This classic rum-soaked cake is made from scratch and coated in a delicious rum butter sauce. It’s tender, flavorful and the perfect homemade version of everyone’s holiday favorite!
My aunt was the first person to convince me that rum cake is delicious. One Christmas she made the most delicious Bacardi rum cake that was everything you could want. It was golden brown, extremely moist and had a rum flavor that was prominent without being too strong. After losing the recipe, I decided it was time to develop the perfect, from-scratch, rum-soaked cake. Lots of versions use cake mix, but this recipe is 100% from scratch. After numerous recipe tests and a very large bottle of rum, this rum-soaked cake is everything you could want.
The Perfect Rum Cake Recipe
This recipe does require a few extra steps to ensure that it’s moist and tender, without being too dense. Essentially, we’re making a yellow cake recipe that’s infused with rum and has a layer of roasted pecans on top (the nuts are optional). Then after it’s baked, it’s soaked in a butter rum sauce. The amount of sauce you use will determine how strong the rum flavor is.
To start, you’ll toast the chopped pecans. They’ll bake on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, or until the color has darkened and the aroma is wafting through your kitchen. Toasting the nuts really brings out the flavor. Again, if you want to leave out the nuts, feel free. But I do really find that they add to the flavor.
Then you’ll separate the eggs. You’ll whip the egg whites along with some of the sugar until stiff peaks form. You’ll reserve the whipped egg whites to fold into the batter at the end. Whipping the egg whites adds air and lift to the batter. It ensures that the batter isn’t too heavy or dense. When you separate the eggs be very careful that there is no yolk in the whites, otherwise they won’t form stiff peaks.
From there, the recipe is very similar to making any yellow cake. You’ll beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, then mix in the oil and vanilla extract. We’re using a combination of butter and oil because the butter adds flavor, while the oil keeps the cake moist for longer. You won’t taste the oil at all because the rum flavor masks it. Then you’ll mix in the egg yolks and vanilla. Then you’ll carefully mix in the dry ingredients, alternating with additions of the buttermilk and rum.
Last but not least, you’ll carefully fold in the whipped egg whites using a rubber spatula. You want to keep the volume of the egg whites, so it’s important that you fold them in gently by hand. When you’re done, there should no longer be streaks of white throughout the batter.
You’ll sprinkle the chopped nuts into a greased and floured bunt pan, and then pour the cake batter over top. The cake will bake for about 55-70 minutes at 325F. The bake time can really vary, as different bunt pans have slightly different shapes – i.e. a bundt pan that’s deeper and narrower will have a longer bake time than one that’s wider. When it’s done baking, an inserted toothpick should come out clean and you should see the edges pulling away from the pan.
The cake gets inverted out of the pan and then you’ll prick the top with a fork or toothpick. The warm rum butter sauce gets brushed/poured over the cake and seeps through the little holes that you’ve pricked. I typically pour/brush the sauce in layers, allowing it to soak in before adding a second coat. I like to soak the cake in about ½ of the sauce that I’ve made, and then let people pour more sauce on top of their slice if they like it extra sauce-y and with a stronger rum flavor. More sauce = sweeter, more rum-infused cake.
Baking Tips & Questions
- Bundt Pans: Make sure to use a non-stick pan. The pan will need to be well greased and floured to ensure that it doesn’t stick (even if you’re using a non-stick pan). Be sure to get into ever crease and crevice of the pan. You can also use pan release/homemade cake goop. You can find my recipe for it here.
- Cake Flour Substitute: This recipe is developed with cake flour to give it a fine crumb. If you don’t have cake flour on hand, you can make your own with all-purpose flour (AKA plain flour) and cornstarch (AKA cornflour). I’ve included the substitution in the recipe notes.
- Do Not Overmix the Batter: Overmixing will make the cake dry and tough. I always mix in the flour, milk and rum by hand using a wire whisk. This minimizes the likelihood of overmixing the batter.
- What Type of Rum Should I Use in Rum Cake? I like using a dark rum, but light rum works too. You don’t need to use anything top shelf, but I would recommend something with hints of caramel, vanilla and/or spices.
- If the cake appears to be stuck to the pan, try using a thin knife to gently pry the edges away from the pan. You can also invert the cake onto a plate or cooling rack and gently tap the pan around the edges.
