Shortbread squares with rhubarb curd are a fresh-coast iteration of a coastal grandmother classic. Grab this month’s On The Table recipe below.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our magazine library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

When I moved home to Michigan, my dad potted up all of the rhubarb plants in his garden and hauled them to our farmhouse. It was a housewarming present of sorts—my childhood rhubarb at a time when he and my mom were simplifying. My husband popped them in the ground that first growing season and we treated them like newborn babies—checking on them often and tending to their every need. The second summer we simply let them grow—gardening experts recommend waiting three or four growing seasons to harvest transplanted rhubarb stalks. This spring, as these hardy members of the buckwheat family shot through the earth, I laughed at the era of letting them establish themselves. My 11 childhood plants are far happier on the sunny slope where Dan planted them than they ever were during my youth. With leaves the size of small umbrellas and firm, beet-red stalks, we now have more rhubarb than I can use, and I’m always looking for creative things to do with it.

Rhubarb curd squares on a sheet

Photo by Sarah Peschel

Those who cook with rhubarb know that it is bracingly tart, much like lemon. I recently asked myself, “What do I make with lemon that I could instead be making with rhubarb?” Curd came to mind. When I was in college, my grandma used to send me lemon bars in the mail. While she spent most of her life in Michigan, she was living in Charleston at the time and was so very “coastal grandmother,” before coastal grandmothers were a thing. I grabbed her recipe (yes, handwritten on a splattered index card) and used it to inspire these rhubarb bites. This May, let’s make fresh coastal grandmother a thing by offering these at the next soccer tournament tailgate, for teacher appreciation week or that choir concert bake sale.

Rhubarb Curd Squares Recipe

Makes 16 2-inch bites


  • 1 pound rhubarb, about 7 to 10 stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups unsweetened 100 percent cranberry juice
  • 2 sticks unsalted room-temperature butter, separated
  • 3⁄4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • a few pinches of salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • confectioners sugar for dusting
Rhubarb curd squares with milk and powdered sugar

Photo by Sarah Peschel

Rhubarb Curd Squares Directions

1. Place rhubarb and cranberry juice into a non-reactive saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce heat to simmer, allowing it to cook until the rhubarb is stringy and no longer resembles individual chopped pieces, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to continue steeping, uncovered, as it cools to room temperature.

2. While the rhubarb mixture cools, make the shortbread. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and use 1 Tablespoon of butter to generously grease an 8-inch square baking dish. In a mixer, cream together 1 stick of room temperature butter and 1⁄4 cup of sugar, beating at high speed for 1 minute, until light in color and whipped. Working in batches at low speed and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, fold in the flour and salt, mixing until the dough resembles gravel. Create a ball with the dough, then use your fist and fingers to press it into an even layer that covers the bottom of the pan. Bake on the center rack for 20 minutes, until golden brown at the edges.

3. While the shortbread bakes, use a blender or immersion blender to puree the rhubarb mixture. Pour it into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing the puree with a spatula to release as much juice as possible. Wipe out the saucepan in which it simmered with a paper towel, return the strained pink liquid to the pan, and discard the solid portion of the puree. Bring the rhubarb juice back to a simmer. Keeping a watchful eye so that it doesn’t over-reduce, let it cook over low heat, uncovered, until the liquid measures a 1⁄2 cup. Remove from the heat.

Rhubarb curd squares

Photo by Sarah Peschel

4. Break the eggs into a small bowl and whisk them until combined and frothy. Place a few inches of water into a saucepan and cover with the metal bowl of a double boiler. Bring the water under the bowl to a simmer. Working over low heat, slip the eggs into the warm bowl and add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, whisking constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is glossy. Add the 1⁄2 cup of rhubarb concentrate and continue whisking for a few minutes, until the mixture is foaming and beginning to thicken. Remove from the heat and add 7 Tablespoons of butter, whisking again until the butter is fully incorporated and curd is the consistency of runny baked Brie. Fold in the cardamom.

5. Pour the curd over the par-baked shortbread and bake again at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow it to cool completely before cutting into 16 2-inch squares. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Stacey Brugeman is a 20-year food and beverage journalist. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Sarah Peschel, @22speschel, is a stylist and photographer with an appreciation for all things local agriculture, food and drink.

Photo(s) by Sarah Peschel