Rhubarb Cakes and Cocktails

Posted on February 5, 2022


It’s almost two years since I photographed this recipe. It was the last post I put together before the first lockdown, as the initial confusion swirled around what was going on.

The next time I visited the greengrocer they still had the glorious pink rhubarb, but we were standing in the street waiting to take our turn to go into the shop. Masks weren’t even a thing and everyone was being very stoic and calm with no idea what was to come.

My original brief for this post was to create something bright and colourful, and I think I fulfilled that. To start on that road I went with my old turquoise gate as a background. It’s one I bought from a local reclamation yard and it had to have a liberal dousing of woodworm treatment and some quarantine in the shed before it was allowed in the house. It then got layered with many, many shades of paint to get the colour just how I wanted it.

Forced (ideally Yorkshire) rhubarb at this time of year is a world away from the green, stringy, sour rhubarb I remember as a kid. I was never keen when mum announced it was stewed rhubarb from the garden for pudding. Now I can’t get enough of the stuff and will always choose rhubarb yoghurt, sweeties or drinks.

It helps when it’s this pretty though.

Gently roasted for half an hour with vanilla and sugar it creates a vivid pink syrup plus fragrant rhubarb pieces that you can use in any number of recipes.

I like the rhubarb pieces with yoghurt, or sometimes I fold them into cream to make rhubarb fool. They make the best crumble too.

But then there are my favourite retro Rhubarb & Custard Cakes. They have a spoonful of custard powder added to a basic cake batter, which makes them vanilla rich and golden. Then they are topped with freshly roasted, vanilla-y rhubarb. To double up the flavour I add two drizzle icings, one with syrup from the rhubarb and the other with a bit of custard powder, or vanilla.

Now you need to decide what to do with all that lovely pink syrup.

My preference is to make it into a pink rhubarb-tini, but I can testify to the fact that a couple of these can really knock you out, so I also am a fan of the alternative: fizzy Rhubarb, Ginger and Lime.

Anyway, what with pandemics and all that, there’s been a bit of satellite delay, from making this to posting it here, but we’re here now, so let’s bake.

Cooking the Rhubarb

  • 800g Fresh Chopped Forced British Rhubarb.
  • 260g Caster Sugar
  • 1 split Vanilla Pod or a teaspoon of vanilla extract

Put the chopped rhubarb in a shallow oven proof dish, sprinkle on the sugar and add the vanilla. Cover with foil and bake at 180º degrees c for around 25-30 minutes. Cooking it this way keeps the pieces whole and stops it being stringy. Leave the pieces to cool in the syrup before you drain it to help the colour to develop. When it has cooled drain the juice into a jug .

The rhubarb will yield a good 350mls of pink syrup for use in drinks or pouring over anything you fancy. It’s great on ice cream or rice pudding.

The Cakes

  • 125g Soft Butter
  • 110g Caster Sugar
  • 120g Self Raising Flour
  • 25g Custard Powder
  • 2 Large Eggs

Cream the butter, then add the sugar and beat until light in colour. Mix the custard powder with the flour and add this to the butter and sugar, add the eggs and beat well. Add a spoonful of the softest pieces of rhubarb and ripple through.

Place a piece of baking parchment in the base of 6 small buttered tins (or just make in 10 cupcake cases). Sprinkle some of the baked rhubarb on each cake.

Bake for around 15 minutes at 175º until they are only just golden brown. They should tip out of the tins easily after they have cooled for 5 minutes.

Custard Drizzle Icing

  • 1 tblsp Custard Powder – or some vanilla and yellow food colour
  • 3 tblsp Icing Sugar
  • a splash of water

Rhubarb Drizzle Icing

  • 3 tblsp Icing Sugar
  • Some pink syrup from the rhubarb dish

Mix the icings until smooth and drizzle over the cakes with a spoon.


  • Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  • Add a shot of rhubarb syrup, add a shot of gin, or vodka if you don’t like gin.
  • Add a splash of vermouth, or lemon juice if you prefer things sour.
  • Shake it for about a minute and pour into a glass.