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Rum Cake (From Scratch!)

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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!

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Rum Cake (From Scratch!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.9 from 101 reviews
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 75 minutes
  • Yield: 12 -16 servings 1x


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
  • tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 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:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. Serve immediately, or cover until ready to serve.
  9. How To Make The Butter-Rum Sauce:
  10. 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.


Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch!) |

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

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  1. I started making cakes from scratch a few years ago.  It did take some time to figure it out, but now that I have it down I will never, ever go back to the box! It’s totally worth the effort.  I have, however, never made (or even eaten!) rum cake.  I really want to now because it sounds divine!  

  2. oh this looks so very nice. but what happens if I can’t put rum?


  3. Oh my gosh, how absolutely gorgeous is this cake?! That rum glaze is positively drool-worthy, and I love how it soaks into the cake—I’ll bet that makes for the best-ever texture!

  4. I look forward to my Grammy’s rum cake (with peppermint ice cream—odd, but delicious) every Christmas, but I think she might use a mix. I love the idea of having a homemade version. High fives girl! You deserve an extra slice with a side o’ rum.

  5. The only roommate I’ve ever had (besides my now boyfriend) was my cousin who lived with me for 3 months when she was in between moving.  She knew how to make toast, which she burnt.  Love her but she could not cook/bake if her life depended on it!  Actually worked out for me because I prefer to be alone in the kitchen but it sounds like you two had the best time ever.  I can only imagine the recipes that pumped out of that kitchen!

  6. I hear ya on yellow cakes being difficult to make well!  Either they’re so dense and hard, or the crumb is coarse, or the crumb is fine but the cake is dry.  So frustrating.  The cake mix always makes the perfect soft fluffy texture but there’s something to be desired by the chemical taste it can often have.  I find that making the cake mix with milk and butter instead of water and oil usually helps mask the off taste.  Rum cake looks gorgeous, I really want to make this for Christmas but I kind of already promised I’d make cheesecake and the crowd is too small to justify another full sized dessert.  Maybe I can halve the recipe and bake in a small rind mold? ;-)

  7. Rum cake always makes me think of my grandmother. This looks so moist and delicious!

  8. This is our Christmas dessert tradition. I love it!

  9. What kind of rum do you use? I really want to try this but I have no idea what it tastes like so I’m wondering, would a basic rum or a spiced rum be better?

  10. Would love to learn how to decorate cakes cupcakes

  11. I made this exactly according to the recipe, and it came out perfectly! The only rum I had was Cruzan coconut rum, and the flavor is amazing. I made sure that all ingredients were at room temperature. I used baking spray to grease the bundt pan, and then sugared that, and it released like a dream with a beautiful golden crust.  It’s a manageable recipe if you have a little experience, but I think a determined beginner could make this effectively just following the directions- just read them through first. I’ll be making this again! 

    • That’s great, I’m so glad to hear that! Man, reading your description of it just now makes me totally want some! : D

  12. GREAT recipe. I have made this twice now and both times it was a HIT!!!! I initially went on a rum cake recipe hunt for my mother who raved about this rum cake she bought form a co-worker. Only thing, it was small for the price… So, being the baker of the family I went on a search for a good rum cake recipe. Recipe after recipe, I couldn’t find one that did not call for a box of yellow cake mix… what the heck! finally, I stumbled on this recipe and I am so glad I did! It made the most delicious and moist cake! My mother isn’t one to love really sweet treats or rarely ever has seconds… However, she went in for SECONDS!!! thats BIG! I just made it again for my mother-inlaw’s Birthday. She is the QUEEN of baking… she loved it so much she also went in for seconds!!! 

    I think the key here is to make sure everything is room temp. also to be conscious of not over mixing… I mixed the wet and dry ingredients with my stand mixer for only the time it took me to pour the wet to the dry. Then mixed the rest by hand… I feel i have more control that way. I also added some of the egg white to the batter immediately to try to cut down on the mixing time… 

    Also, for a little variance, I sprinkled finely chopped walnuts to the pan before pouring the batter in! It gives it a little crunch. yum! 

    Great, great, great!

    Thank you,


    • Yaya, that’s awesome, thanks for sharing! We’re so happy you found a rum cake recipe you love. : D

  13. ok i dont own a bundt cake but really want to make this tonight… Does it matter that i dont have one?

    • Not at all! You should be able to use two 8-inch round pans instead, a 9×13 inch baking dish, or a 10-inch springform pan. We hope that helps, and that you enjoy the cake!

  14. Can a different alcohol be substituted for rum that would still compliment the pound cake? There are so many different flavored Vodka’s out now and some would make a very tasty cake.

    • Sure Tracy, we say whatever looks good to you, go for it! Personally we love rum or bourbon, but you could totally go a citrusy route and use Grand Marnier (which would be orangey, but would probably be really lovely). We hope this helps, have fun!

