Rah, Rah, Rhubarb!

If rhubarb were playing on a team, would anyone actually cheer for it? A sad, unloved vegetable with an identity crisis, rhubarb is always paired up with the show-stealing strawberry, smothered by sweetness, and thrown into the game more as an afterthought than a star. You’d think that after years of strawberry-rhubarb pies and strawberry-rhubarb crumbles, more bakers would take a chance on letting the red stalks stand alone for once, but no, perish the thought! Rhubarb is bitter, unpalatable, and unable to carry a proper dessert without help from something more flavorful.

In fact, this silent player is hardly even a staple for standard grocery stores. Upon asking a produce department worker if they had any early season rhubarb yet, I was looked at as if I had requested a vegan angel food cake. Forget about having never heard of it, this person (who specializes in fresh fruits and vegetables, mind you) couldn’t even decipher what I was saying. Rubbage? Rubar? Well, I’ll take that as a “no,” then.

But rhubarb isn’t some awful ingredient to be either avoided or covered up, like an embarrassing pet stain on the living room carpet. When treated with respect, it makes for perfectly delicious desserts, as is evidenced by these bright, springy cupcakes. Luck would have it that I eventually found a bag of frozen rhubarb, of all things, and so I set right to work redeeming this misunderstood plant.

Topped off with a simple vanilla bean frosting so as not to take over and cover that delicate rhubarb flavor, these little numbers are further beautified by candied violets. Incredibly hard to find and even harder to transport intact, I had been saving up these precious edibles for quite some time now, so it’s a good thing they’re well-preserved by sugar. Such an ornate garnish is far from necessary though- The rhubarb really does sell these treats all by itself.

Yield: Makes 14 Cupcakes

Rhubarb Cupcakes

Rhubarb Cupcakes

Rhubarb gets the spotlight in this citrus-soaked little cakes, topped off by fluffy vanilla bean buttercream frosting.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


Rhubarb Cupcakes

  • 2 Cups Chopped Rhubarb, Fresh or Frozen and Thawed
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Cup Orange Juice
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Bean Frosting:

  • 1 Cup Vegan Butter
  • 4 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Paste or Extract


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line 14 cupcake tins with decorative papers. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine the rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Let stew, stirring periodically, for about 10 – 15 minutes, until the rhubarb becomes so tender that it pretty much falls apart. If necessary, mash it lightly with your spatula to help it break down. Allow the rhubarb to cool for 15 minute before proceeding.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda. Stir the orange juice, oil, and vanilla into the rhubarb mixture, and then add all of those liquids into the bowl of flour. Stir with a wide spatula just until the batter comes together smoothly; a few small lumps remaining are no reason for alarm. Just be sure not to over-mix, or you’ll create a tough cake.
  4. Dole out the batter equally between your prepared cupcake tins, and slide them into the oven. Bake for 18 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Let cool completely before applying the frosting.
  5. For the frosting, throw room temperature vegan butter into your mixer, and beat thoroughly until softened. Add in the confectioner’s sugar and start mixing on a low speed to prevent the dry goods from flying out of the work bowl. Add in the vanilla paste or extract, and slowly drizzle in the non-dairy milk, until the frosting reaches a smooth but still firm consistency. Whip on high speed for about 5 minutes until fluffy. Pipe or spread on cupcakes as desired.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 417Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 167mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 1gSugar: 46gProtein: 2g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.


55 thoughts on “Rah, Rah, Rhubarb!

  1. It’s crazy, I was looking petals purple without red dye animal and I have never found it in Paris and it’s in you I see a product from France? Ahahahaha the world upside down

      1. OMG Hannah, merciiiii, I often go to this shop and more!
        It’s funny that it’s you who gives me the info as I am a customer of this shop ahahahaha

  2. I L-O-V-E rhubarb! I used to eat it as a kid right from the back yard dipped in sugar. I think your cupcakes do it justice – so lovely and fresh looking. I’m going to try your recipe as soon as rhubarb shows up here.

  3. These look fantastic! I’m a big fan of rhubarb but the only thing I’ve used it in to date is crumbles (without the strawberries, I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear). I think these will be on the table next week for the family to come feast on. Thankfully, it pretty easy to get rhubarb in Ireland at the moment so I won’t have to go to too much effort to find it.

  4. These look fantastic! Fortunately, rhubarb will be at our farmers’ markets soon if it’s not already there, so I’ll grab some and make these. There’s a coffee shop here in Seattle that makes a “vegan oat bar,” which is kind of like a sturdy coffee cake, and it’s made with chunks of rhubarb and hazelnuts. Sooooo good!

  5. Excellent! As I get older, I enjoy more tart than sweet in my sweets, so I will definitely try these cupcakes. Now . . . where am I gonna get my hands on some rhubarb?

  6. I’ve had a bag of frozen rhubarb in my freezer for way too long without a purpose. I’m so excited to use it to make these cupcakes! And finally to taste rhubarb without its flavor being masked.

    I wonder why nobody uses it as a vegetable in savory preparations?

