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.
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.
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. ;)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Then pour the remaining glaze on top of the cake, and watch it form a delicious rum-my shell all along the surface.
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. ;)
This rum cake recipe is made from scratch, with rum baked into a delicious yellow bundt cake and drizzled with a butter-rum sauce.
2 1/2cupscake flour (or see substitution below if you only have all-purpose flour)
1 1/4teaspoonsbaking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4cupssugar, divided (plus extra for sugar-ing the pan)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup rum
3 tablespoonsvegetable oil
1 tablespoonvanilla extract
6 largeegg yolks, room temperature
3 largeegg 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.
This was my introduction to rum cake. I am so happy I chose this recipe as it was absolutely perfect! It was the “from scratch” that hooked me as I was looking for something that would hold up to someone’s childhood bakery memories and this absolutely nailed it. It was such a hit that I was asked to make it again for a mother’s day gathering so round 2 in progress. This cake texture is everything that’s wonderful about “scratch” and will now be my go to yellow cake as well. Thank you!
What is the best kind of time for baking?
Your recipe is fantastic!! I’ve made it three times and each time was better than the last! I have a question though…I want to do the strawberry version of this cake…so would I just have to use strawberry cake mix instead of cake flour? And also, what ingredients would I no longer need to use?
This recipe was Deliciously Fabulous, I had to share so I didn’t eat it all by myself. I made it with gluten free flour and regular flour, they both were very moist and fantastic. Also,big cut some sweet black cherries and soaked them over night in rum and sugar and made the icing with that.wooooo!!!! Were! It was a wonderful delight.
Hi i am so excited to try this recipe. However, would you have measurements if I am to do a loaf version of it? My oven is quite small and can only accommodate an 8×8 or an 8×4 pan. Appreciate if you could share. Thank you so much! 😊
Just cut each measurement in half 😁
divide the batter in half and bake 2 loaves, freeze one and enjoy the other one right away. Cake (especially pound cake) freezes exceptionally well, and are always nice for a last minute coffee klatch with friends.
Best way to divide in half: put a scoopful or measuring cupful in one pan, then same amount in the other. Repeat until you run out of batter. Baking time will be shorter so keep an eye on it.
This recipe is brilliant – even with improper measuring it came out well.
Absolutely incredible cake. I found the recipe easy to follow. We just can’t get enough of this cake. Definitely better the second and third day (if any is left over).
I would LOVE to make these into cupcakes. I didn’t see anything about that in the comments. Is it possible to do that? What would I do differently? And what about baking time? Thank you! :)
Hands down the best rum cake I’ve ever had! Moist, with the perfect balance of ingredients. Will definitely make again!
I’m making tonight, is it ok to make rum sauce tomorrow and then pour over cake??? Please let me know ASAP
Hi this cake looks lovely. Can this cake be made into cake layers?
This is the most decadent rum cake recipe ever!! Third time making this delicious cake but this time instead of a Bundt cake I’m doing a sheet cake. Love the sweet crustiness of the Bundt but want to serve a bigger crowd a little easier. It’ll still be great and with the tip of rum soaked cherries it’s going to be that much more delicious
How can I reduce this recipe into one 12 count mini Bundt pan without doing multiple batches?
Hi there. I am making this cake today and then transporting tomorrow. Should I go ahead and put the rum butter sauce on the cake or wait until closer to serving? Thanks!
Hi, could you please update the recipe with gms/ metric conversion. I really want to try this recipe.
I used all purpose flour, as i did not have cornstarch and I accidentally used 1 cup milk instead of half. This still turned out to be the best rum cake I have ever tasted. Soft, airy. The sauce really tied it all together. Thank you for this recipe!
I’m looking to make rum cake for Christmas but my guests do not like taking white sugar. How do I substitute for white sugar? Can I use maple syrup? Will it alter the cake and what proportions should I use? Thank you kindly for any advice!