  15. Making this tonight! Should I adjust anything for high altitude?

  16. Delicious! Exactly what I was looking for. I added pecans to the bottom of the bundt pan. I even messed up the egg white/sugar thing and it still turned out delicious. I like this recipe a lot better than the recipes that use the mix. I suggest editing the recipe so that it is clear in the ingredients list that you need to separate the sugar. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Awesome, so glad you enjoyed it! And definitely, I’ll check on editing the sugar instructions. :)

    • Does this cake freeze well? I’m thinking of making this for a Christmas gift for my grandparents but I’m not sure how to go about preparing it for gifting.

  17. Made this cake this morning!!! Taste great!!!  Will definitely be baking this cake again!!!

  18. I love rum cake but when I make it myself (using other rum cake recipes), the cake tastes way too strong with alcohol (from the rum) in the sauce that I’m afraid to make it this time around. I had to throw out so many cakes that I’m afraid to try another  recipe, but this one gives me renewed hope that this time around it’ll be the recipe to keep! Am I doing something wrong? Is it suppose to taste like alcohol? Many of the recipes I’ve used say to put in 1/4 cup of rum.  Other recipes I’ve used don’t add water to the sauce. Any help is gratefully appreciated!

  19. Thanks so much for this scratch recipe. It’s delicious. For the record, I made it in a fancy 9-cup Bundt pan. Thinking this amount of flour would make enough batter for at least a 10-cup if not a 12-cup pan,I didn’t use all the batter, and it didn’t quite fill up the pan. So next time I’ll pour it all in. 

    • You’re very welcome Susan, we’re glad to hear you enjoyed this! Thanks also for sharing about the pan sizing as well.

  20. This cake was a huge hit, thank you! It tastes so much better knowing all the elbow grease that went into it. I don’t know why people fear making from-scratch cakes so much! 

  21. I’m so excited to be making this for my family this weekend for our Christmas get together.  I’ve actually never had rum cake, but it looks so good thought I’d give it a try. Thanks!!

  22. I’m planning on making this one night and transporting the next morning, approx 2 hours. Wondering if i should leave in bundt pan after baking or turn it out on a plate and wrapping it in foil? Can’t wait to try it.  Thanks and Happy Holidays.

    • Hi there, you’ll want to let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes or so. Then run a knife around the pan and invert it onto a plate. After it’s completely cool, cover it tightly with plastic wrap or foil. We hope you enjoy the cake! :)

  23. i was looking for a rum cake from scratch for soo long. And this was just amazing. My family went nuts for it. The butter rum sauce gave it a great twist. It was a hit!!!

  24.  When I was a boy my neighbor would bake my family a rum cake every year till I moved and I always loved it.  When I started cooking for my self  I tried getting the recipe but she had since past and I was never able to get it.   After trying many scratch recipes and altering some myself I believe my search for a comparable rum cake recipe has ended, thank you!  I baked one last night and it turned out perfect!

  25. Does it have to be non spiced rum or can I use regular captain Morgan 

    • Hi Gina! We think the non-spiced rum works better for this recipe, but you’re more than welcome to use spiced if you prefer.

  26. Hello. Just found you site via Pinterest and love the idea of a scratch recipe. All my rum cakes have started from a cake mix. Definitely want to try this out.
    I also want to try to make a chocolate rum cake. Would you hapoen to have a scratch recipe i can use…..sort of a chocolate version to your rum cake?
    And do you think the butter rum sauce would go or without the butter?
    Thank you….would appreciate any input.

    • Hello May, we’re glad you’re here! We don’t have a chocolate version of this cake (though we bet that would be yummy)! There are recipes online you could compare though. We think the sauce would be great with a chocolate version too.

  27. I made this cake it is divine. I made two in the same week. Some one challenged me to make them a rum cake. I like making different pound cakes but never did this. We couldn’t stop eating it, forget about my diet until it’s gone lol! Thanks great recipe gimmesomeoven.

  28. I’ve just discovered this cake in Cayman and I can’t have enough of it! Loved your article and will definitely try y your recipe. Thanks a lot!

  29. I make Rum cake a lot but I add Rum Chata to mine… IT’S amazing!! For the super bowl I wanted to try something new so I made the rum cake with Tequila rose… Now we can’t decide which one is our favorite… give it a try.  

  30. Amazing!  My husband loves super moist rum cake, and I added a cup of chocolate chips before popping it in the oven for us chocoholics.  Mmmmmm!!

    • Thanks for sharing Susan, we’re happy you and your husband enjoyed this! And we think chocolate chips would be yummy in this!

  31. I love to bake and do so often and a friend of mine asked if I could make him a rum cake. He had ate one a few years back but hadn’t had any since then. I had never made one so started looking on the internet when I came across your recipe after being disappointed with the box cake versions. I made the cake and took it to work, (we work together) everyone loved it and he took the rest of the cake home with him and hid it from the roommates. He even gave me a hug, which he doesn’t do. Thanks for sharing , this recipe has now been entered into my cake recipe folder.

    • Thank you for sharing all of this with us! We’re so happy this was a hit with your co-workers! :)

    • As usual, anything made with an America’s Test Kitchen recipe is perfect! Made this cake for a party at my in-laws’, and they loved it! Thanks for all the testing and for sharing!
      For everyone wondering if they can still make this without rum, look up the Alcohol-Free Rum recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. It’s a great substitute for rum!

