buttermilk cake with rhubarb buttercream and cardamom cream

Buttermilk Cake with Rhubarb Buttercream | Sarah Kieffer | The Vanilla Bean Blog

This buttermilk cake was made in celebration of Saveur Magazine’s 20th birthday.

When it comes to cake I only think in chocolate, but I got the idea of rhubarb buttercream in my head and thought it would pair better with a white buttermilk cake (although, after eating it, I think it could go either way). 

Rhubarb Buttercream

I was really happy with how this buttercream turned out, which I adapted from Martha Stewart. Usually this type of frosting is too sweet and rich for me, but the tart rhubarb balances thing so well. I did need to use just a few drops of food coloring to get the frosting looking pink. The rhubarb will leave a few tiny strings in the frosting, but I liked how they looked.

I’ve had good luck with this buttercream, but it did break on me once. If you have the same trouble, here are some great tips from The Kitchn on how to save a broken buttercream.

Cardamom Cream
My family was split down the middle about this cream; half of them loved how it complemented the rhubarb flavor, and the other half wanted it just to be rhubarb buttercream in the layers. I personally think either way would make a delicious cake.

If you choose to omit it, you’ll have enough buttercream to frost the cake, but may not have a lot left over for any pipping or decorating. This recipe will give you quite a thick layer of cream in between the layers, so if you’d like less, don’t use all of it. Also, I liked 2 teaspoons of cardamom here, but 1 teaspoon will give a more subtle flavor.

Buttermilk Cake with Rhubarb Buttercream | Sarah Kieffer | The Vanilla Bean Blog

Buttermilk Cake with Rhubarb Buttercream | Sarah Kieffer | The Vanilla Bean Blog

More Rhubarb Recipes:

rhubarb cake with pink buttercream frosting

Buttermilk Cake with Rhubarb Buttercream

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
A soft and fluffy buttermilk cake with a luscious rhubarb buttercream frosting.
Sarah Kieffer
4.67 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate



  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups 284g all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups 297g sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound 2 sticks; 227g unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

Rhubarb Buttercream

  • 2 cups 16 ounces rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • food coloring optional, see note
  • 4 egg whites room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups 248g granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 pound 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cardamom Cream

  • 8 ounces 226g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup 99g granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons cardamom see note


  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour three 8 by 2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, sour cream, and buttermilk.
  • In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low until combined. With the mixer running on low, add the butter one piece at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse sand. With the mixer still running on low, slowly add half the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. with the mixer running on low, add the rest of the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 20 seconds (the batter may still look a little bumpy). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use a spatula to mix the batter a few more times.
  • Divide the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Tap the pans gently on the counter 2 times to help get rid of any bubbles. Bake 17 to 29 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the buttermilk cake is golden brown and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely before frosting.

Rhubarb Buttercream:

  • Place the rhubarb and water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, and then let simmer for 15-18 minutes until rhubarb is tender and most the water has evaporated. Place the rhubarb in a food processor, and process until it is a smooth purée. If you’d like to add food coloring to brighten the color of the purée, add a few drops now, and then pulse the rhubarb a bit more, until the food coloring is evenly distributed. Set the purée aside to cool.
  • Place the egg whites, sugar, and pinch of salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat, and using a whisk attachment, whisk the mixture on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and then whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium again, and add the butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. When the butter has been completely incorporated, switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer running on low, add the vanilla, and then the cooled rhubarb puree, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Use immediately, or cover, and refrigerate.

Cardamom Cream:

  • Beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and cardamom, and mix until combined.

To assemble:

  • Place one layer of the buttermilk cake on a serving plate. Put half of the cardamom cream on top of the layer, spread evenly over the cake, and then top with another layer of cake. Add the rest of the cardamom cream and spread evenly over the second layer of cake, and then top with the final layer. Frost the cake with the rhubarb buttercream.
  • Reply
    Dina Herron
    Saturday, May 4, 2024 at 3:09 pm

    Is it 3 large eggs AND 2 egg yolks in the batter?

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at 9:58 am

      Hi Dina – Yes, it is 3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks.

  • Reply
    Friday, May 13, 2022 at 11:48 am

    The cake looks perfectly delicious. Unfortunately rhubarb is not readily available in my area. I love cardamom so wondering if a strawberry or raspberry buttercream would be a good option? Thanks

  • Reply
    A. ESU
    Friday, June 25, 2021 at 9:54 am

    5 stars
    I want to make this for the weekend, but Wednesday is when I have the best time to do it.

  • Reply
    Jessica Luther
    Thursday, January 9, 2020 at 7:50 am

    I will definitely make my little girl this chocolate cake.
    It looks awesome.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, December 17, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    Moist and crumbly with perfect texture. Comfort food at best.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, December 17, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    LOL!! That makes me happy to hear!! Thanks so much for letting me know!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    This cake is easy and best of all DELICIOUS!!! I made yesterday and it’s just about gone. Will make again soon.

