A square of dessert bars with chopped rhubarb, decorative toppings and custard on top
Photography, Nickey Miller.

Rhubarb Custard Bars

These sweet and tangy bars are topped with a layer of extra-fluffy cream cheese icing.

Rhubarb is a reliable – and sometimes overlooked or misunderstood – spring garden gem. But we think you should take a second look. With such little effort on our part, rhubarb pops up in early spring and waits for us to make magic with its tangy, citrusy flavour. These Rhubarb Custard Bars do just that. A versatile and buttery shortbread base is layered with rhubarb and a sweet pillowy custard filling, then baked and topped with a fluffy cream cheese icing. This sweet recipe is courtesy of Cake & Loaf Bakery in Hamilton, and they recommend sprinkling pink and white candy pearls (we like these from Michael’s) over the icing for a nice decorative touch.

A square of dessert bars with chopped rhubarb, decorative toppings and custard on top

Rhubarb Custard Bars

A sweet and creamy way to enjoy one of the year's first crops.
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Course cookies, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Canadian
Servings 9 bars


Cream Cheese Icing

  • cups icing sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • cups cream cheese cut into 1-inch cubes, room temperature

Shortbread Base

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter

Custard Filling

  • cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whipping (35%) cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 450 g rhubarb thick stalks halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces (3½ cups)

Extra-Fluffy Cream Cheese Icing

  • ½ cup whipping (35%) cream
  • cups Cream Cheese Icing

To Finish

  • 1 tsp strawberry crisp pearls
  • 1 tsp white chocolate crisp pearls


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with canola oil cooking spray and line it with parchment paper.

Cream Cheese Icing

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter. Starting with the mixer on low speed and slowly increasing to high speed to avoid creating an icing powder storm, mix until combined. Then beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • With the mixer on medium-high speed, add the cream cheese in 3 additions, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition.
  • When the cream cheese has been fully incorporated, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat the icing for just 1 more minute.

Shortbread Base

  • In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Press the shortbread mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the top of the shortbread looks dry but not brown. Allow to cool while you prepare the filling.

Custard Filling

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour until combined. Whisk in the cream until smooth. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Set aside.
  • Evenly spread the rhubarb over the cooled shortbread base. Pour the custard filling over the rhubarb. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the custard is firm and lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature and then cover the pan with beeswax or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours before icing.


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the whipping cream on medium-high speed until it forms stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the whipped cream to a small bowl.
  • Return the bowl to the stand mixer (you don’t need to wipe the bowl or whisk clean). Add the dreamy cream cheese icing to the bowl and whip for2 to 3 minutes on medium-high speed to fluff up the icing. Gently fold the whipped cream into the fluffy icing. Using a small offset palette knife, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cooled bar. Evenly sprinkle the strawberry and white chocolate crisp pearls over the bar.
  • Cut the bars using a warm chef’s knife by dipping it into hot water and drying it on a clean kitchen towel. Wipe the knife between each cut to get nice clean cuts.


These bars can be baked and stored un-iced, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. You can make the cream cheese icing ahead and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month, but don’t fold it with the whipped cream until you are ready to ice and serve the bars. Iced bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

A cookbook cover in a pale frame.

Excerpted from Cake & Loaf Gatherings: Sweet and Savoury Recipes to Celebrate Every Occasion by Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham. Copyright © 2023 Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham. Photography and illustrations by Nickey Miller. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.


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