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Rhubarb-Coconut Cake

This cake is definitely one to have in your back-pocket. It’s fruity, coconut, light, fudgy and simple! Not only does it utilise a decent amount of fresh rhubarb and a handful of pantry items, but it is essentially foolproof. I’ve made this recipe many times during rhubarb season, in different kitchens, with different brands of ingredients and different cake pan sizes - it’s effortless and forgiving, turning out perfect every time. Be warned: you’ll be making this cake more than once - in our household, it gets demolished in one evening.

Rhubarb - Coconut Cake

Serves: 10

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Rhubarb - coconut cake

1 ½ cups (225 g) self-raising flour

1 ¼ cups (275 g) caster sugar

1 ¼ cups (110 g) desiccated or shredded coconut (if desiccated the texture will be finer)

125 g butter, melted

3 eggs, beaten lightly

½ cup (125 ml) milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

300 g finely chopped rhubarb + 2 - 4 stalks rhubarb, extra (for on top)

3 tbsp demerara (raw) sugar, to sprinkle over the top


  1. Preheat the oven to moderate (180°C). Grease a deep 20 cm round cake pan and line the base with baking paper. You may prefer to also line the sides.

  2. Wash all the rhubarb and finely chop the 300 g of rhubarb. With the extra stalks, chop into 4 cm pieces and set aside.

  3. Combine flour, caster sugar and coconut in a medium bowl and mix well. Stir in the butter, eggs, milk and vanilla essence until combined, being careful not to over-mix.

  4. Spread half the cake mixture into the prepared pan and scatter the finely chopped rhubarb evenly over the cake mixture. Gently spread the remaining batter over the rhubarb - using a butter knife can be handy here.

  5. Arrange the rhubarb pieces over the top of the cake, closely together, leaving about half a centimetre gap in between each piece. Gently press into the batter. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over evenly.

  6. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes. Poke a wooden skewer into the cake and hold for 20 seconds: if it’s clean and or the mixture on the skewer is not runny, the cake is cooked. Stand the cake for about 5 minutes before removing from the tin and letting cool on a wire rack.

  7. Delicious served with whipped cream, yogurt and rhubarb compote (see note).

Note: if you have leftover rhubarb that didn’t fit on the cake, or extra in the garden you just want to use, have a go at this rhubarb compote:

Rhubarb (and strawberry) compote:

500 g chopped rhubarb (replace some rhubarb with fresh/frozen strawberries if you have any)

¼ cup of water

⅓ cup granulated sugar

A squeeze of lemon juice

½ tsp vanilla essence


Combine all ingredients into a saucepan (except vanilla) and place on a medium-high heat. Cover and stir frequently, until the rhubarb begins to dissolve. Stir in the vanilla essence at the end.

Lena is studying an honours degree at AUT. Her research is comparing behavioural differences of Nemo fish in captivity and the wild. As a part time job, she teaches at the university. One of her favourite pastimes is to banter about current environmental issues. However, this tends to be only with people who agree, so it’s generally one-sided.

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