  • Reply
    Sophie Anderson
    Monday, November 18, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    Love this cake so much!!!! Hope she had a happy birthday!!!

  • Reply
    Christina Moore@ YourMindYourBody
    Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 3:40 am

    Reading the ingredients make me crave already. Oh! I am excited to bake it. My kids surely love this cake. I will make some in the weekends for my family and relatives.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    This was the first pound cake I ever made and it was a big hit. I will make it again soon. I love simply recipes!

  • Reply
    Richard Tunner
    Friday, August 30, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    I made this cake for family dinner party and everyone loved it. I will definitely make again. Easy and depth of flavour.

  • Reply
    Susan Dubose
    Friday, August 30, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Absolutely adoring the flavors here! I am a big sucker for cardamom in baking so no surprise this hits the right notes… But I would have never through of combining cardamom with rhubarb. Thanks for that!

  • Reply
    Monday, May 6, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    I had to tell you that I made this cake for a friend’s birthday. Since it was a chilly night, I decided to add cardamom for a warmer vibe. I also used a simple rhubarb cardamom syrup and rhubarb curd in between the layers and the result was outstanding. I plan to make it agin this weekend for mother’s day 🙂

  • Reply
    Kara Mathys @Wellnessgrit
    Wednesday, March 13, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    These Buttermilk Cake With Rhubarb Buttercream And Cardamom Cream are stunning. I’m not a talented baker, but I would love to give these a try!

  • Reply
    M M
    Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    I’ve made this cake twice now and it is divine! The first time I followed the instructions as written and only had the cardamom creme between the layers. I loved the cardamom creme, but I wanted more rhubarb flavor. So the next time I made the cake, I put both cardamom creme and the rhubarb buttercream between the layers and it was exactly what I wanted. I had more than enough buttercream for this since I didn’t decorate the cake. Also, I made sure to use only red rhubarb stalks and my icing turned out bright pink with no food coloring. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, February 27, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    I want to make this for the weekend, but Wednesday is when I have the best time to do it. How would I go about freezing and defrosting the cake (with or without the frosting?), or will it be ok refrigerated for a few days? Also am curious if I can replace the sour cream in the cake with plain Greek yogurt.
    Thank you!

  • Reply
    suzuki vietnam
    Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 5:04 am

    thanks all

  • Reply
    Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 12:11 am

    Can this cake recipe be baked as a 9×13?

  • Reply
    Laura Roberts
    Monday, April 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    I’ve just found your blog and I’m thrilled! I’m making your wonderful cake today and I have a question. In the assembly instructions it appears that I should have three layers, but I’m only preparing two pans in the cake instructions what am I missing?

    • Reply
      Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Sorry about that! It should say bake the cake in three cake pans – I fixed it in the instructions. I did a minor tweak on the recipe last week and somehow that instruction got messed up. If you don’t have three cake pans, you can cut two layers in half and just use a smaller amount of cardamom cream in between each layer, or don’t cut the two cake layers in half and put a very thick layer of cardamom cream in between. Let me know if you have any other questions!!

  • Reply
    Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 12:48 am

    I just made this and the flavour is amazing! However the icing was really thin I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be that way however I iced the cake and it was impossible to ice, should it be thicker?

  • Reply
    Fiona at Food et al
    Friday, April 8, 2016 at 9:11 am

    This looks perfect, I might just be requesting this for my next birthday!

  • Reply
    Eden Passante
    Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    So lovely and it sounds amazing!!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Wow, this is just gorgeous. And it’s delicious too!

    I did a test run today of the cake only, one layer, in gluten-free form using the “whole grain” version of Cup4Cup flour. I baked it for about 33 minutes (this longer baking time is typical).

    I followed the directions carefully, especially the steps with the stand mixer, in order to get maximum fluffiness. It turned out SO WELL. Was not dense at all, and has a wonderful flavor. No one could believe it was gluten free.

    Just wanted to mention this for the gluten free bakers out there since many recipes don’t translate as well as this one did, even with Cup4Cup.

    • Reply
      Wednesday, August 19, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Hi Sasha – Thank you so much for the feedback! I’m so glad to hear it turned out so well with Cup4Cup. I’ll have to try it myself – I have a few friends who are gluten-free.

  • Reply
    Friday, June 5, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Hi could I freeze this cake? Thank you

    • Reply
      Sunday, June 7, 2015 at 7:57 am

      Hi Tracey – I would think it would be fine to freeze the cake. I haven’t tried it with this one, so I can’t guarantee anything. But I’m pretty sure it would freeze just fine!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Two questions! About how many does this serve? And is there an easy way to do this as cupcakes?

