Caribbean Rum Cake: embracing the holiday spirit(s)

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Welcome to King Arthur Flour’s Year of the Bundt! We’ve been celebrating this classic American dessert with a variety of recipes throughout the year. Let’s wrap up the festivities by raising a toast to the holiday season with a cake that’s a party all in itself: Caribbean Rum Cake.

Do you like rum cake?

Many of you are probably nodding assent, remembering the golden slice of rum-soaked bliss you enjoyed during that visit to Jamaica. Or the boxed cake shipped from the islands to your door, just in time for Christmas.

Moist yellow Bundt cake infused with rum and soaked in rum syrup: that’s rum cake. Simple as it sounds, the interplay of flavors (rum, vanilla, butter) and decidedly moist texture — this cake falls just short of oozing rum — are absolutely compelling.

Not all rum cake comes from the tropics. Those old enough to remember baking in the 1970s and ’80s will recall the boozy cakes we used to whip up from a box of cake mix, carton of pudding mix, and generous dollops of “holiday spirit” — the liquid kind. Think Harvey Wallbanger cake. Kahlua cake. And rum cake.

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

Well, times have changed; many of us have ditched the boxed cake mixes in favor of our own recipes. Flour and butter and sugar, vanilla and eggs take the place of the long side panel of hard-to-spell ingredients typical of most cake mixes.

But that doesn’t mean we want to lose our cake-mix favorites — including rum cake.

As 2017 winds to a close, and with it our Year of the Bundt bash, let’s celebrate with this Caribbean Rum Cake.

Don’t worry, we’ve invited everyone to the party. For those of you avoiding alcohol, we’ve worked up a version using rum flavor. Baking gluten-free? One simple substitution is all it takes. Skim to the end of this post for complete directions.

Start by preheating the oven to 325°F, with a rack in the center.

Gather your cake ingredients:

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3.4-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free)*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup rum, plain or spiced
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon butter-rum flavor, optional but excellent
1/4 cup almond flour, for dusting baking pan, optional

*Want to omit the pudding mix? You can; your cake will be a bit less sweet, and somewhat drier. You can address this by adding 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and an extra 1 teaspoon vanilla to the recipe, in place of the dry pudding mix; but we still prefer the original pudding mix version.

Mix the cake batter

Place the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking powder, salt, butter, and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl, and mix at medium speed until everything is thoroughly combined and the mixture is sandy looking.

Beat in the milk, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape the bowl thoroughly, and beat briefly to recombine any sticky residue.

Stir in the rum, vanilla, and butter-rum flavor.

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflourPrepare a Bundt pan

Spritz a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

For an extra layer of nutty flavor (and to help keep the cake from sticking), sprinkle the inside of the pan with almond flour and turn the pan to coat evenly; shake out any excess.  Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

Level the batter with a spatula.Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

Bake the cake

Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes. When done, a cake tester, long toothpick, or strand of uncooked spaghetti will come out clean when inserted into the center. Remove the cake from the oven.  

Make the syrup

Leave the cake in the pan to cool slightly while you make the syrup:

8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rum, plain or spiced
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Note: Using the full amount of syrup (above) makes a traditional rum-soaked rum cake, one that’s incredibly moist. For a cake whose texture is more similar to that of a standard cake, make and use a half-recipe of this syrup.

In a medium-sized saucepan combine the syrup ingredients, except vanilla. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce to a simmer and cook (without stirring) for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. 

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

Use a long skewer to poke holes all over the cake. Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

Soak the cake with the syrup

Pour about 1/4 cup of the syrup over the cake (still in the pan).

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

Allow the syrup to soak in, then repeat again and again until all the syrup is used.

Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the cake to sit overnight at room temperature to cool completely and soak in the syrup.

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflourTurn the cake out of the pan

When ready to serve, loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto your serving plate. 

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflour

If the cake won’t release, don’t force it. Place it in the oven, turn the oven to 350°F, and warm for about 10 minutes, to soften the sticky syrup. (If your oven is one that preheats by making its upper element red-hot, place the cake on a lower rack and tent it with aluminum foil to protect it.) Remove the cake from the oven, and tip it onto the serving plate.

Caribbean Rum Cake via @kingarthurflourEnjoy!

Serve with hot coffee or tea. Or not; this cake is irresistible all on its own.

Wrap securely (or place under a cake cover) and store at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage, up to 1 month.

Rum cake without alcohol

It seems counter-intuitive, but you can omit the rum and make a non-alcoholic version of this cake. Here’s how:

For cake with mild rum flavor — Cake: substitute water for the rum, and use 1/2 teaspoon butter-rum flavor. Syrup: Substitute water for the rum, and use 1/4 teaspoon butter-rum flavor (added once the syrup is done simmering). Note that our butter-rum flavor is a professional-quality, extra-strong flavor; if you’re using store-bought rum extract, you’ll probably need to use more.

For cake with more assertive rum flavor — Cake: Substitute water for the rum, and add 3/4 to 1 1/2 teaspoons butter-rum flavor. Syrup: Substitute water for the rum, and use up to 1/2 teaspoon butter-rum flavor (added once the syrup is done simmering).

Baking gluten-free?

Want to make this cake gluten-free? Our Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour makes it easy to make many of your favorite recipes (like this one) gluten-free. Simply substitute Measure for Measure flour 1:1 for the flour in this recipe; no additional ingredients or other changes are necessary.

High-altitude adjustments

If you’re up in the mountains, you may want to adjust this recipe for optimal results. See our high-altitude baking tips.

Homemade rum cake: a decidedly decadent way to raise your holiday spirits. Click To Tweet

Looking for more “spirituous” cake recipes? See this collection of cocktail cakes, courtesy of Sift magazine.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t tried that exact variation, Justin, but it sure sounds delicious to us! Give it a whirl and see what you think using the same amount of amaretto in place of the rum. It might be nice to sprinkle some sliced almonds over the top to give people a hint as to the deliciousness inside. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  1. Eleanor Neal

    I tried making this cake again and the same thing happened like I had two cakes with an indentation around the middle maybe I will try another bundt pan as was sure it was cooked through If I am still having problems will call the hot line. Eleanor

    Reply
  2. Dannielle Higgins

    I am making this cake tonight for a surprise retirement brunch in the morning – it will be my first time making it. I have no questions, just want to thank everyone @KAF for the recipes, blogs and of course the store. BIG big fan!

    Reply
  3. Eleanor Neal

    I baked this cake raised beautifully but after I put the syrup on and turned it out in the morning it was like it became two cakes sinking in the middle don’t know what I am doing wrong

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Eleanor, it sounds like perhaps your cake wasn’t baked fully, which make it extra soft and delicate. When baking Bundt cakes, it’s important to use an extra long skewer or toothpick to test down into the depths of the cake. Next time you might want to try using a piece of uncooked spaghetti as a tester. It should come out clean when the cake has finished baking. If your cake is properly cooked, it should absorb the syrup without becoming soft upon turning it out. For further troubleshooting, give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253). We’d love to help! Kye@KAF

  4. John F

    Cake came out of oven looking fantastic. After 15 minutes, prior to putting Rum Syrup on, it collapsed. Any thoughts what I may have done incorrectly?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi John, we’re sorry to hear about your collapsing cake. This cake does get quite a bit of soaking syrup, so it’s important that the cake is fully baked before removing it from the oven. Using a low protein content flour can also cause the cake to collapse; be sure you’re using King Arthur All-Purpose Flour if you’re not already doing so. If you’re sure your cake was fully baked and you did in fact use King Arthur All-Purpose Flour, consider giving our Baker’s Hotline a call to troubleshoot further. We’d love to help. Kye@KAF

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