My grandmother, or “Nonny” as I called her, loved to bake and was known near and far for her fabulous Rum Cake. The cake was the hit of every family gathering and no one ever passed through her kitchen without sneaking a thin slice. She baked the cake well into her eighties; and even when she became too frail to make it herself, my grandfather would stand by her side in the kitchen to lend a hand mixing the batter, unmolding the cake, and pouring the hot rum glaze over top.
My Nonny kept the recipe as a closely guarded secret but when I became interested in cooking, she revealed to me that it was a Duncan Hines cake mix doctored up with instant vanilla pudding, butter, and lots of rum. Who knew?! (It’d be hard to keep the recipe a secret anymore; it’s a pretty well-known recipe that’s all over the Internet). I’ve always wanted to recreate the cake from scratch so I came up with this recipe, which is hardly any more work than the semi-homemade version. My grandmother would probably say it’s not as good as hers, but I think it comes pretty close. 😂
Begin by combining the eggs, egg yolks, rum, vanilla extract and almond extract.
Whisk and set aside.
Combine the flour, sugars, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on low speed to combine.
Add the butter.
Beat for a few minutes until combined.
Add one-third of the liquid ingredients and mix on low to combine.
Increase the speed to medium and beat for two minutes more.
Add another third of the liquid.
Mix on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for two minutes.
Add the remaining liquid.
Beat and scrape as before.
Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt pan.
Bake the cake for 65-75 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
Let the cake cool on a wire rack while you make the glaze.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the sugar and water and bring to a boil; then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes until thickened.
Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.
Using a toothpick or skewer, poke holes all over the bottom of the cake.
Brush or spoon half of the glaze over the cake and let it soak in.
Invert the cake onto the rack. Brush or spoon the remaining glaze over the top and sides of the cake.
Let the cake cool for about an hour before transferring to a serving platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
The cake portion of this recipe is based on a recipe from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri. I changed the process, replaced the all-purpose flour with cake flour, swapped the white rum for dark rum and omitted the almonds. The glaze recipe is from my grandmother.
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For the Cake
- 4 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup dark rum
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2-1/2 cups cake flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with knife, plus 1 tablespoon more for flouring the pan (see note)
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
For the Glaze
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark rum
For the Cake
- Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan with butter. Add a tablespoon of flour to the pan; rotate and shake the pan until it is evenly coated with flour, then tap out any excess flour over the sink.
- Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, rum, vanilla extract and almond extract in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Place the cake flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to combine. Add the butter and beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, or until the ingredients are well combined.
- Add one-third of the liquid ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add another third of the liquid and mix on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for two minutes, then stop the mixer and scrape again. Add the remaining liquid and beat and scrape as before.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 65-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted halfway between the central tube and side of the pan comes out clean.
- Cool the cake on a rack for ten minutes.
- While the cake cools, make the glaze. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.
- Using a toothpick or thin skewer, poke holes all over the bottom of the cake about 1/2-inch apart, going about 3/4 of the way down (you will feel like you are butchering the cake; don't worry, it will be fine). Brush half of the glaze over the cake and let it soak in. If the glaze pools on the surface, poke more holes to help it sink in. Invert the cake onto the rack. For easy clean-up, slide a piece of foil or parchment under the rack. Gradually brush the remaining glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake, letting it soak in as you go. (Go slowly so that the glaze gets absorbed, rather than drips off the sides.) Let sit for at least one hour before carefully transferring the cake to a platter for serving. Dust the top of the cake with confectioners' sugar, if desired.
- Note: It's important to use cake flour in this recipe. All-purpose flour will make the cake dry and dense.