Caribbean Rum Cake: Bring the islands home to your house

What is it about the tropics that makes people so relaxed? Everything proceeds at a much slower and more civilized pace. Wound-up businessmen trade ties for tan lines, and harried mavens literally let their hair down, braided in sparkling beads. Even my parents have had their share of island adventures…

I remember the year they went on a cruise to the Bahamas. My phone rang, to reveal sounds of reveling. It was my mother, calling from the shipboard pizza parlor, at midnight. “Just out for a snack,” she says. “Dad and Bert are having another beer,” she says.  Mind you now, at home in Massachusetts my parents have one cocktail per day, at 5 pm, and are in bed by 9:30.

Later, on a different trip, we found out they had been to visit the Bacardi factory in Puerto Rico. Several times. Including the tasting room. Ahem… several times! Do I begrudge them their fun? Absolutely not. We may give them a good ribbing about spending our inheritance on lobster and libations, but they earned every penny and every minute of it, so more power to them.

Once the sun and fun has been traded in for snow and sleet, it’s nice to bring back a taste of the tropics to our table. It jiggles the  senses and quite often brings back memories of stories yet untold, and we listen as Grammy and Papa make the kids squeal – “OMG, you did NOT!” Turning the tables is rollicking good fun, eh?

Our recipe for Caribbean Rum Cake mimics the Tortuga rum cakes that are so famous down in the little latitudes. Tortuga rum cake is amazingly moist and complex, and the recipe is a complete secret. Copy-cat recipes abound online, and by blending a hint of this one, and a touch of that one, we feel like we’ve come up with a real winner.

Our taste testers here were bowled over by this cake.  I will say it contains a FULL cup of rum, total; and could be NSFW (not safe for work) unless your office is pretty progressive. My boss, Matt, has already reminded me twice of his birthday while praising this cake.

Let’s see what you think of our Caribbean Rum Cake.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Spritz your Bundt pan well with cooking spray, and coat with a layer of toasted pecan meal. You can make your own pecan meal by toasting pecans in a dry skillet until they’re fragrant (about 8 minutes), and then pulsing them in a food processor until they’re finely ground.

This outer layer of pecans not only looks spectacular on the finished cake, it gives the crust a nice, subtle texture, as well.

For the cake you’ll need:

I’m a big fan of the two-stage method for cakes. Add all of your ingredients to the bowl, reserving half of the liquid. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add the remaining liquid and beat for another minute or two until the batter is thick and smooth. The resulting cake has a very fine grain, and moist texture.

If you prefer, you can use the traditional creaming method for making the cake batter.

This recipe will make one full-sized Bundt cake or two smaller Bundt cakes.

Now, be a better planner than I was. If you’re making several cakes in one day, plan on using more than one oven. I had to squeeze these guys all in together, which thankfully worked out, but isn’t really a very good plan.

Bake until the cake is golden brown and begins to pull away from the edges of the pan. A toothpick isn’t really long enough to reach the center of the cake for testing, but an uncooked piece of spaghetti or a flat dry noodle works great!

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. DO NOT TURN THE CAKE OUT OF THE PAN!

While the cake sits for a bit, prepare the rum syrup. In a medium-sized saucepan mix:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white or golden rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Bring to a rolling boil and cook for about a minute or two, to reduce slightly.

If you’ve made a full-sized Bundt, you’ll be using all of the syrup on one cake. If you’d made smaller Bundts, divide the syrup up evenly. No need to measure; as long as all of the cakes get a pretty good soaking, you’re golden.

Allow the syrup to soak into the cake. Add more syrup, a bit at a time, until all of the syrup is used up.  Cover the cake with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight IN THE PAN.

The following morning, turn the cake out onto your serving dish or a cardboard cake round. The cake will be incredibly moist and tender by this time, so try to get it to the final serving platter without too many plate changes.

When I say incredibly moist, I really mean it, too. This cake is just shy of being a pudding cake. Only one or two taste testers felt it was too much, but most folks reveled in the velvety texture.

Deep breath now… mmmmmm… Feel those warm tropical breezes yet? I sure do.

Let me say once again, this cake is packed with rum. There’s just no getting around it, it’s this cake’s raison d’etre, it’s sole purpose for being. Invite the grownups over, make Carol’s Caramel Corn or Fudge Brownies for the kids, and enjoy the upside of being an adult. She-who-drives-the-carpool and he-who-pays-the-taxes deserve special treat sometimes, too! I’ll even check and see if my parents are free for the night!