Helllo. I haven’t tried this recipe yet but I am going to make it today or tomorrow for Christmas. The rum cake I’ve had recently had pecans in it. Would it be okay to add them to this recipe as well? And if so, how much would you recommend?
I too was attracted by the “from scratch” recipe, as I am trying to minimize artificial ingredients and preservatives in my family’s diet. I’ve wanted to make a rum cake for years and wanted to bring one to a holiday gathering I was attending. It was risky since I used a fancy bundt pan and wouldn’t be able to taste test before serving. Like others, I was very pleased with the results. The rum cake was perfect! Everyone raved about it and I’ve been asked to make it again. Thank you for doing all the trial and error so we can have your delicious recipe.
Great Cake. Made it for Christmas and family loved it!!!
Made this last night! My family grew up loving the yellow box rum cake and I was SO nervous about this. Whisking eggs to hard peaks is the absolute peak of my culinary abilities LOL, but I did it! Cake was AMAZING, but my times were all a lot longer than recipe suggesting (for whisking, string, and baking which took about 15 mins longer). I used 1/2 the glaze and 1/2 the sugar in the glaze cause I was worried this cake was going to be overy sugary and intense. But it was completely fine and delicious. I also did pecans in the top of the pan. THANK YOU. Big hit.
I made this for Christmas Eve this year, and it was delicious! Everyone loved it. And I’m still warming up and eating the leftovers!
This turns out amazing everytime I bake this. I just adjust the recipe to make it my own…thanks
My mother made rum cake for Easter.snd most funerals she attended. The people on Maysfield Texas loved the cake and always looked for the rum cake at most events that Momma attended for thr last 15 years. Those country bible thumping women were able to get their drink on and not be seen drinking the liquor. Momma will be missed!
Can this be used as a layer cake?
Excellent recipe. I used chickpea flour as it is soft and light like cake flour–just ensure the cake is fully cooked because the raw batter tastes terrible with that flour. The bonus is it is gluten free and adds some protein nutrient. I also used a 9 inch square pan and the cake did not need to be inverted so the sauce doesn’t run out onto the plate. Thanks, Lucia
I made this today for the first time, and it is AMAZING!! I used regular bacardi rum as I don’t drink and have no idea what kind of rum to use.
I followed the instructions exactly and it came out moist and golden.
I only had half of the 1/4 c of rum left for the sauce, but OMG that sauce is Sooooooo good!
I actually made the cake as instructed, then made more sauce and added it again.
This will be my only rum cake. Thank you!!
Followed the instructions to a “t”. Turned out perfect! Very helpful for a beginner like me. Thanks for posting!
Thank you…I can’t wait to make it for my Dad, who is going to come visit me. He requested a rum cake 🎂 🥮
For the icing.., do I use…. powdered sugar or granulated sugar… thank you
My husband and I used to go to Jamaica or St. Maarten every few years for our Anniversary, and we’d always bring back Tortuga cakes and freeze them to enjoy later. Since COVID-19 we’ve stopped all international travel. I wanted to make something he’d love for our Anniversary since a trip was out, & this recipe absolutely nailed it! I couldn’t find the cake flour I wanted, so I followed your notes for the substitution & it was AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe & allowing me to bring a little of the islands home to the states for my family!
I live in a high altitude near Denver &with a little adjustment this came out great! Increase the temperature to 365 & only use 1tsp.of baking powder & only beat the egg white until they are just barely beginning to peak.
I noticed this is a really small cake yet very good. When I changed the scale to 2x, I noticed the amount of flour didn’t change all the other ingredients changed. Please advise if possible.
I’ve had a handwritten rum cake recipe tucked away for 30 years that I’ve never used because it calls for boxed cake and instant pudding. I was drawn to this recipe not only because it’s from scratch, but because of the buttermilk in the batter. I’m not disappointed. This cake magically manages to combine moist and fluffy. It wasn’t quite rum forward enough for me. Next time I’ll up the rum content in the glaze. Excellent recipe though.
