Rhubarb and pumpernickel

Rhubarb and pumpernickel

Sticky Fingers Green Thumb
Tara Pearce, Tim Hillier

All the best sour ingredients meet up in this bittersweet cake. Tart rye joins forces with liqueurspiked rhubarb, a chocolate herb ganache and a garnish of crispy rye croutons. A satisfying dessert for when the nights get colder.


Quantity Ingredient
125g dutch (unsweetened) cocoa powder
250ml boiling water
1 pumpernickel bread slice, torn into rough crumbs
3 tablespoons orange flavoured liqueur (such as cointreau)
225g unsalted butter
185g soft brown sugar
345g caster (superfine) sugar
4 teaspoons molasses
4 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 teaspoon, salt
300g plain (all-purpose) flour
100g rye flour
250g sour cream
450g rhubarb, cut into 2 cm pieces
rosemary blossoms, to decorate

Herb ganache

Quantity Ingredient
2 rosemary stalks
300ml thick (double/heavy) cream
250g good-quality dark chocolate (approx. 60% cocoa solids), broken into chunks

Rye croutons

Quantity Ingredient
2 dark rye bread slices, toasted and crusts removed
30g unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons soft brown sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Lightly grease and line individual mini bundt tins, a 12-hole standard muffin tin or a 22 cm round cake tin with baking paper.
  2. For the herb ganache, add the rosemary stalks and cream to a saucepan, bring to a simmer and leave to cook over a low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool and infuse.
  3. For the rye croutons, cut the toasted rye bread slices into 5 mm (¼ in) squares. Melt the butter in a frying pan set over a medium–high heat, add the sugar and the bread squares and cook until caramelised and lightly crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Stir the cocoa powder and boiling water together in a bowl to make a thick paste.
  5. Add the pumpernickel breadcrumbs to a separate bowl, pour over the liqueur and set aside to soak while you prepare the rest of the cake.
  6. Beat the butter, sugars and molasses together in the bowl of an electric mixer for 10 minutes, or until fluffy. Continuing to beat on a low speed, add the eggs one at a time, followed by the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and half of the flours. Add the sour cream, then the remainder of the dry ingredients. Pour over the chocolate paste and mix until evenly combined, then gently mix in the soaked pumpernickel and rhubarb.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes if using bundt or muffin tins, or 45 minutes if using a round cake tin, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  8. While the cakes are cooling, finish the ganache. Remove the rosemary stalks from the cream and add the dark chocolate, then transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of lightly simmering water. Heat gently, stirring, until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is glossy.
  9. Spread the ganache over the cooled cakes and decorate with the crispy rye croutons and a few rosemary blossoms.

Long-time companion

  • Well-loved rhubarb can be productive for 10 years or more and has a large root system, so plant it somewhere it can dig deep and nest. For a faster yield, ask your nursery for rhubarb crowns or budded pieces and start from there rather than growing from seed.
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