Rhubarb Dream Bars Recipe: Perfect Tart and Sweet Dessert

Rhubarb Dream Bars Recipe: Perfect Tart and Sweet Dessert

Rhubarb Dream Bars combine rhubarb’s tartness, sweet custard, and buttery shortbread. They feature three main layers: a crisp shortbread crust, a rich rhubarb custard filling, and a delicate topping. These bars offer a versatile dessert option, pleasing both tangy and sweet flavor enthusiasts. You can enjoy them at any time of the year, but they’re particularly popular during rhubarb season.

The Origin of Rhubarb Dream Bars

The exact origin of Rhubarb Dream Bars is unclear, but rhubarb’s culinary history is extensive. Rhubarb has been used in dishes since ancient Chinese medicine and became a popular ingredient in European desserts by the 18th century. These bars likely emerged as a way to use rhubarb in a modern, accessible dessert. Today, Rhubarb Dream Bars are a beloved treat in various parts of the world, celebrated for their unique flavor and simplicity.

Key Ingredients for Rhubarb Dream Bars

The Role of Rhubarb in the Recipe

Rhubarb forms the core of Rhubarb Dream Bars, providing a tart and tangy flavor that contrasts beautifully with the sweetness of the custard. Rhubarb’s unique texture holds up well during baking, ensuring chunks of tartness in each bite. Choose fresh rhubarb stalks to enhance the dessert’s vibrant taste and visual appeal. Rhubarb’s acidity also helps balance the overall flavor profile, making the bars delightful and refreshing.

  1. Flour: Flour gives structure to both the shortbread crust and the custard filling, ensuring a firm base and stable texture. Use all-purpose flour for optimal results.
  2. Butter: Butter adds richness and flavor to the crust. It ensures a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Unsalted butter’s best for controlling the dessert’s overall saltiness.
  3. Sugar: Sugar sweetens the custard filling, counterbalancing rhubarb’s tartness. It also aids in the crust’s browning and crispness.
  4. Eggs: Eggs act as a binding agent in the custard filling, providing structure and a creamy texture. They help the filling set properly during baking.
  5. Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract enhances the overall flavor of the custard, adding a layer of aromatic sweetness.
  6. Salt: A small amount of salt accentuates the flavors of other ingredients and prevents the dessert from tasting overly sweet.

Use these ingredients in precise amounts and balances to achieve a perfect Rhubarb Dream Bars dessert.

Step-by-Step Recipe for Making Rhubarb Dream Bars

Preparing the Rhubarb

Start by selecting fresh rhubarb stalks for the best flavor and texture. Wash the stalks thoroughly under cold water to remove any dirt. Trim off the ends and any leaves, as rhubarb leaves are toxic. Cut the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces. For the best results, you should use approximately 2 cups of chopped rhubarb.

Assembling the Layers

Create the shortbread crust by combining 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup of softened butter in a bowl. Mix until a crumbly dough forms. Press this mixture evenly into the bottom of a greased 9×9-inch baking pan.

For the custard layer, whisk together 1 cup of granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Continue until smooth. Gently fold in the prepared rhubarb pieces, ensuring they’re evenly distributed. Pour this mixture over the shortbread crust.

Baking and Cooling Tips

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the assembled pan in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top appears golden and the custard is set. Check doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center; it should come out clean if the bars are done.

Once baked, set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Cooling is essential for the bars to firm up and for the flavors to meld. After cooling, slice into squares and serve.

Serving and Storing Rhubarb Dream Bars

Best Practices for Serving

Serve Rhubarb Dream Bars chilled for the best flavor. For clean cuts, use a sharp knife, wiping it clean after each slice. These bars complement a variety of beverages like tea or coffee. If you’re hosting, arrange the bars on a decorative tray with garnishes like mint leaves for added presentation. Serve immediately after cutting to maintain the texture and freshness.

Tips on Storing and Shelf Life

Store Rhubarb Dream Bars in an airtight container to keep them fresh. Refrigerate the bars to extend their shelf life, ensuring they stay good for up to one week. For longer storage, freeze the bars by wrapping them individually in plastic wrap, then placing them in a freezer-safe bag; they’ll last for up to three months. Thaw frozen bars in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Keep the bars from prolonged exposure to room temperature to prevent them from becoming soggy.

Customizing Your Rhubarb Dream Bars

Variations and Flavor Tweaks

Enhance your Rhubarb Dream Bars by experimenting with different flavors. You can add citrus zest, like lemon or orange, to the custard for a tangier bite. Incorporate spices such as cinnamon or cardamom into the shortbread base for a warm, aromatic profile. Substitute half the rhubarb with strawberries or raspberries to create a mixed berry version, adding extra sweetness and vibrant color. For a richer texture, consider mixing in shredded coconut or chopped nuts into the shortbread crust.

Dietary Adjustments

Modify your recipe to suit various dietary needs. Use gluten-free flour blends to make the shortbread base if you need a gluten-free option. Replace butter with dairy-free margarine or coconut oil for lactose-free alternatives. Use a flax or chia seed mixture as an egg substitute; blend 1 tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water per egg. For a lower sugar version, reduce the sugar by one-third and add a bit more vanilla extract to maintain the flavor balance.


Rhubarb Dream Bars offer a delightful blend of tart and sweet, perfect for any dessert lover. With their buttery shortbread base and rich custard topping, they promise a satisfying treat that’s both unique and versatile. Whether you’re looking to impress guests or simply enjoy a delicious homemade dessert, these bars are a fantastic choice.

Experiment with flavors and dietary adjustments to make them your own. Store them properly to ensure they stay fresh and tasty. Enjoy them chilled with your favorite beverage for a truly dreamy experience.

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