I plan to make the rum cake in a Bundt pan. I don’t have buttermilk so what can I substitute?
Absolutely delicious rum cake recipe works perfectly! Everyone loved it. I did add an extra 1/4 cup of rum to the glaze as my family really likes the rum flavor strong. This will be my go-to rum cake recipe thank you for sharing.
I put a healthy twist when I made this cake sub’ing,
Buttermilk for Milk with Apple Cider Vinegar
1/8 c ground flaxseed + 4 eggs (yoke and white)
1 c brown sugar + 1/4c monk fruit brown sugar (for slightly lower sugar value but no one knows the better!)
Butter and shredded coconut in the Bundt pan (instead of sugar)
For the butter rum sauce I used a 50/50 sugar to monk fruit
Came out AMAZING! Guilty pleasures…
Next go — everyone is already asking for another — I’ll try using 1/2 cup oat flour, 1/4 wheat flour and the rest as white flour to see how that works (add a lil fiber, why not!)
Baked at 320 extending baking time but still super moist
10/10 Followed the Recipe step by step, yes there are allot of different bowls, but … I hung in there following the exact process. Since this was my first time with the recipe following the many steps is something that should be done and IF you want to make changes to future rum cakes then do so. The ONLY thing I did differently is I ran some pecan pieces a few times thru my Ninja chopper and added that to the bottom of the pan and the cake batter on top on the pecans. I really wrestled around with doing a Bundt or Mini Disposable Loaf Pans, I elected the loaf pans, this way everyone can get their own lil loaf. I did not have to alter any ingredients just cut down on the cooking time about 7-10 minutes.
OMG let me tell you, after I flipped the Lil Loafs when the first round was poked and poured over them while still warm, I flipped them over and put them back in the loaf pan, the result was this INCREDIBLE crispy, crunchy, nutty buttery top crust. I actually made a second batch of the sauce and slowly went to town poking, covering and flipping over and over until they were all nestled in the sauce.
Once cooled, put the plastic lids on and refrigerated. The next day since the sauce hardened, just put the lil loafs on the kitchen counter to come to room temperature, also, popped a couple of slices into the microwave for 15 seconds and enjoyed many slices with my coffee for breakfast. AMAZING!
Surprisingly these lil guys lasted all week in the fridge showing NO signs of drying out. That extra sauce acted as a cocoon of buttery rum lovin’. YES this recipe is a definite keeper. Next time (which will be very soon) I will use my injector to get that some of that buttery rum lovin’ deeper inside :)
My apologies, neglected to snap photo’s but will next go-round :)
You can substitute bourbon for the rum and come up with an entirely different experience! I’m toying with the idea of using that spicy cinnamon whisky, but there really is not a good substitute for good Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
I also want to try this with a sweeter rum. Since it went into the freezer, it is losing the extra sauce that pools around the cake, so I poked more holes in the bottom of the cake and poured sauce over them, then brushed the last of the sauce all over the cake.
Can I use rum extract? If so, what would be the equivalent?
I just made this again for Christmas – a few helpful comments. The egg whites need to whip for SO MUCH LONGER than 90 seconds to form stiff peaks. It took over 10 mins. I forgot this happened the first time too. I was ready to give up after 2 minutes but google said it would take way longer. Also, I didn’t read ahead and didn’t realize I was supposed to keep the cake IN the pan to pour in first part of rum sauce. In my head, cooling rack meant take it out of pan. Otherwise, this cake is INSANELY delicious and a huge hit. I used sightly less sugar than rec’d.
Wow! So incredible. I follow the recipe to the “t”, however, I discovered a cool trick. I am a Trader Joe’s girl. I use their organic products. If you want a crunchy crumb cake topping, use spray avocado oil to spray on the surface of the bundt pan and dust generously with turbinado sugar, even letting it pile up a little bit in the bottom of the pan. The high heat point of avocado oil kept the turbinado intact and warmed it up just enough to caramelize it.