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:
- 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup pastry cream filling mix or instant vanilla pudding mix (dry)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup white or golden rum
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon butter rum flavor (optional but excellent)
- 1/4 cup pecan meal, for dusting baking pan
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.
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!
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