Rum cakes are a very grown up treat that is sure to please guests at any party. These desserts usually start as buttery, pound cake-like cakes that are thoroughly soaked in a rum syrup, making the cake very moist and very flavorful. Whether you’re already a fan of rum cakes or want to make your first one, this Classic Rum Cake recipe is a great place to start.
My recipe starts with a soft, dense bundt cake base. The cake batter is flavored with quite a bit of rum and a splash of vanilla. Most rum is distilled from molasses and many brands have sweet vanilla, sugar and spice notes to them. While you may get a hint of the alcohol in this cake (all of the alcohol is cooked, but I still would keep this dessert for adults only), you’re mostly going to find it loaded with vanilla and caramelized sugar flavors. The cake itself is tender and soft, with a dense crumb. It is good on its own, but even better after it has been soaked in rum syrup.
The syrup used to soak this cake is made with rum, butter and sugar. Though the ingredients are the same, it is too thin to feel like a real caramel sauce. It is, however, thick enough that it has time to soak into the cake without simply pouring off the sides of the bundt. You still need to apply the syrup very slowly for best results and I recommend brushing it on (generously) with a pastry brush instead of trying to pour it on.
Once the cake is soaked, allow it to cool to room temperature and store it in an airtight container. The cake will be even more delicious a day after baking, when the flavors have time to mellow and blend together. It keeps very well, but you’ll probably find that it gets eaten up very quickly once you start to serve it.
What Rum Should You Use in (This) Rum Cake?
When it comes to basic functionality, any rum can be used in this cake because the flavors and brands of rum do not have much of an impact on the texture of the cake. But when it comes to flavor, it is a different story. Inexpensive white rums can have an astringent flavor without much richness or complexity (i.e. they don’t taste good on their own) and you don’t want to use them in this cake to get the most delicious results. Instead, you want to use a dark/aged rum that has a stronger molasses flavor and more complexity to it.
How will you know if the rum is a good choice? Taste the rum to get a feel for the flavor! There are a huge number of brands out there, so I don’t just want to give you a list of rums and limit your options. That being said, you don’t need to use a super expensive rum in this cake (though you can if you want to!). If you are setting out to buy a bottle of rum just to make this cake, I have had good results with Zaya Rum (a vanilla-heavy rum), Meyer’s Dark, Appleton Signature and Plantation Dark (I’ve used quite a few Plantation rums, actually). A good rum can be used to make excellent daiquiris if you end up with any rum leftover – and it can also be used for another batch of cake.
Classic Rum Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (pref. whole)
1/2 cup dark rum
1/4 cup butter
1 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup dark rum
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9- or 10-inch bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in vegetable oil and vanilla. Stir in one third of the flour mixture, followed by the milk. Stir in another third of the flour mixture, followed by the rum, then stir in the remaining flour and mix until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
As the cake bakes, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, combine butter, sugar and water. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and carefully stir in rum.
When the cake comes out of the oven, use a skewer, cake tester or meat thermometer to poke deep holes all over the cake. Using a pastry brush or drizzling very slowly, soak about 1/3 of the rum syrup into the cake. Let cake sit in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Use the skewer/cake tester/thermometer to poke more deep holes all over the cake, then continue to brush the rest of the rum syrup over the cake. Work very slowly for best results. It should take at least 5 minutes to distribute all the syrup.
Allow cake to cool before slicing. Cake is best when it is cooled completely and wrapped (or stored in an airtight container) overnight before serving.