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Caribbean Rum Cake.

Print just the recipe

Check out our other grownup treats: Nutmeg Bites, Brandied Mince Tarts, and Harvey Wallbanger Cake. Oh, and don’t forget Chocolate Intemperance

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. ruth sultan

    OMG – just baked this for a dinner party we had this week-end – what a hit it was. I had a request from one of the guest to make one for her husband’s birthday next month. was very easy to follow and came out awesome. the only thing I did different was not putting the rum in until after I cooked the syrup & cooled it down, I used a rum from a local distillery (Stoneyard Distillery Dotsero) here in western Colorado, made from local sugar beets, the flavor is cinnamon, coconut and vanilla
    I love all of King Arthur’s products!!!!!

  2. kelsea

    I’ve made this 2 times already and we love it. Except i always use all brown sugar in place of white in the cake and sauce, and always use rumchata, you need to try it! Also, i put in crean of coconut in place of the milk, and add some to the syrup. Mmmm it taste kinda like a breakfest cake, so i guess that means i can eat it for breakfest right? 🙂

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kim, you can make this cake in a loaf pan as long as you use a 9″ by 5″ size rather than a standard 8 1/2″ by 4 1/2″ pan. The baking time may be slightly different than the Bundt pan, and it may need a few minutes longer to finish baking all the way through; consider tenting it with foil mid-way through baking to prevent the top from becoming too brown and then test for doneness using a toothpick inserted into the center. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  3. jerry

    Can I make a gluten-free version of the rum cake using the King Arthur Glutenfree multipurpose flour? If so, do I need to add xanthan gum to the flour and ho much?

    1. PJ Hamel

      Jerry, you might be able to; but I’m not sure what changes you’d have to make to the recipe specifically. You’d be better off using our Measure for Measure flour, which is designed specifically to make standard recipes gluten-free just by substituting for the flour in the recipe, and without having to worry about xanthan gum, extra eggs, etc. – PJH

  4. Ron

    This sounds like a yummy recipe and want to try it out, have two questions:
    1. Can you substitute the 1/2 cup of vegetable oil with unsalted butter, if yes how much, would it make a difference in the cake’s moisture?
    2. Do you need to dust the cake pan if you’re using a non-stick pan?, I have made bundt cakes in my non-stick pan and never had the need to dust it, the cakes comes loose with no problem.
    Thanks for your response 🙂

    1. PJ Hamel

      Never tried this substitution, Ron, but I suspect you could substitute 2/3 cup melted butter for the vegetable oil and get the same effect, since butter is about 80% fat and 20% milk solids. And you don’t have to dust the pan with the nut flour; it just adds a nice nuttiness to the cake’s flavor, which is good but certainly optional. Enjoy — PJH

  5. marian

    Just another cake post. Today I made a dbl chocolate version with orange. Really smells great, tasted fabulous. I subbed 30g Hershey’s cocoa powder and 12g of the KA dark cocoa powder for 1/2 c of the flour. I also added 1/4 tsp espresso powder, used chocolate pudding mix. To the vanilla/rum, I added 1/2 tsp of KA Fiori di Sicilia. To the glaze, I also added about 1/4tsp of the Fiori. Oh, added 1/4 c mini semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter.

  6. marian

    I made 2 of these so far. The first, I used coconut pudding, added 1/2 tsp coconut extract in addition to the rum and vanilla. I used Captain Morgan’s coconut rum, and left the nuts off this one,

    The second one, I used Captain Morgan’s Pumpkin Spice rum. I added 1tsp pumpkin pie spice to the cake mix. Both cakes are delish!

  7. Robbyn

    Hello Lady!
    I made this rum cake on a Sunday. Monday p.m. it was GONE!!! My husband and son ate most of it! My friend ate 3 slices and within the first bite, based on her reaction, I had a flash back of When Harry Met Sally! No lie! Thank you for this recipe. I had another recipe and even though it was good it was a lot of work. This is my new recipe!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We love this recipe also! Our team makes a point to make it during the holiday rush as a way to help us all through it! A great recipe for any time of year though. Enjoy! Elisabeth@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Liz, you can use the smaller box of instant vanilla pudding that weighs 3.4 ounces for this recipe. Barb@KAF

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