Rum Cake (From Scratch!)

Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

My good friend, Liisa, was the one who got me hooked years ago on rum cake.

Liisa was the one roommate I ever had who loved cooking just as much as I did.  And I must say that our kitchen back then and my life ever since have both been all the more delicious thanks to her.  (Case in point: she was the one who introduced me to my favorite red enchilada sauce, which I have made approximately five thousand times since.)  She cooked dinner almost every night and was a pro at using various spices and seasonings to make our simple budget meals taste tres gourmet.  But one of my favorite things about Liisa was her insistence on baking her own birthday cake each year.

Rum cake.

Actually, it’s probably more accurately called butter rum cake, since the key ingredient to its decadence would make Paula Dean proud.

Liisa would always pull out her beautiful bundt pan, coat it with sugar, and then bake up a rum-laced yellow cake to golden perfection.  And then we would watch her poke holes all over the cake and pour an extra butter-rum sauce to fill in the gaps.  And then once the cake was inverted onto a pretty pedestal, the remaining sauce would be drizzled on top as a glaze.

It was the perfect birthday indulgence, and I loved it so much that I adopted for many future birthdays of my own.  And when I later found out that rum cake is traditionally considered a Christmas dessert, well, all the merrier.  More rum cake for all!!

This Christmas, though, I decided to finally see if I could figure out a rum cake from scratch that would rival the traditional recipe, which is usually made with a boxed cake mix.  I have to admit — this proved no easy task.  I don’t know what processed magic they throw in boxed cake mixes, but especially with yellow cakes, those flippin’ boxes are hard to beat.  But three rum cakes (and many happy Christmas parties) later, I think I found a scratch recipe that at least rivals the boxed mix version.  It takes a little more time and effort, but if you’re trying to move away from processed food, it’s definitely worth the try.

Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

You might notice right off the bat that scratch yellow cakes are not quite as yellow as their boxed mix counterparts.  Which I find to be great news.  No yellow food coloring #4982, or whatever it is!  The only thing coloring this cake is lots of buttah, egg yolks, and — yes — some golden rum.  ;)

Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

I ended up trying a handful of different yellow cake bases for this recipe.  And I have to admit that all of the frustrations I read from other bakers about scratch yellow cakes are true.  They’re just hard!  Hard to make the perfect sweetness, hard to make light and fluffy, and hard to make moist.  I almost gave up and reached for Betty Crocker, but then I finally decided to play with the base recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.  And of course — I shouldn’t have been surprised — it was awesome.

The process isn’t hard, but it is slightly more involved and time consuming than an average cake.  For example, you are required to separate the eggs and whip the whites into stiff peaks (similar to meringue), and then later fold them into the batter.  But if you have an electric mixer, that should be a breeze. Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

Once your batter is ready, spray your bundt pan liberally with cooking spray, and then coat every square inch of that surface with sugar.  (Be especially sure that the inner cone of the bundt pan is completely coated so that the cake doesn’t stick!)

Then bake it up until it’s nice and golden.

Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

Then comes the good part.  Once the cake has cooled off a bit after baking, use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes all over the cake.  Then pour a butter-rum sauce all over the cake so that it seeps into every delicious hole.  Let it sit for awhile to soak it all up.
Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

Then invert the cake onto a serving platter or pedestal.  (If your cake was kind of puffy on the top/bottom, you might want to use a knife to level it out before inverting it.)

Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

Then pour the remaining glaze on top of the cake, and watch it form a delicious rum-my shell all along the surface.

Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

And when you’re ready, dive in.

I always said that my recipe for the traditional cake-mix rum cake is actually better the second day after it has sat out for a bit.  But since the scratch version is slightly more finicky and prone to drying out, I recommend serving it the day of (and keeping it covered until serving).  But hey, I may have had the leftovers for breakfast after a party, and then served them to friends who gobbled them up two days afterwards.  So maybe nevermind.  ;)

Cheers to going un-processed!

5 / 5 (20 Reviews)
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Rum Cake (From Scratch!)

This rum cake recipe is made from scratch, with rum baked into a delicious yellow bundt cake and drizzled with a butter-rum sauce.


Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (or see substitution below if you only have all-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided (plus extra for sugar-ing the pan)
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup rum (not spiced)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature

Butter-Rum Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup rum


How To Make The Cake:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a bundt pan liberally with cooking spray.  Then add a few tablespoons of granulated sugar to the inside of the pan, and gently tap and turn it around until every square inch of the inside of the pan is coated in sugar.  (Be especially sure that the inner cone of the bundt pan is coated in sugar so that the cake does not stick.)  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour (*or see substitute below), baking powder, salt, baking soda, and 1 1/2 cups sugar until combined.  In a different medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, rum, oil, vanilla, and yolks until combined.  Set aside.

In clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30-45 seconds.  With whisk still running, add in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, about 60-90 more seconds. Transfer the whipped egg whites to a separate bowl and set aside.

Add the flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment again, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix on medium-low speed until it is just combined, about 15 seconds. (Don’t overmix!)  Stop the mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until the mixture is smooth and fully incorporated, about 10 to 15 more seconds.  Fold about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into batter until just combined, then add the remaining whites and gently fold in until no streaks remain.

Pour the batter evenly into the sugared bundt pan.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  (Don’t overbake!)  Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 15 minutes.  (While the cake cools — or even better, while it’s in the oven — make the butter-rum sauce.  Instructions below.)

