Jean’s Rhubarb Bars

Every farm I remember from my childhood had at least a couple of big rhubarb plants in the backyard. Rhubarb used to be called “pie plant” because it makes delicious pies, but it also makes other great desserts from upside down cakes to marmalade. Jean’s rhubarb bars are a good example.

Jerri first had these bars at a funeral luncheon at the New Richmond United Methodist Church. She was so impressed with them that she found who made them and asked for the recipe. Jerri made them, and I loved them too.

However, Jerri has collected a lot of recipes over the years, and since she, like my mother, keeps them in boxes instead of a computer, occasionally a recipe disappears for years. This was the case with Jean’s rhubarb bar recipe. One day a few years ago she announced that she had found it again and would soon make some bars.

Weeks passed. And months. And one beautiful spring day when the rhubarb was beckoning, she discovered that the recipe had vanished once more. A couple of weeks ago when I said that I would really like to make that recipe and share it via the blog, she sat down at the bar with her recipe boxes.

Voilà! The recipe had miraculously reappeared in one of her recipe boxes. The instructions were a little vague but Jerri answered my questions, and the bars were delicious.

Jean died many years ago, but her memory lives with us and her other friends and in her rhubarb bars.


1 package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup flaked or shredded coconut
1/2 cup butter
3 cups fresh rhubarb
1 cup sugar
3 T flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream


Put the cake mix into a large bowl. Stir the coconut into the mix and use a fork or pastry blender to cut in the butter. Make the crust by pressing the mixture into a nine by thirteen inch ungreased cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 350º and sift the sugar, flour and cinnamon into a small bowl.

Wash the rhubarb and cut the stems into a scant half inch dice. Put the rhubarb into a medium mixing bowl. Mix about three-fourths of the sugar mixture into the rhubarb, reserving a quarter cup to finish the bars. Spoon a layer of rhubarb on the crust.

Beat the egg in a small bowl until it is lemon yellow, then beat in a cup of sour cream. Spread the sour cream evenly over the rhubarb and sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture on top.

Bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes until lightly browned.

NOTES: Do not use a cake mix with pudding in it.

Jean noted that you can also make these bars with prepared pie filling. Use only a half cup of sugar with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Put the pie filling on the crust, spread two-thirds of the sugar over the filling, cover it with the sour cream mixture and sprinkle the remaining sugar on top.

Only the stems of the rhubarb plant are edible (though as someone said, “All foods are edible, but some only once”). The leaves contain poisonous compounds including oxalic acid, although a one hundred forty pound human would have to eat more than ten pounds of rhubarb leaves to consume a lethal dose of the toxin. Actually, rhubarb is cultivated by some cultures for its medical value. Traditional Chinese medicine, for instance, uses rhubarb roots as a laxative.

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