If you’re looking for a recipe that doesn’t use yeast, try this vegan lemon rhubarb cake instead.
This is a cake I’ve been making since I was about ten years old. It’s a family favourite. My omi requests it whenever rhubarb is in season, my great-grandmother made it often, and my mom taught me when I was little.
Rhubarb streusel cake is very popular in Germany in the springtime and I’ve always made it with the first rhubarb from our garden. The pinkest rhubarb you can find will always look best, though it doesn’t really change the flavour. If you don’t like rhubarb, the base recipe can be used with any number of fruits.
This is a yeasted recipe, with a sweet bread base and the rhubarb and crumble topping. Streusel is just sugar, fat, and flour mixed into a crumbly blend, the same thing you’d use to top a rhubarb crisp. In this case it’s coconut sugar, coconut oil, and spelt flour. No oats are used.
It’s best the day it’s baked, but still good a day or two later. The topping softens a bit as it sits because of the liquid in the rhubarb, but it’s not bad. Serve it with coconut whipped cream or yogurt, or enjoy it plain.
- Non-Dairy Milk: I always use oat milk. With homemade milk, make sure not to boil, as it has a tendency to thicken.
- Maple Syrup: or honey if the cake doesn’t need to be fully vegan.
- Coconut Oil: this should be solid. Refined if you don’t want any hint of coconut flavour, though I don’t find it noticeable in this recipe.
- Yeast: instant or traditional doesn’t matter as it’s proofing before being mixed with the flour. You may see slightly different rising times depending on type.
- Light Spelt Flour: also called sifted or white spelt.
- Sea Salt: as in any bread, salt improves the gluten structure and flavour.
- Vanilla: only powder or paste, not extract. If you only have extract, omit the vanilla altogether.
- Rhubarb: this recipe needs quite a bit of rhubarb, great if you have an older plant or it’s in excess at the market.
- Lemon Juice: to mix with the sliced rhubarb.
- Coconut Sugar: for the streusel, as liquid sweeteners don’t work as well.
Step by Step
There are a number of notes here, but they don’t mean the recipe is complicated – just that I want you to succeed even if you’ve never made a yeasted cake before. Please read through this if you haven’t and keep them in mind as you go through the recipe.
The milk mixture cannot be too hot before mixing with the yeast. If it is, it’ll kill the yeast. Use your fingertip to gauge this – it should be skin temperature or just barely warmer, and definitely not uncomfortably warm to touch.
If you don’t think your milk was too hot and it still didn’t bubble 15 minutes after adding the yeast, your yeast was dead and you need to buy new. Yeast should be refrigerated to keep it fresh for a longer time.
The amount of flour is given as a range because it depends on the humidity of you home. The end goal is a soft dough that just barely sticks to your hands, so add the amount of flour needed for that.
It generally takes a couple of hours for my dough to rise fully, unless it’s a very warm and sunny day. Yours may rise much faster in a warm house, or a bit slower in a very cool place. Keep in mind that it needs time, same as any other bread, but it will vary a bit.
Your streusel might be a little more or less crumbly depending on your flour, how dry your sugar is, and the humidity. If it’s too wet, it usually needs more flour. If it’s holding together but not really crumbling, add more sugar. If it’s too dry then sparingly add more oil.
Add small amounts until you get the consistency you want. The milk makes the streusel act a bit more like a butter-based version when baking (butter is fat and water, not pure fat like coconut oil).
If your coconut oil is very hard, if it’s been stored in a cold place, using your hands to mix it with the streusel ingredients will heat it enough to incorporate. Alternatively, if it’s melted, measure it out and then refrigerate until hardened.
There’s no need to peel the rhubarb for this recipe. Adding a tiny bit of lemon and sweetener isn’t completely necessary, but really improves the taste of the fruit. If you use a different fruit, still mix with the lemon juice and maple syrup beforehand.
Several readers have had success making this recipe gluten-free by using a 1:1 GF blend like the mix from Bob’s Red Mill. I haven’t personally tested this and can’t offer guarantees, but it seems to work pretty well.
All-purpose white flour can be substituted for the spelt if you prefer, as can cane sugar for the coconut sugar. The recipe notes the amounts for both fresh and dry yeast – dry can be either instant or traditional.
If you’d like to make this at times of year when rhubarb isn’t in season, a number of fruits can be used in its place. Plums and apples are traditional, but apricots, peaches, blueberries, and many others are good too. It will be quite a bit sweeter when using alternatives due to rhubarb’s natural tartness.
More Rhubarb Recipes
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- 250 ml (1 cup) non-dairy milk
- 60 ml (¼ cup) maple syrup (or honey)
- 60 grams (¼ cup) coconut oil
- 20 grams fresh yeast, ½ of a cube or 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 525 to 600 grams (3 ½ to 4 cups) light spelt flour
- ½ teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 500 grams (3 cups) rhubarb, chopped, or around 6 stalks
- Juice of a lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)
- 150 grams (1 cup) light spelt flour
- 100 grams (½ cup) coconut sugar
- 60 grams (¼ cup) coconut oil*
- 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk
- Pinch sea salt
- Place the milk, maple syrup, and coconut oil to a small saucepan and heat on low until the coconut oil is melted and the mixture is just warm to the touch.
- Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl and crumble/sprinkle the yeast over it. Let this sit for 15 minutes, or until it is bubbling or foaming, before adding the remaining ingredients.
- Add 150g (1 cup) of flour, along with the vanilla and salt to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. Stir in another 150g (1 cup) of flour, then start adding it in 75g (½ cup) increments, stirring to fully incorporate between each addition.
- Once it becomes too difficult to stir, generously flour a large surface (your countertop) and turn the dough out to knead it. Knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until a smooth, soft dough forms.
- Grease a large mixing bowl and place the finished dough in it to rise. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place it in a warm place, like your oven with the light on, for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a large baking sheet (or two smaller ones) with parchment paper. Gently punch the dough down.
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle about 40x30cm (~12x16in.) in size (or two smaller rectangles).
- Place the rolled out dough onto the prepared baking sheet(s). Cover this with a tea towel again to rise slightly while you prepare the rhubarb and streusel topping.
- Add the rhubarb in an even layer over the cake, then top with the streusel, going right into the corners.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges of the cake are golden. Remove from the oven and let it cool before serving. Serve with coconut whipped cream or yogurt.
- Coarsely chop the rhubarb and place it into a bowl with the lemon juice and maple syrup. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to coat the fruit, then add it to the cake.
- Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and use your hands to squeeze the ingredients together until a crumbly mixture forms. Sprinkle over the rhubarb onto the cake in an even or chunky layer.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 402Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 42mgCarbohydrates: 76gFiber: 11gSugar: 15gProtein: 15g
This data is provided by a calculator and is a rough estimation of the nutritional information in this recipe.
This post was originally published in May 2017. It has been updated with improvements to the text and recipe as of June 2021.