which offers seniors the opportunity to both socialization and get computer tech help. Tender muffins, delicate cakes, and scrumptious cookies, everyone looks forward to whatever Arlene bakes.

“My mother was a baker,” Arlene explained to me. “She always had a dessert on the table. And I raised four children, and really enjoyed baking for them.”

One bite of Arlene’s Strawberry Rhubarb Cake and you’ll be addicted. The crumb of the cake, the bright red, tart filling, and the buttery crumb topping…just sinful!

This is a cake in which attention to detail is important. There are several steps and bowls before it is all assembled and ready for the oven. The first time I prepared the recipe, it was hard to judge when the cake was done as the filling was so juicy. Arlene and I concluded that is was because I had used frozen berries, instead of fresh, which had more juice.

This fruit-infused and buttery cake is rich, and meant to be savored with a nice fresh cup of coffee or pot of tea. One piece was enough for my husband and me to split for our morning break. As always, teenagers and younger, active folks can always consume more.

Maine is fortunate to have wonderful folks and volunteers like Arlene who are the many vital threads of what makes our communities. And now we all can enjoy the satisfying taste of Arlene’s Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake. Quintessential summer: sweet and way-too-short.

Arlene’s Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Cheryl Wixson



  • 1 lb. fresh rhubarb cut into 1-inch pieces, measuring 3 cups
  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries sliced (may use frozen strawberries, thawed)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch

Crumb Topping:

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup butter


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Assemble ingredients and tools. Grease and flour a 9” x 13” inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In medium saucepan, combine rhubarb and strawberries. Cover and cook 5 to 10 minutes until rhubarb is tender; stir occasionally to avoid scorching. Add lemon juice. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch and add to the fruit mixture. Cook and stir until thickened. Remove from heat and cool.
  • For the crumb topping, combine the sugar and flour in a small bowl. Cut in butter to fine crumbs. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter to fine crumbs. In separate bowl or 2-cup measure, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients. Stir to moisten. Spread half the batter into a greased and floured 13” x 9” x 2” baking pan. Spread cooled filling over batter. Spoon remaining batter in small mounds atop the filling. Sprinkle crumbs over batter.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 350oF for 40 to 45 minutes. Serves 15

Cheryl's Notes

Nutritional analysis per serving: 439 calories, 6 grams protein, 67 gram carbohydrates, 17 grams fat, 140 mg. sodium, 2 grams fiber

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