Recipe: Elderberry, Rhubarb and Cinnamon Tea Cake

When elderberries begin to ripen, Kristina Jensen knows it’s time to get baking. 

Words and photos: Kristina Jensen

Weka might seem to some rather dull and uninteresting birds when compared to say, a kiwi with its unique bill and nocturnal habits, or a tūī with its resplendent plumage but once you spend a bit of time with these iconic denizens of the New Zealand undergrowth, you will discover that weka are anything but dull.

As fellow foragers, certain qualities stand out for me. Weka are highly intelligent and can very quickly observe and follow human routines.

They are also opportunistic, crafty and downright shifty (we call them the Mafia of the New Zealand bird world). So I am not surprised when, at this time of the year, I find one or two shadowing me when I set out with my red bucket and secateurs to gather elderberries.

Weka are amazing seed dispersers so at the risk of offending those who feel that the elderberry bush is a pest plant in New Zealand, I am more than happy to see them heading off into the bushes with a stalk of elderberries. I know there will be another tree or two popping up for me to harvest in a few years time.

Elderberries ripen at exactly the time of the year when my husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary and seeing as every few years we create a new cake recipe using mid-summer produce, we simply had to try elderberries. This one has become a fast favourite and will hopefully become one of yours too.

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Elderberry, Rhubarb and Cinnamon Tea Cake


100g softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
3 large eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt, sour cream or thick coconut cream
2 cups white flour (or 1 ¾ cup gluten free flour)
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
2 cups of rhubarb cut into small pieces
¾ cup elderberries (frozen is best so they don’t lose their shape)

Lemon drizzle:
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 lemon, juiced
icing sugar


Preheat oven to 180ºC. Grease a 24cm cake tin with butter and dust with flour.

Cream the butter and sugar with the vanilla essence. Add the eggs and yogurt/sour cream or coconut cream and mix well.

Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and then fold into the wet mix with the rhubarb and elderberries. Carefully use a spatula to transfer the cake mix into the tin, smoothing out the top. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 20-30 minutes, then transfer to a cake rack to finish cooling.

To make the lemon drizzle, combine melted butter and lemon juice. Mix with just enough icing sugar to make a runny drizzle, and pour all over the cake.

Serve with cream, ice cream or coconut yogurt and/or extra stewed rhubarb.


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