  7. My goodness, are these ever lovely! It’s time that Rhubarb and I became acquainted; up to now, I’ve consumed rhubarb only in the form of treats and jams that were made by others.

    As for the candied violets… That’s EXACTLY the shade of purple that is my favourite. Swoon!

  8. I would TOTALLY cheer for rhubarb if it were on ANY team!! What a wonderful idea, using it in cupcakes! I’ve always adored strawberry rhubarb pie (a taste I’ll always savor from my childhood) and fresh rhubarb sauce over vegan biscuits. It’s such a unique flavor that I just adore and really truly love! Thank you for the recipe and for highlighting this unique veggie!

  9. What a lovely ode to the wonderful rhubarb plant. I miss the trusty plant in my former garden — it came up faithfully every spring with no coddling from me. It’s probably starting to unfurl it’s crinkly leaves right about now.

    Love the candied violets!

  10. wow, these cupcakes looks incredible. those candied violets on top totally make it. i love how you kept the frosting a simple flavor as well. the flecks of vanilla bean are amazing. now i seriously need to try rhubarb in SOME kind of dessert!

  11. Loved this post…you’re too funny, loved the analogy to a pet stain, lol! It’s funny, I don’t think I’ve ever had rhubarb! Every spring I mean to pick some up but I never get around to it…I need to! The cupcakes are adorable. :)

  12. I’m still going to make my obligatory strawberry rhubarb pie, but I will give the rhubarb another chance with this recipe toooooo.

  13. I love your words on rhubarb, it has me rooting for the underdog even though I’ve never tried it, myself. When it starts popping up at my local Farmer’s market, I’ll have to grab a bundle and make these absolutely gorgeous cupcakes. :)

  14. Just gorgeous! I ate raw rhubarb for the first time this week and it is an interesting taste. I have had it before in pies but I want to try it in this cupcake because it looks so yummy!

  15. Last year was the year I really fell in love with rhubarb in it’s own right. From savory dishes to pancakes, I let it shine! It really is so delicious when prepared the right way…I’m sure these cupcakes are one such way!

  16. I never had rhubarb growing up and had to discover it as and adult, but I love it so much that I buy everything the local grocery gets in from local farmers a few times every spring. It freezes well all chopped up! And then I can have it in the fall or winter – it pairs so well with cranberry, pear, any wintery fruit in a crumble or crisp. I’ve added custard sauce to that and…. wow. This year I really want to try rhubarb soda.

  17. Lovely cupcakes!! You’ve decorated them so beautifully!! I always see rhubarb and never buy it..but I think I should try it soon :)

  18. Awesome, Hannah! I’m another one in the no-strawberry rhubarb camp so it’s lovely to have another recipe to try. And candied violets, oh my! So beautiful!

  19. What beautiful delicious cupcakes! They look simply stunning, your photography is fabulous and I am falling in love with the flavours :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  20. Those candied violets on top are just gorgeous! It just makes the picture pop! I also love rhubarb, especially rhubarb jam. I notice that you a lactose free girl in this menu. thanks, me too! Take care, BAM

  21. That’s awesome! I love candied violet, but I assumed, they were all made with egg-white. Thanks for that link, now let’s see if I can find them in Germany…

  22. One of my favourite desserts is the apple and rhubarb crumble (which is vegan and gluten-free, come to think of it! Mmm oats and walnuts and brown sugar and clumps of deliciousness), so I’ve always been a devout rhubarb lover. Never had I had in it baked goods, though! Marvellous!

  23. I’ve never had rhubarb (even though my name is in it, ha ha), but we have some that grows wild on the side of our yard. Maybe I’ll try some this summer!

  24. I’ve never been a big fan rhubarb fan but then I’ve only really had it in pie and I don’t like fruit type pies. I would definitely give rhubarb another chance with these cupcakes though! They sound amazing.

  25. This is gorgeous! I have actually never had rhubarb, so I would be neutral, neither cheering, nor booing. I must give it a go, but if I were to make these, there would be no question. I would be cheering until they were all gone :)

  26. Very pretty and so springy between the rhubarb and the violets! But now you have me going– I foresee homemade candied flowers in my future– perhaps with a little beet for the color.

  27. I would like to try this recipe seeing as we have patches of rhubarb in our yard and have no idea what to do with it but my dad and I are allergic to orange juice. Do you have any suggestions for a substitute?

    1. Sure, that’s no problem at all! You could try another citrus juice like grapefruit if that doesn’t aggravate your allergies, or a mild fruit juice like apple or grape instead. Happy baking!

  28. I Made these yesterday for a friends housewarming. They went down so well his mum has now asked for the recipie. They were delicious and I will definaetely be making more!

  29. My daughter has a food protein intolerance to rice, oats, dairy & soy. It can be very hard to find yummy recipes that she can eat. We just did a trial run of these for her 1st birthday. and they are a hit! Thanks for the recipe!

  30. I heart rhubarb! Can’t wait to try these, they sound and look delicious! I’m going to sub the sugar with xylitol to make it a guilt free indulgence!

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