foodFood & Drink

Yossy Arefi’s Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

by Kristina Gill

Yossy Arefi, of Apartment 2b Baking Co., is one of the food photographers and bakers I admire most. I admire her photography because she shoots it with film, which means she has a great eye and technical knowledge of photography. And, I love her baking because it is creative, seasonal, easy to follow, and the recipes work. I was elated when I heard Yossy was making a cookbook, because it meant there’d be a beautiful collection of images and recipes that I could hold in my hands. Her book, Sweeter off the Vine, is a baking book focusing on recipes using seasonal fruit. This goes on my shelf right next to Nigel Slater’s Tender, Volume 2! The recipe we are sharing this week is a Rhubarb and Rye Upside-Down Cake. It is gorgeous! Click here to see a trailer for her book. —Kristina

Why Yossy loves this recipe: Rhubarb is my very favorite baking ingredient, and in my mind it is the best part of the Spring market (sorry, ramps!). It comes in many varieties, some green and celery-like and some rosy-red all of the way to the core. I always seek out the red varieties because that shock of color is so beautiful, especially in an upside-down cake like this one. I love upside-down cakes for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they are an all-in-one type of deal, you get the cake, fruit, and sauce all in one pan. Just add a bit of cream on the side and a cup of tea and you are all set.



Rhubarb and Rye Upside-Down Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake

An upside-down cake is a great way to highlight just about any fruit, but this springy version is especially nice due to rhubarb’s vibrant pink hue and tart flavor. The cake batter is light, fluffy, and speckled with just enough rye flour to make it interesting. As the cake bakes, the tart rhubarb juices caramelize into a delicious sauce that soaks into the cake. Serve slices of cake warm, with a bit of whipped cream or ice cream on the side for a perfect spring treat.

Rhubarb Topping

– 1 pound (450g) rhubarb, leaves removed, cut into 2-inch (5cm) lengths
– 1 vanilla bean
– 3⁄4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
– 1⁄4 cup (55g) unsalted butter
– 1 teaspoon lemon zest
– Pinch salt


– 1 cup (125g)
 all purpose flour
– 1 cup (130g) rye flour
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
– 1⁄2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened
– 1⁄2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
– 2 large eggs, at room temperature
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (page 235)
– 1 1⁄2 cups (355ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

To Serve

Lightly sweetened whipped cream or ice cream, to serve (optional)

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375F (190C/Gas Mark 5). Butter a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan, 3 inches tall, line it with parchment paper, and butter that too. Dust the pan and paper with flour.

2. To make the rhubarb topping: Use the tip of a knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; reserve the pod for another use. Combine the sugar, butter, vanilla seeds, lemon zest, and salt in a skillet and set over medium low heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and butter begin to melt together, then add the rhubarb. Cook the rhubarb, turning it occasionally in the pan, until it is juicy, tender, and slightly caramelized but not falling apart, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour the rhubarb and its juices into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Set aside while you prepare the cake batter.

3. To make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk the all purpose and rye flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together at medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix for 30 seconds. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Alternate adding the flour mixture and
 the buttermilk in three additions and mix until just combined. Carefully pour the batter over the rhubarb in the pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan gently on the counter to remove any air bubbles. If using a springform pan, set it on a baking sheet to catch any potential leakage.

4. Bake the cake until the top is golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool on a rack 
for 15 minutes, then carefully invert onto a serving platter. Remove the parchment paper and reposition any rhubarb that has stuck to the paper. Cut into wedges and serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, if you like. This cake is best served the day that it’s made.

Reprinted with permission from Sweeter Off the Vine, by Yossy Arefi, copyright 2016, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.


About Yossy: Yossy Arefi the creator of the award-winning blog Apt. 2B Baking Co. Regardless of the season, you’re likely to find her navigating the stalls of New York’s many Greenmarkets with her trusted Pentax K1000 close at hand. Her work has been featured in Food52, Bon Appétit, Saveur, Good Housekeeping, Modern Farmer, T Magazine, and more. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.


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  • I love rhubarb, can’t wait each Spring for it’s arrival. As soon as mine is up I’ll most definitely make this wonderful cake! Thanks for the recipe – off to pin for later!