The Big Dress Rehearsal

Rhubarb The Dress Rehearsal

ever constant, she waited

in the wings

enduring years of performances

successes and failures

missed lines



through it all, she was there

the understudy

ingenuously taking it all in

riveted.. and waiting for

her chance to


as a small child she was

the star

delighting all who were content

just to be near…

that was



time and circumstance

intervened.. set the stage for

the cast and characters to change

and the show must

go on

unwavering belief

the dogged biding of time

and a lifetime of


had brought her


to this moment of

stepping out from behind curtains

under the full glare of

stage lights

where her life’s consummate masterpiece

is finally


Barbara Bamber, 2012

 Whew! It was a BIG WEEKEND full of BIG SURPRISES!! I lost my place TWICE during concert rehearsal and much panic and flurry of pages ensued. It was almost impossible to bow with shaking hands… but the Concert went off without a hitch! I guess that’s why we have rehearsals!

But the BIGGEST SURPRISE of all, was that my cousin and her husband drove to Calgary to visit us this past weekend! It’s been… well.. let’s just say, too many years to count since we last saw each other. That’s my brother Mike on the left.. me in the middle and Marilee on the right…

You all have to know she is my Firstest and Bestest cousin and I’m her BIGGEST FAN.. always have been, always will be. I recognized her voice the instant we connected by phone, the infectious laughter and sweet voice were unmistakably hers. As a child, Marilee sang on Popcorn Playhouse and sang a solo for the CBC Canadian Centennial Children’s Concert. She’s an artist, award winning gardener and my rock star!! We have so much in common.. and just being together took me back to my childhood. I was great to feel like a kid again!

Adorable Cousin Marilee and husband George… WE ♥ YOU!!

So.. about this RHUBARB “BIG CRUMB” COFFEE CAKE that I couldn’t wait to make for our concert.  I finally spied gorgeous, thick stems of BIG RHUBARB at the market! I had an absolutely crazy schedule this week, so stumbled out of bed around 6 am on Thursday to get this baby into the oven.

Then I chucked it into the freezer, thawed it out on the weekend, then went to slice it for the concert.. aaannndd the center was raw… Yeah, pretty much just a BIG MESS. Thankfully, my awesome husband came to the rescue by picking up a few emergency Crave Cupcakes on his way to the concert.

My mom suggested I just microwave it, but I had the time, so I just threw it back in the oven and…  it actually finished baking! I’m not sure if doubling the recipe was the problem.. or using Cake Flour? But I know I followed the recipe, right down to the last teaspoon. “Smitten Kitchen” had used all-purpose flour… and I got to thinking that might be a “sturdier” flour to use next time.

I also found that this recipe made a massive BIG BOWL of BIG CRUMB TOPPING, just thinking about that much sugar gave me a headache!! So I tucked some away for another recipe and another day.. maybe the birthday cake I’m making for Sharon.. hmmm…


Rhubarb Big Crumb Coffee Cake
Cook time
Total time
For the rhubarb filling:
  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
For the crumbs:
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour
For the cake:
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.
  2. *It’s important to follow these next steps in order to attain a Big Crumb: In a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.
  3. To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.
  4. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.
  5. Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake (I saved about 1/3 of the crumb topping for another dish.) Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. If you’re uncertain, take two forks and gently “pry” the cake apart in the middle to ensure it is fully cooked.
  6. Cool completely before serving.
From the New York Times


  • This looks delicious! While I feel your pain when you discovered the cake wasn’t cooked through; it’s nice to know I’m not the only one these things happen to! ReplyCancel

    • Hahaha.. Yes.. You’re not the only one:) My mom was the smart one, I would have chucked it out!!


  • I’m glad that re-baking saved the day. I made a tangerine cake over the weekend (aka “Scary Cake”) on someone’s request: it rose beautifully and then fell like a fallen souffle. I called it tangerine pudding and served it with a spoon.ReplyCancel

    • Sharyn.. That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard yet.. Just renaming it and serving it up saves the day. Although I’m not sure anyone would eat raw cake dough. Will you be posting your Scary Cake? Look forward to it!