This rum-soaked cake is perfect any time of year, but is definitely a favorite around the holidays. It’s moist and tender with golden edges and has a delicious rum flavor (don’t worry, it definitely won’t get you drunk).
And if you’re looking for more boozy holiday desserts, including some rum-flavored treats, then be sure to try:
- 12-cup bundt pan - mine is 10.5 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep
- ¾ cup chopped pecans optional
- 2 ½ cup cake flour (300 grams) see notes for substitute
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 large egg whites
- ½ cup unsalted butter (112 grams) softened to room temperature
- 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar (350 grams) divided into 1 ½ cups and ¼ cup
- ½ cup vegetable oil (120 ml) or canola oil
- 5 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup buttermilk (120 ml) room temperature
- ½ cup rum (120 ml) I used dark
Butter Rum Sauce
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter (75 grams)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
- 3 tablespoons water (45 ml)
- ⅓ cup rum (80 ml)
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
- Add the chopped pecans to a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden and you can smell the aroma. Do not let the nuts burn. Remove from the oven and turn the oven down to 325F (160C).
- Grease a bundt pan generously and dust with flour. Be sure to coat every crevice, especially around the center. Alternatively, brush with pan release (AKA cake goop).
- Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whip the 3 egg whites using the whisk attachment of your mixer. Once frothy (about 2 minutes) add in ¼ cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form (about 1 more minute). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter and the remaining 1 ½ cups sugar until fluffy. Mix in the oil and vanilla extract. Then mix in the 5 egg yolks.
- Sift in about ⅓ of the flour mixture. With the mixer on a low speed or using a wire whisk, carefully mix in the flour mixture.
- Whisk in the the milk. Stop mixing as soon as it's combined.
- Sift in about ⅓ more of the flour. Then carefully whisk it into the batter. Whisk in the rum.
- Sift in the last of the flour and whisk until the batter is smooth. Stop mixing as soon as everything is combined. Overmixing will lead to a dry cake.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Continue to fold them into the batter until you no longer see streaks of egg white.
- Sprinkle the toasted, chopped pecans into the bottom of the prepared bundt pan (if you're using pecans). Then pour the cake batter over top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 60-75 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and you see the edges starting to pull away from the pan. The bake time will vary depending on the size of your bundt pan and your oven.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for at least 15 minutes. Then carefully invert the pan to release the cake. If it appears to be stuck, gently tap on the sides of the pan to help release the cake.
Butter Rum Sauce
- As the cake is cooling, make the sauce.
- Add the butter, sugar and water to a medium saucepan over low heat. Melt everything together while gently stirring.
- Bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes while whisking. Then remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the rum. It can boil up as you add in the rum, so be careful.
- Poke the top and sides of the cake with a toothpick or fork to create small holes.
- Pour/brush the rum sauce over the cake. Do a little at a time, so that you have multiple layers. I typically do about ⅓ to ½ of the sauce to soak the cake
- Slice the cake using a sharp, thin knife. Serve with the remaining sauce, allowing each person to pour more sauce over their slice of cake, if the choose. More sauce will lead to a stronger rum flavor.
- Pecans: Nuts are optional - feel free to leave them out if you prefer.
- Cake Flour Substitute: If you do not have cake flour, measure out 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour. Remove 5 tablespoons of flour and add in 5 tablespoons of cornstarch (AKA corflour). Sift the mixture together 3 times.
- Eggs: You will need 5 eggs in total for this recipe. You'll use 5 egg yolks, but only 3 egg whites. Discard the egg whites from the the last 2 eggs, or save for a different recipe.
- Buttermilk Substitute: To make your own, add 1 teaspoon vinegar or 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice to ½ cup cow's milk (1% or 2% is best). Stir, then let sit on the counter for 5 minutes to sour.
- Storage: Cake is best if enjoyed the same day it's made. Store leftovers in an airtight container or wrapped tightly at room temperature for up to 3 days. Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. Warm up the sauce before serving.
- Nutrition: Details provided are an estimate only and assume that the cake is sliced into 12 equal pieces, and all the rum sauce is used and divided equally between each piece.