    • Reply
      Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      Lindsay – you can cut the cake into 12-16 pieces (16 will be pretty small). I haven’t made this particular cake recipe into cupcakes, so if you have a favorite yellow or white cupcake recipe, you could use that, and then just top them with the rhubarb buttercream. I hope that helps! Let me know how it turns out for you. -Sarah

  • Reply
    Sunday, April 5, 2015 at 11:01 am

    My cakes came out SUPER dense, not fluffy at all. I’m not sure what happened! I’m going to try again, as my mom REALLY wants this for her birthday (today…yikes). Any suggestions?

    • Reply
      Sunday, April 5, 2015 at 7:51 pm

      Hi Misha, I’m sorry you had trouble with the cake! It’s possible the butter and/or the eggs weren’t beaten long enough. If you are up for experimenting, you could try swapping out a cup of all-purpose flour for a cup of cake flour. I’ve found substituting a bit of cake flour often will help the texture be a bit more fluffy. I haven’t tried it with this particular recipe, so I can’t promise it will work! If you are worried about trying it again, I’ve heard this cake from Zoe Bakes is quite good: You could pair it with the rhubarb buttercream. I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.

  • Reply
    Irene at Recipe Contests
    Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    I loved this recipe. I opted for the lesser amount of cardamom (actually only used 1/2 of a teaspoon since I only hoped for a subtle hint rather than a dominance or competition with that rhubarb tang. So glad I froze some of this spring’s rhubarb – I’m not quite ready to welcome the cooler weather yet. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • Reply
    Friday, September 26, 2014 at 6:32 am

    is it cardamom powder you have used or fresh cardamom from seeds?

    • Reply
      Friday, September 26, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      I used cardamom powder here.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    This looks so amazing! I love to bake, but never tried to layer them. But this seems really helpful. Can’t wait to try it. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Love the garnish! What’s the flower called? Cheers.

  • Reply
    Friday, July 25, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Well, I’ve got two of three parts done! It’s a lot of work, but that is to be expected for such a lovely creation. The cake layers are beautiful and the batter tasted lovely. The cardamom cream is amazing! I want to put it all over cinnamon rolls and shortbread cookies. Dang. Great jorb.

    • Reply
      Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Wow! Let me know how you like the whole cake. I’m so happy to hear it’s going well so far. 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    Sini @ my blue&white kitchen
    Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 11:23 am

    This cake is a beauty! I normally don’t like buttercream (except between my macarons) but this cake is so gorgeous that I want to have a slice right now. Good luck with the move. The whole process is always so stressing but hopefully rewarding in the end!

  • Reply
    Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 2:55 am

    This looks so dreamy! I can nearly taste the softness of the butter cream just by looking at the pictures!
    Thanks for all your great baking inspirations and amazing pictures!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Yum this cakes looks gorgeous and delicious!!!
    Blonde with a Chanse

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I’m in love with your photos! Thank you for your blog 🙂

  • Reply
    Angela Brown
    Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Really beautiful post. I always find myself staring at stalks of rhubarb at the market and then pass them by — the only thing I ever do with them is toss them in a crisp. I love the idea of a rhubarb buttercream! I bet this tastes wonderful. I’m going to try a batch out this weekend. Thanks for the great post. I’ve really fallen for your site since discovering it these past few months. If you’d like, feel free to pop by my site sometime…I post seasonal recipes and write about mine and my husband’s experiences owning an NYC artisan sandwich company.

  • Reply
    Monday, July 21, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    This cake is lovely, the flavor combinations sound fantastic.

  • Reply
    Jean |
    Monday, July 21, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Gorgeous, Sarah! What kind of flowers did you use? I’ve seen that flower but can’t think of the name.

  • Reply
    Carol at Wild Goose Tea
    Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I am just at the end of a string of compliments that have already been said, but I have to say it myself—–What a positively gorgeous cake! I have a good mind’s eye for design. I was a landscape designer for years. But when it comes to cake decorating, I go blank.
    So it makes me extra impressed. The frosting is beyond description. The flavor combo is quite unique. I am exceptional fond of cardamom.

  • Reply
    Alessandra // the foodie teen
    Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 3:09 am

    I’m in love, it’s absolutely gorgeous! I love roasting rhubarb with cardamom, so I’d definitely love the cardamom cream addition. Gorgeous photos as well!

  • Reply
    Friday, July 18, 2014 at 3:55 am

    This cake looks delicious! Thank you very much for the recipe! I’ll definitely give it a try. Great blog – keep going! 🙂

  • Reply
    Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    This cake is absolutely stunning. Wow. Just wow.

  • Reply
    Laura Jane
    Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    So, I just landed on this blog for the first time, thanks to Pinterest and… oh boy. Oh boy, I’m so thrilled I did. How did I not know about you before?

    I adore the Hesse quote.

    I’ll be coming back, yessiree.