      • “Scary Cake” made its debut some time ago. You probably read it at the time. I think it was in January or February.ReplyCancel

  • I’ve sooooo been there too. The important thing is that the concert went off without a hitch! Congrats Barb. So pleased your bestest cousin popped by for a visit on your special weekend.ReplyCancel

  • Looks totally nummy and congrats on such a special weekend 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Congratulations on your successful concert and suprise guests! What a wonderful weekend! (And so glad your coffee cake was saved – that would’ve been a tragedy had it not been!) (Again, a little crazy with tthe exclamation points.ReplyCancel

  • Congratulations on the success of your weekend Smidge!ReplyCancel

  • Your berry desserts are always so wonderfully done. And I bet you were the only one that noticed you missing a beat.ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous

    and you are my shining star cuz! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoReplyCancel

  • Brava! What a fantastic weekend you had! How wonderful that your cousin came to see your performance. Truly, that something only one’s “Firstest and Bestest cousin” would do. Congratulations on your performance, Barb, and I hope you two cousins don’t have to wait so long before your next visit.ReplyCancel

    • Thanks so much, John! It definitely won’t take as long this time.. It was just the best to see her!! They recorded and videotaped.. So I’ll likely post the performance… The one where I didn’t mess up:D


  • Congratulations on the concert! The coffee cake looks UH-MAZING despite the troubles it caused you – I am a total sucker for rhubarb and crumbs 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Well done on a successful concert and I’m really happy for you that you got to see someone you love so much. Good thing the cake finished baking 🙂ReplyCancel

  • I’m so pleased the concert went well. Where is the audio for this post??? And how fabulous that your cousin drove to Calgary to be with you. What a wonderful weekend you must have had. Love the gorgeous photo! And the cake looks fabulous. I’d never known it was ‘twice cooked’ – a bit like the confit duck I just posted! xxReplyCancel

    • Well.. It’s on it’s way! The recording has my “missing pages” errors on it.. But the video of the actual concert should be good.. I’ll be posting when we get our copies:) It should be hilarious seeing myself play!! Yes.. I should have named it Twice-Cooked Cake!! Or Too-Baked Cake, lol!


  • This looks fantastic! I am glad your concert went well. 🙂
    Have you ever tried oatmeal instead of cornstarch? I added it to my last rhubarb pie and it turned out great!ReplyCancel

    • No!!! But I’m def going to next time! I love oatmeal, plus it’s healthier and it makes sense that it would pull things together better!! Thanks, Susie!!


  • Congratulations on your concert, Smidge! And what joy to share the weekend with your dear cousin. Such treasure to have each other in your corners. That crumb cake is making my mouth water. That and a glass of milk would be just the thing to put me to bed right now. And get me out of bed in the morning.ReplyCancel

  • Your coffee cake looks totally delicious and delicate. You are the queen of desserts!ReplyCancel

    • Sorry about my spastic computer – what I was saying was congrats on such a successful concert 😀
      I am so glad your favourite cousin could be there as well!
      As for this cake – when god gives fresh rhubarb you cannot ignore it 😉

      Choc Chip UruReplyCancel

      • Hahaha.. No prob.. I knew what you meant, but I thought it was the cool, young hip way to say congrats, lol!


  • My goodness baking and a concert. So so pleased it all went beautifully. Oh and I love the name of the is “Big Crumb”, I can assure you big or otherwise there would be no crumbs left on my plate 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Congratulations on a great concert – bet you were the only one who noticed the missed beat. How special to see your cousin and well done on getting the cake/crumble baked.
    🙂 MandyReplyCancel

    • I certainly hope so. Def the conductor did.. But if I was quiet enough, you couldn’t hear the pages madly turning when I looked for my spot!!


  • So pleased for you Smidge, what a lovely weekend, near-cake-disaster and all!ReplyCancel

  • RHUBARB – wonderful ….. when my mum was pregnant with me was she craving for raw rhubarbs – so I think I got my addiction from there. Wonderful photos. Glad that the concert went well and you got nice surprises. A great weekend is never wrong.ReplyCancel

  • What an amazing week you´ve had – so glad they everything turned out fine int he end (the music, the visit, the crumble!). And save me some of that crumble topping – I don´t mind whatever is underneath but I adore the topping!ReplyCancel

  • I am so glad the concert went off well hon. Stunning shots as usual and now I am hungry again. Shame on you! LOL! One of these days you will find me on your doorstep, screaming : “Feed me, Feed me!” Whahahahaha!
    *big hugs*ReplyCancel

  • sounds like quite a tumultuous time…good to know you can stick something back in the oven after freezing it…and refreshing to hear how good cooks recover from disasters…:)ReplyCancel