Once the cake is slightly cool, use a toothpick or skewer to poke lots of holes all over the surface of the cake (while it is still in the pan.)  Pour about half of the butter rum sauce over the surface of the cake.  Let it rest for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is absorbed.  Then carefully invert the cake onto a serving platter or pedestal, and drizzle the remaining sauce evenly on top of the cake.

Serve immediately, or cover until ready to serve.

How To Make The Butter-Rum Sauce:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, butter and water until combined.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, and continue to boil for 5 minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in rum (carefully, as the rum will make the sauce boil up again).

If you don’t have cake flour on hand, you can instead mix together 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour + 5 tablespoons cornstarch.  Then (very important!) sift those together before adding to the cake.

The yellow cake base is slightly adapted from the Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake by America’s Test Kitchen.

All images and text ©

If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!


Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

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119 comments on “Rum Cake (From Scratch!)”

  1. What is the inside of the Cake pan?is it the whole pan or just the center part

  2. I followed all the steps and the Cake turned out great. Just added crushed Walnuts on top but that’s it. Awesome! Will make it again!

    Rating: 5
  3. I followed the recipe and my cake stick to the pan. I sprayed very liberal and coated heavy with sugar. Next time I will just stick to my butter and flour. Other than that, the cake tastes great and will make again. Thanks for sharing

    Rating: 4
  4. It comes out well all the time

    Rating: 5
  5. I made this for company and they loved it. Not that difficult to make if you just follow the instructions step by step. My buttermilk was not quite room temperature but it still turned out great!

    Rating: 5
  6. I rarely if ever leave reviews… But I absolutely love this cake!!! I’ve made this recipe a few times already and whoever comes in contact with this cake, raves over it. My brother requested I make it for thanksgiving dinner lol.

    Rating: 5
  7. I make room cakes every year for Christmas gifts. I have hunted for a rum cake recipe that didn’t use a cake mix. Every one I found called for instant vanilla pudding. I used some organic vanilla pudding that I found, but still had a slightly artificial taste. I made this using mini bundt pans and baked for 25 minutes. I sprayed the pans with “Pam for baking with flour”. Didn’t line the pans with sugar, but did put chopped pecans in the bottom. Used 1/2 cup rum in the glaze and poured it all over the top while still hot. Inverted pans while still warm and cakes slid right out. Put them back into pans to cool. Wonderful flavor and very moist and pretty.

    Rating: 5
  8. Made this today it looks beautiful will be served tomorrow.

  9. I made it because I had a carving. I used a flavored rum(peach)😘… I also used some in the sauce. Now it is a request for our family Valentine’s dinner.

  10. I am not familiar with the various types of rums. Is there a particular brand and color of rum which is best for making this rum cake?

  11. This cake is amazing. It came out petfect!

  12. Just made this recipe, it came out AMAZING!
    Not a recipe you want to lose!

    Rating: 5
  13. Love it, made it 4 times, delicious!!!

    Rating: 5
  14. Can you use other types of cake pans or does it’s have to be a minute cake pan? Made it just haven’t baked it yet

    Rating: 5
  15. This cake is beyond words. It is super moist and so full of flavor it’s insane. The recipe is very easy to follow and I am beyond excited to be able to make this rum cake without using boxed garbage. For those who have never beaten egg whites to a fluff, you need to just keep mixing until it is super white and fluffy. It take time it isn’t something that happens in a minute so be patient.
    This cake will also make great Christmas Presents to my over 21 friends and family. :-)

    Rating: 5
  16. Beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!

    Rating: 5
  17. First time making a rum cake ever! Delicious! So glad I used this recipe. I will be making this again (:

    Rating: 5
    This cake was sooo delicious. I really want to make Butter Rum muffins. Could this recipe be use to make muffins, or should I alter it? Any suggestions?

    Rating: 5
  19. Yup, I just made this!!!
    I didn’t have a bundt pan so I did use my 10” springform pan. I added 10 minutes to the bake time and slowly cooled the cake in the oven with the door partially open. Taste is amazing, I’m soooooo happy that I didn’t go with a cake mix or boxed pudding mix.
    I will be making this again for family Christmas dinner when I get my bundt pan. I will line the pan with slivered almonds and dried cranberrys before pouring in the batter.
    Thanks Ali for posting this recipe, it really was easy to make and your instructions were very clear and accurate!

    Rating: 5
  20. Came out perfect: Perfect flavors, textures and appearance. Brilliant recipe. Thanks, Ali

    Rating: 5
  21. This has become my go-to recipe for rum cakes. So yummy!
    Everyone who’s ever tried it has loved it.

    Rating: 5
  22. This is THEE best freaking cake I have ever had!!
    I made this last year into little mini bundt cakes (as to not feel so guilty eating a whole one lol) I froze bunch of them and for special occasions i just pull one out;)! Thank you for creating this recipe! You have created a new tradition in our family!
    Ps…My husband thanks you too lol!!

    Rating: 5
  23. Is there a certain RUM to use?

    Rating: 5
  24. The best cake I ever tasted,the crowd loved it,will do it again on father’s day

    Rating: 5
  25. Is this good with frosting like Buttercream?

  26. I followed the instructions for this cake exactly and it turned out beautifully! Thank-you so much!

    Rating: 5
  27. Excellent. Not difficult to make and is as good as the company “The Rum Cake Lady”‘s cakes. Everyone is demanding I make one just for them.