Wanted: a cake that makes people dream of a tropical island holiday.
Found: Bahamian rum cake.
When I first had the idea of making a rum cake, I found a few recipes that use yellow cake mix and/or pudding mix. I guess this ensures consistency and a moist finish, but it also felt like cheating. Why make something at home if the guests will still be eating stuff with unknown chemicals?
So, I went back to my trusty book, Ready for Dessert. The book provided a recipe for rum cake that sounded like tropical heaven – spiced, syrup drenched and coconut glazed tropical heaven.
I was making a cake for morning tea at work. At first, I didn’t want to bring an alcohol cake, but as a friend sensibly pointed out, ‘it’s 5pm somewhere in the world.’
The cake batter was an overload of richness: eggs, egg yolks, coconut milk, vanilla, nutmeg, butter and sugar, which resulted in a dense and moist crumb. The syrup was full of dark rum and coconut, its smell reminded us of a Malibu cocktail. After it soaked into the cake, every slice of the cake smelled like a cocktail, too.
And the glaze! Butter, double cream, sugar and a little more rum was cooked into a caramel that was lava-like, irresistibly rich, and very pretty when draped with shredded coconut. Coconut’s pure white colour contrasted with the light golden caramel. Lastly, I used coconut sugar instead of brown sugar to add an extra bit of caramelised richness.
The glaze and the kugelhof pan* produced a cake that was as showy as I had hoped. And the taste – well, people are still talking about it.
* yes, kugelhof pan. Mr Gander only agreed to buy a new pan when I tempted him with sweet, poppyseed-filled yeast cake.
A colleague was so impressed, she now plans to serve this cake at Christmas dinner (warmed up, with extra coconut rum syrup and glaze, so it’s like a tropical riff on a pudding). It turns out my anti-Christmas cake can be part of the season festivities after all.
Here is the recipe, with my changes in brackets.
Bahamian rum cake
(adapted from Ready for Dessert, David Lebovitz)
3 cups (420g) all purpose / plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt (I used one heaped tsp of coarse sea salt flakes)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I also added a touch of cinnamon and allspice)
1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (400g) granulated / castor sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
¾ cup (180ml) coconut milk
Coconut rum syrup
¾ cup (180 ml) coconut milk
6 tbsp (75g) granulated/castor sugar (I added an extra 1 tbsp coconut sugar)
½ cup (125ml) dark rum
4 tbsp (60g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 tbsp heavy cream (double cream)
6 tbsp dark brown sugar (I used coconut sugar instead)
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp dark rum
½ cup (40g) shredded coconut, toasted
1. Pre-heat oven to 175°C. Coat a 10-cup (2.5 litre) Bundt pan or tube pan liberally with butter or non-stick cooking spray. Dust it liberally with flour, and tap out any excess. (it is really important to be liberal with both butter and flour, otherwise cakes tend to stick to bundt pans, think streaks of butter and a snow storm of flour)
2. To make the cake, into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.
3. In a stand mixer, beat together butter, granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (3-5 min).
4. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. Slowly add to the butter/sugar mixture, either when the mixer is running or in small dollops. Beat the egg mixture into the butter mixture, scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until eggs are completely incorporated. It is normal for this mixture to look curdled. It’ll be ok after you add flour.
5. Take bowl off the stand mixer. Use a wooden spoon/spatula, gently stir in one-third of the flour mixture, then about half of the coconut milk. Mix in another one-third of the flour mixture, half of the coconut milk, and finish with the last third of the flour mixture. Stir gently just until combined.
6. Scrape batter into the cake pan. Bake until the cake is just set in the centre (I use the skewer test – there should be no crumbs on the skewer after sticking it into the centre of the cake). This will take about 55-60 minutes.
7. While the cake is baking, make the coconut-rum syrup. In a medium saucepan, warm the coconut milk and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in the rum so you don’t lose any of the alcohol.
8. When the cake comes out of the oven, leave it in the pan, and poke it with a bamboo skewer about 60 times. Spoon two-thirds of the syrup over the cake. Let it soak in gradually, and let the cake cool completely. (I left the cake soaking overnight.)
9. Invert cake onto the plate you are going to serve the cake on. Brush or spoon the remaining syrup over the cake (I found a brush was better, as the syrup was brushed onto the cake, rather than just dribbling off the sides).
10. To make the glaze, in a small saucepan over medium to high heat, bring the butter, cream, brown sugar and salt to a boil (I only added salt at the last minute). Cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar, for about 1.5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum and let cool completely. Once cool, stir in toasted coconut (and salt). (I only added two-thirds of the coconut to the glaze. I sprinkled on the other half in the next step so they kept their white colour.)
11. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, encouraging it to run down the sides of the cake. If glaze is too thick, warm it again slightly. (I sprinkled on the remaining one-third of the shredded coconuts on top of the glaze.)