    • It’s weird how that worked. I would have thought the ingredients to make it rise wouldn’t “activate”.. But that would be a scientific question…


  • That looks delicious, and you made it work in the end! Which I think always gives you an extra sense of accomplishment, even after a few stressful moments in the kitchen :). It does look pretty ‘cakey’ though so something that would take a while to bake through!ReplyCancel

  • I never met a big crumb I didn’t love!ReplyCancel

  • So pleased for you that your concert went so well and for the reunion with your cousin! I have family like that, it takes me back to precious memories when we are together. 🙂 Your RHUBARB “BIG CRUMB” COFFEE CAKE looks delightful, amazing that it finished baking, that is a rare thing. Crumb topping freezes well, now all you have to do is plan how to use it — shucks, right?! 😉ReplyCancel

  • Oh, noooo, once again I didn’t catch your concert on time!!!!! 🙂
    Congratulations dear Barbara… I really wished to be there and to watch and to listen to this concert… Maybe someone loaded to Youtube, please let me know…
    How nice meeting with your cousin and her husband… I can imagine how great for you all… I loved this little Barbara, she seems so lovely and so busy… 🙂 doesn’t look at the camera…
    And my amazing friend, what a delicious recipe again… I want to taste it now… 🙂 Is there any left?

    Thank you, have a nice and enjoyable day,
    with my love, niaReplyCancel

    • No worries nia.. They videotaped it, so I’ll post it for you.. Or a portion of it anyway:) It was the best concert ever, nia.. I loved ever minute, even though I was nervous. And I’m learning to get over disappointment like with the cake.. And not be upset that it wasn’t “perfect”… Xo Smidge


  • What a wonderful surprise that your cousin drove all the way just to see you! And that your concert went off without a hitch is great news, even though there was a teeny tiny little blip in the rehearsal…but as you said, that is just what rehearsals are for.
    Well, even though it was raw in the centre, the final outcome looked amazing and probably much appreciated, after all. And with the weather you’ve been having in Calgary, it was probably fantastic right out of the oven, hot and steamy!ReplyCancel

    • You’re right, Eva.. It was great out of the oven. I wanted to give some away since we had so much, but my son wouldn’t let me.. He loves this cake:) Our weather has finally turned.. Sunny for two whole days!! Yay!!


  • I’m so glad to hear that your concert went off without a hitch, Smidge, and you’re right, the purpose of rehearsals! And I am very close to my three cousins–the two “boys” are probably closer to my brother, and my one female cousin and I were practically raised like sisters. I love her to bits! And she’s my cheerleader, as I hope I am hers. So I’m so glad you had their interest and support and love for your big event. Wonderful! And my dad has been ill and would enjoy this recipe immensely. I now that rhubarb pie is one of his favorites, so this is way beyond that in my mind! He loves rhubarb, and I love anything that has “big crumb” in the title! I’m clearly going to print this one out! Maybe make it for him this weekend. 🙂 DebraReplyCancel

    • I hope he likes it Debra.. Check out Smitten Kitchen for extra photos of the different steps? I think it’s great that you would bake that for your Dad. I hope he feels better soon?! You got me thinking.. Because I was an only girl, having a female cousin was absolutely like having a sister:) xo Smidge


  • Yay for concerts without glitches! Bravo, Smidge! I wish I could have seen and heard it.

    Your poem is sooooo dramatic and wonderful. I just love it. I could feel my heart race a little while I was reading it. In a good way of course. I relate to what you wrote about I guess, and it brings back memories. So happy your concert was a success!

    Oh dear, I’m gonna have to hide Hubby from this post until the weekend somehow. One look at the Rhubarb Coffee Cake and he’ll want it pronto. I have to get a few things done before then though. Thank you for sharing your gorgeous photos and the recipe. The picture of the “mini” you and your family is adorable!

