Strawberry Rhubarb Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

I love the strawberry and rhubarb combination. Love it. However, I hadn’t had it in years. In fact, until recently I’d only had it a few times in my life at all! I never had rhubarb growing up, and didn’t even know what it looked like until I moved to the UK right after graduating college. C and I were living about a mile from his parents during that time, and we would visit them every other Sunday for dinner. His mom cooked the traditional English Sunday dinner, including meat of some sort (a roast, usually), vegetables (brussel sprouts and carrots were some of my favorites!), and potatoes prepared in at least two ways (boiled, roasted, mashed, you name it). In addition, she always made dessert, again usually something traditionally English. I got to try so many things that I’d never had before, some of which I’d never even heard of! My favorites, though, were her rice pudding (I still to this day cannot replicate it; she bakes it, and it is not the usual creamy substance that you think of when you consider rice pudding. It is more….solid?…and you can serve it with some milk or cream poured over it; no matter how many times I make it, it never comes out like hers!) and her rhubarb crumble. So, so good. I raved about it so much, in fact, that she bought me rhubarb for myself and taught me how to prepare it (and not to eat the leaves…those are poisonous, you know!).

Annnnnnyway. I started tweeting about finding rhubarb locally a few weeks ago, and got into a Twitter conversation about it with Terri (@lovenconfection), Angie (@bigbearswife), and Christine (@CookTheStory). I finally packed H into the car and headed to Whole Foods a few days later in search of some. I’d come up with a recipe idea and I was determined to try it out. Lo and behold, I found rhubarb at Whole Foods! Woohoo! But folks…that stuff was not cheap! I was surprised at how heavy it was when it came to pay for it, but luckily I bought the perfect amount for my dozen cupcakes and the topping.

I wanted to combine rhubarb and strawberry for the traditional aspect of the flavors, but instead of a crumble decided to create a cupcake. Even though rhubarb is fairly tart on its own, I felt like the addition of lemon to the dessert would make it even better (and in my opinion, it totally did!). The cake part of this cupcake is very dense; I wanted it to be able to hold up to the chunks of strawberry and rhubarb throughout without falling apart when you take a bite. If you prefer a lighter cake, you could easily substitute your favorite yellow or lemon cake recipe and just stir in the fruit at the end. There is lemon juice and zest in the cake itself, and then it is topped with a simple but delicious lemon buttercream frosting. I left a hole in the center of the frosting, though, so that I could add an extra touch and top the cupcakes with a strawberry rhubarb compote. It just adds that extra tang and cuts through the sugar in the buttercream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream & Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
1 cup rhubarb, diced
1 cup strawberries, diced
zest of one lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the lemon buttercream:

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter, softened
zest and juice of two lemons
yellow food coloring (optional)

For the compote:

1 cup strawberries, diced
1 cup rhubarb, diced
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp powdered sugar


For the cupcakes:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put liners into cupcake pan.
2. In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt, and the baking powder. Stir with a fork to aerate and break up any lumps.
3. In a separate bowl, using a mixer on medium low speed, cream the butter and sugar until combined and lightened in color.
4. Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined.
5. Add the sour cream and mix just until no more white streaks show.
6. Gradually add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until fully combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl if needed.
7. Mix in the lemon zest and juice.
8. In another small bowl (or the same one you mixed the flour in!), stir the diced strawberries and rhubarb with the remaining 2 tbsp of flour. This will help keep the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the cupcakes while baking.
9. Stir in the fruit by hand.
10. Divide the batter evenly in the lined cupcake pan.
11. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

For the lemon buttercream:

1. Using an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed, cream the butter until lightened in color, about two minutes.
2. Gradually add the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly with each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
3. Mix in the lemon zest and juice.
4. If desired, add yellow food coloring (I used 8 drops of yellow gel coloring).
Note: If the frosting is too thick for your liking, you can add a tablespoon or two of whole milk to thin it out.

For the compote:

1. In a medium saucepan on medium low heat, combine the diced fruit, water, and powdered sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Heat until the mixture is thickened and has reached your desired consistency, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Cool at room temperature and then store in the refrigerator until used.

Note: When decorating the cupcakes, I used a large star tip to pipe two circles of frosting on each cupcake, then stored them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours so that the frosting would firm up before spooning the compote into the center.

These cupcakes seriously scream summer to me, and I hope you enjoy them as much as we did at our house!