  32. Thank you for sharing!  Rum cake is a favorite of a friend of mine.  We’re celebrating her birthday today so I’m trying it out. I actually made this recipe and the one that is rampant online (boxed cake/pudding). We shall have a taste off!  It’s a fun experiment. I don’t like to use boxed stuff so I’m partial to yours already. 

  33. I made this for my son’s birthday and it turned out deliciously good. I followed the directions exactly but  was apprehensive about removing from the bundt pan but it came out smoothly. My son was very impressed as was his guests. I definitely put this in my keeper make again box.

    • Thanks Pam — we’re so glad to hear that! Thanks for giving the recipe a try! :)

  34. I can’t wait to try your recipe! I lost the last recipe I had. I like using Parrot Bay Keylime Rum for a different flavor. 

    Although it looks great in a bundt pan, for easy self-serving purposes at a carry-in meal, have you ever tried it in a 9 x 13?

    • Awesome Jeannie — we hope you love it! And we haven’t tried this in a 9×13 pan, but we think it should work! :)

  35. Hi Ali, made your Rum Cake Friday, and all I can say is OMG!!!!  This was the best, moist, & tender sooo freaking DELICIOUS!!!!  Thank you for this recipe, looking forward to trying more of your recipes.  

  36. I made this cake in a hurry when we suddenly had a cake emergency! This is a fantastic recipe that can be made with stuff you’re bound to have in – I had to substitute buttermilk for milk with lemon mixed in and the rum for Santa Teresa orange rum which both worked a treat. Put some orange zest in the drizzle too. Delicious and very popular – thanks!

    • We’re so glad to hear that Caroline — thanks for sharing and for giving this a try! :D

  37. I’m trying it as we speak.  So far it looks very good. Had a hard time with the egg whites, but other than that. Everything else looks good. Tasted a piece of crumb and omgeeeee. Thanks for the recipe ?

  38. I hope this isn’t a silly question. Do you allow to cake to cool in the pan after taking it out of the oven?

    • Not a silly question at all! We let it cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes, then we unmold it (if you leave it much longer than that, it might be harder to get out of the pan). We hope you enjoy!

  39. thank you so much for this!!! I am making it this afternoon. I’m ingredient ready!! When I read the labels on boxed cake mixes, I just can’t do it! But I needed a rum cake recipe for my husband’s birthday tomorrow. I really really appreciate your trial and errors on this cake to give us a quality recipe, free of the junk!

  40. I just made this cake for a friends birthday. I love the sugar in the pan…the cake came out of the pan perfectly!  After I finished soaking the cake with the sauce of course I had to taste it and I licked the spoon. The sauce is amazing! I’m so excited to share with the birthday girl and friends. Thank you for the great recipe!

    • Thanks for sharing with us Jodie — we’re so glad you enjoyed the recipe, and we hope your friends do as well! :)

  41. Seriously yummy!  There is nothing like a cake made from scratch and I will definitely make this again.

  42. If you use vanilla rum, would you think the vanilla called for in the recipe needs cut back? Making for a work birthday tomorrow. Thanks!

    • Hi Beth! If using vanilla flavored rum, we think you could probably skip the vanilla extract. We hope you and your coworkers enjoy! :)

  43. Made this last night for co-worker birthday it was very, very good! I had vanilla rum on hand so I used it and the same amount of vanilla in the recipe, and it was delicious! It is a bit more effort than the cake-mix/pudding recipe that we normally make, but really worth it for the homemade flavor you can only get from a scratch recipe! I will add walnuts next time in the bottom of the pan. Loved the sugar coating, made the cake slide out with ease!

    • Thanks for sharing Beth — we’re so glad to hear it was a hit! Also, we think walnuts would be a lovely addition! :)

  44. I made this using cup4cup gluten free flour and a touch more rum. It was a HUGE success. It was very heavy but still airy. I think had I sifted the flour it would have been better. I was worried about the consistency because it resembled bread dough, but it cooked GREAT. At a party where everyone rolls their eyes over my GF food choices, no one even batted an eye.

    • We’re so glad to hear you were able to make this gluten-free, Stacy! Thanks for sharing with us! :)

  45. Awesome cake!! After searching for a recipe without boxed mix and pudding as well as dry milk, it is amazing!! Made for my grandparents I know that they will love it. Great job and thank you!!

  46. I made this today for the Christmas eve and it came out awesome!! So soft and delicious with the glaze on both ends. I just added walnuts and pecans at the bottom of the cake and made it with all-purpose flour.

  47. Hi…I was wondering why you said not to use spiced rum.

    • Hi Scarlette! You can use spiced rum if you’d rather, we just used a golden rum for this.

  48. Recipe is very good!

  49. Hi 

    I wanted to comment that it took me almost 5 minutes to beat my eggs (I’m hoping that doesn’t affect the cake). Could you tell be what the purpose of the sugar in the egg whites are ?

  50. This looks delicious! I am thinking of trying to make cupcakes out of it… any advice? Thanks!

    • Hi Megan! We think you could definitely make cupcakes out of this, just keep in mind they probably won’t need as much time to bake. We hope you enjoy!