    Have a great week Smidge!ReplyCancel

    • Hahaha, thanks, Sarah!! Believe me, my heart was racing and not in a good way. I felt sick after the recording/rehearsal.. But that actually motivated me to prove I could do it the next day… So all went well! I look forward to seeing what you have baking in your kitchen!! Xo Smidge


  • Cooked or not cooked… I probably still would have stuffed my face. It looks delicious!ReplyCancel

  • Delicious, Smidge! I keep crumb topping in the freezer – makes it easy to pull out an instant dessert. And I’m so pleased to hear the concert went well! As an orchestra mum (Big Boy plays French horn and Small Man plays the trumpet), I understand (vicariously, of course) all the build up that goes into the big performances. Enjoy having your family there! 🙂 xx
    PS. Clever lady, how did you get your system to default so that “notify me of comments” box isn’t automatically checked? Yours is the only blog I visit that seems to have managed to do so!ReplyCancel

    • Well.. You’re right about the build up. There’s an incredible amount of time that goes into practicing for these events! You know, I’ve discovered if I’ve unclicked a blog’s “notify me of comments” box… It stays unclicked forever after!! So you must have “unclicked” me already!! Xo Smidge


  • So glad the concert went well (I had no doubts) and what a wonderful surprise to have a visit from your cousin! It sounds like a great weekend. This rhubarb cake looks divine!ReplyCancel

  • Congrats! You deserve all the best!ReplyCancel

  • You are a STAR!!! hope you had tons of fun! because you are such a talented woman and a good cook to boot> I BET there are not many musicians who are also great cooks! Bet you! cReplyCancel

    • celi.. You make me feel like a star!!! Thanks for your kind words and support!! I bet you’re right;) xo Smidge


  • All’s well that ends well, including your crumb, which judging from the picture, I would have never guessed had a problem! Glad your weekend was a good one!ReplyCancel

    • Now that’s a line I should have used.. Yes, all’s well that ends well.. But we have a performance in Medicine Hat at the end of the month.. So the practicing continues;)


  • Very pleased for you that the concert went off without a hitch – well done. Waving from Ireland and *applauding loudly*.ReplyCancel

  • Dear Barbara, you are so nice. Thank you for your nice words on my emotional poem post. I can’t find a word to express how you made me happy… But you don’t know anything behind these poetical words…Not as you supposed… so tragic and unbelievable… I had a mother but also I hadn’t… Maybe in my poem I wrote to a mother in my dreams… My real Mom never wanted me and loved me. Can you imagine how hit me in times… Sorry for dropping here, but I wanted to share with you, how I wished all your words would be as you felt or thought… You are so nice and I love you dear Barbara, with you creative works, recipes, and with your music that even I haven’t heard it yet, 🙂 but more than all, with your beautiful heart… Blessing and Happiness, with my love, niaReplyCancel

    • Your mom must have had so many problems.. And perhaps this has somehow made you the more loving one:) No one has a bigger heart than you, nia…xoxo Barb


      • Thank you dear Barbara, my grandmother always found me incredible in this family… I was almost different. But as you said the God wanted me to be like that maybe… Means a lot your words to me dearest. Love, niaReplyCancel

  • Beautiful post! One of your all-time best!ReplyCancel

  • This LOOKS fabulous Barb. I am so glad it eventually worked out for you. Personally, I don’t believe the cake flour had anything to do with it. Not sure if freezing it did thought. Hmmmm. So sweet of your hubby to come to your rescue.

    The poem is just beautiful as usual. Your talent in so many arenas just astounds me. What an amazing woman you are!ReplyCancel

    • It’s good to get your input.. Then it just must not have been cooked through when I took it out..

      Thanks so much, Geni!! xoxo


  • Congratulations – sound like you have been having a wonderful time! I have sometimes done the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall thing with crumble mix where he spreads it out on a tray and bakes it, tossing and turning it a couple of times while it browns and crisps. Then he puts it in a tub in the fridge and uses it through the week on other desserts, yoghurt etc. Worked for me 🙂ReplyCancel

  • So glad you had a nice surprise, Smidge. What a wonderful reunion.
    That crumble looks wonderful…ReplyCancel

  • What a grand cake. Rhubarb has just hit the shelves of our farm stands so your recipe comes at a great time and will shortly be moving from your kitchen to mine. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary.ReplyCancel

  • Your crumble looks delicious.ReplyCancel

  • Congratulations on the concert! Were you nervous? Maybe it helped having some special loved ones join you on your event. If you would not have mentioned us that your crumble with a little less cooked no one would have even noticed. Just tell them you planned it that way so that it was hot out of the oven…ReplyCancel

  • I’d love to see you in concernt Smidge! If I could wish for a talent it would be to play an instrument well. My lack luster attempts at the guitar and piano never quite caught on. Haha!
    The crumble looks mouth watering delicious and I agree with Rufus, your berry desserts are so wonderfully done, as is everything you post! Delicious wishes for a beautiful week.ReplyCancel

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