  • Reply
    Janelle |
    Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I love putting rhubarb in everything for the brief period it’s around, and I love this idea! I mean, it’s great with strawberries and all, but that’s been done. This looks unique and delicious!

  • Reply
    Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    What a spectacular cake!! The slightly pink hue is just divine! Congrats on being featured in this amazing group of bakers!! What an honor!

  • Reply
    J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats
    Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    ummmm I just scanned the title and saw buttermilk + rhubarb + cardamom + cake. Sold four times over.

  • Reply
    Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles
    Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    So very pretty. Love the rhubarb buttercream!

  • Reply
    Amanda Paa
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    So so pretty. And so creative. And I ADORE cardamom 🙂

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    what a stunning cake. I love the idea of the rhubarb buttercream!

    • Reply
      jenn courtney
      Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 10:52 am

      3 stars
      Did anyone else’s buttercream turn out crunchy from the granulated sugar?

      • Reply
        Sarah Kieffer
        Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 11:06 am

        Hi Jenn – Sorry you had trouble with this one. If the sugar was crunchy in the buttercream, it wasn’t dissolved all the way when heated with the egg whites. Do you heat the mixture to 160F as directed?

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Looks yummy! I think I might try putting the cardamom in the cake instead of filling and then use a rhubarb cream cheese filling. I LOVE LOVE LOVE cardamom!

  • Reply
    Katie @ Butterlust
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    chocolate cake is delicious, but white (and pink) cakes make for the prettiest of photographs, don’t you think?! And buttermilk + rhubarb combination is perfection!!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Gorgeous cake! The pictures are so beautiful, they have such an elegant and delicate look. 🙂


  • Reply
    erin {yummysupper}
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Sarah, your cake is so GORGEOUS! And the notion of rhubarb buttercream is totally inspired!
    Good luck with your move,

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    This cake looks beautiful! I love the idea of a rhubarb buttercream. Just pinned it!

  • Reply
    sue/the view from great island
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Spectacular! Pinning, sharing, and wishing I had a slice…

  • Reply
    Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 10:49 am

    this is the prettiest cake possibly EVER. rhubarb buttercream! yes and yes! xoxo

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Just gorgeous and I love that rhubarb frosting

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Beautiful cake, love the way your frosting looks, great presentation. How you had time to make this in the midst of moving, I’ll never know. This is amazing! Happy Birthday Saveur!

  • Reply
    Emma Galloway
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 10:04 am

    This combo sounds bloody amazing love!!!!!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I will be preparing this cake within the week – my new life goal!
    One question – for the cardamom cream, there is a “see note” next to the amount of cardamom, but I can’t seem to find the note. Can you share any comments on the amount of cardamom to add (I generally use Penzey’s ground cardamom).


    • Reply
      Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      Thank you Amy! I missed that, and fixed it. I used 2 teaspoons of cardamom; I love a strong flavor. But 1 teaspoon is nice and subtle.

  • Reply
    Brian @ A Thought For Food
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Moving, no matter what the circumstances are, has a little air of sadness surrounding it. There are always the memories… You’ll hold onto the good and soon forget the bad. It’s amazing how the mind works like that.

    This cake is stunning and one that I would just adore. Unlike you, I prefer fruit and bright and tart over chocolate (though I will never turn away a dessert just because it’s chocolate).

    Loved the collaboration with Saveur. Just wonderful.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 8:19 am

    i will never tire of your beautiful cakes, and the dreamy quality of the photos that accompany them. i especially love the rhubarb buttercream here! total genius.

    all the best for your move, i hope it’s a smooth one! xo

  • Reply
    Boozy Epicure
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 7:42 am

    I love the idea of buttermilk cake, and what a beautiful way of using the ample amounts of rhubarb right now. Thanks for the recipe and the lovely photos!

  • Reply
    Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 7:08 am

    What a GORGEOUS cake. And I am in love with the flavors! Best of luck on your move, Sarah!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 5:23 am

    Oh, so beautiful. Just simply breathtaking Sarah xo

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 4:11 am

    this looks sooo beautiful!!

  • Reply
    Melissa@Julia's Bookbag
    Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 1:41 am

    I have never ever ever seen a cake with these kind of ingredients, Sarah! I feel like I stumbled onto a cake made in fairyland……..:)

  • Reply
    molly yeh
    Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    SO FREAKING GORGEOUS, LADY!!!!! i squealed when i saw your cake up there. it is so beautiful and SO YOU! love love love.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    I am normally all about the chocolate cake too, but this I would love to try! It’s just beautiful!!

    Good luck with the rest of the move!

    Oh and happy 20th to Saveur!

  • Reply
    Thalia @ butter and brioche
    Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    this looks soo delicious.. i think im in heaven. definitely saving this recipe to recreate in my kitchen. love the idea of a rhubarb buttercream. beautiful post sarah!

4.67 from 6 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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