This incredible rum cake recipe is made using from scratch ingredients (no mixes!) and is then SOAKED in a dark rum butter syrup that keeps it incredibly moist, rich and bursting with rum flavor. While it’s perfect for serving all year, this rum-soaked cake will be an absolute show stopper at holiday gatherings.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Bermuda. We stayed at a gorgeous resort called The Reefs, with one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. White sand, turquoise water…
While I wasn’t especially blown away by the cuisine, the one thing I remember instantly falling in love with was Bermuda Rum Cake.
Rum cake is basically pound cake that’s been drenched in a rich, buttery rum syrup. It’s addicting, and I’ve wanted to make it at home ever since.
Imagine my surprise when most of the online recipes included either yellow cake mix and/or pudding mix! Even one of my most trusted stand-by sites for when I don’t know how to make certain baked goods from scratch, King Arthur Flour, has a rum cake using boxed pudding mix. Huh. Maybe that’s just traditional?
I mean, I have a yellow cake recipe that includes a rant about why homemade cakes are so much better than box mix cakes. Why would I use one here?
- All-purpose flour
- Dark brown sugar
- Baking soda
- Sour cream
- Heavy cream
- Dark rum
- Vanilla extract
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- 12 cup Bundt pan
- Stand mixer
- Offset or regular spatula
- Measuring bowls, cups and spoons
How to Make Rum Cake From Scratch
It took a few tries to get this recipe just right, but it ultimately wasn’t difficult to get results that tasted like the Caribbean rum cake I had in Bermuda. I modified one of my pound cake recipes, adding rum and a bit of dark brown sugar, then I soaked it in syrup.
If you’ve previously prepared a pound cake, this basically follows the same steps. A more detailed version can be found in printable form at the bottom of the post.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls.
- Cream the butter and sugar, then slowly add the eggs and yolks.
- Alternate between adding the wet and dry ingredients., then pour into a bundt can and bake.
- While the cake is in the oven, prepare the rum syrup. Once the cake is out of the oven, remove from the pan and let it cool, then return it to the (cleaned) Bundt pan (this will prevent sticking).
- Use a large bamboo skewer to make several holes (this will help the syrup absorb), then douse the cake with rum syrup while it’s still in the pan.
I’m very happy with how this rum cake recipe turned out, and I think you will be as well!
- While you can technically substitute spiced rum, I highly recommend using dark rum for the best flavor. The flavor of spiced rum was too subtle, in my opinion. I recommend Goslings or Bacardi Black Rum. Goslings Black Rum is what you’ll find in Bermuda rum cake, so that’s what I used.
- I often using baking spray with flour in my recipes. With bundt cakes, I recommend using shortening and a light coating of flour. I’m not a fan of Crisco, but I love Nutiva Organic Shortening, which is non-hydrogenated. Unsalted butter will also work.
- Speaking of excess moisture, don’t leave the hot cake in the pan any longer than necessary for the same reason.
- As this is a typical pound cake, it’s not uncommon to deal with separation on the side that’s exposed to the heating element in your oven. Luckily, that’s the bottom of a bundt cake! The most common cause of this is over-mixing. Southern Living has some great tips on common pound cake mistakes to avoid. However, the cake will be fine if this happens, especially once it’s soaked in syrup. No one will know.
Can Kids Eat Rum Cake?
Typically, most alcohol added to baked goods is cooked out, leaving only the flavor behind. However, most of the alcohol is added to rum cake after it comes out of the oven.
That being said, I personally wouldn’t worry too much about it. There won’t be much rum per slice. I’m not a doctor, so I recommend getting a second opinion if you’re concerned.
Why Egg Size Matters in Baking
This recipe calls for large eggs. Using different size eggs can drastically impact baked goods. Don’t substitute a different size unless you have a kitchen scale to measure an equal weight by volume (ounces or grams) to get the same total amount of egg.
Read more about why egg size matters in baking (and how to make substitutions).
How to Measure Flour
For baked goods (as well as desserts like custard and ice cream), I always recommend using a kitchen scale to measure flour by weight instead of volume. Weight (ounces, grams, etc) will always give an accurate measurement of dry goods; volume (cups) can create varied results.
A cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 3 1/2 to 5 ounces. That could make a big difference in your recipe! If you still want to use cups, there’s a proper technique to make sure you get the best results possible.
My post How to Measure Flour explains all of this in more detail.
More Cake Recipes
Rum Cake From Scratch
For the cake:
- 14 ounces all-purpose flour (approximately 2 3/4 cup)
- 2 ounces dark brown sugar (1/4 cup packed)
- 3/4 ounce cornstarch (2 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup dark rum (I recommend Goslings or Bacardi Black Rum)
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 18 ounces granulated sugar (2 1/2 cups)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
For the rum syrup:
- 2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dark rum, divided
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the center position. Lightly but thoroughly grease a 12-cup bundt pan (I recommend using shortening or butter), then dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cornstarch, kosher salt, and baking soda. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sour cream, heavy cream, dark rum, and vanilla.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar together on medium-low speed for about 3-4 minutes, until the mixture starts looking less dense and more fluffy (this is a high sugar to butter ratio). Turn the mixer to high speed and cream for an additional 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, allowing each to incorporate before adding the next but without over-mixing. As soon as the egg has blended into the batter, move onto the next one. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple times during the process.
- With the mixer on medium-low speed, swiftly alternate between adding the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry. This shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds total. Once the ingredients have been added, turn off the mixer and give a few good stirs with a spatula to make sure the ingredients are combined.
- Pour into the prepared bundt pan and level off the top with an offset or regular spatula. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a skewer comes clean from the center.
- While the cake is baking, prepare the rum syrup. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the butter, water, sugar, salt, 3/4 cup rum, and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring periodically, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until the syrup has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 or 2 remaining tablespoons of rum to taste (depending on how aggressive you want the rum flavor in the cake to be). Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert to a wire rack to cool almost completely, around 45 minutes. While the cake is cooling, clean and dry the bundt pan.
- Once the cake has cooled, fit the clean bundt pan on top of it and then gently turn the cake back over and remove the wire rack. Briefly whisk the syrup incase any separation has occurred. Use a skewer to poke several holes in the cake, then slowly and evenly top with the rum syrup, pausing as needed so it can absorb into the cake. Let the syrup soak for 1 hour, then turn the cake out onto a stand for serving.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
For immediate help troubleshooting a recipe, please email me using the form on my contact page. I’ll try to respond to urgent questions as quickly as possible! For all general questions, please leave a comment here :)
Let me start by saying, I don’t bake. I mean, yes, I can whip up chocolate chip cookies, but baking a cake sends me into a cold sweat. But, I had a wild hair to make a Rum cake for Thanksgiving and chose your recipe. I am sooooo happy I did. I diligently followed your recipe and advice (okay, I snuck in 1/2 tsp of allspice for some holiday flair) and it was a huge success!! Oh my gosh. A-MA-ZING! A new holiday tradition! Thank-you.
Jennifer Farley says
I’m so glad you liked it!! Thanks so much for leaving a review :)
Will it work to substitute tapioca starch for the cornstarch?
Jackie Scarsella says
I am so happy to meet another “ no boxed mix user.” I too will capitulate if pressed. Just scratch baking is much more satisfying. Happy Holidays
My Italian mother always made a spong rum cake with a lemon filling. It’s different from your recipe but it reminded me of it.
I love this recipe! thank you
Molly Kumar says
That looks absolutely delicious and the cake is so moist. Love the combination of rum in here.
Amy BC says
Thank you for the preparation tips. So helpful! The cake is beautiful and so delicious.
If I were to make this cake a day ahead. Would it be best to wait to soak it an hour before serving. Or would it be better to let it soak longer.
Jennifer Farley says
I’d follow the instructions as written. You can remove the cake from the bundt pan a day beforehand :)
DeAndrea Ford says
Can’t wait to try it this week.
I can highly recommend this cake, very yummy!
I dont drink so I typically dont have liquor on hand. I do however have Myers Dark Rum from a previous cake I made , will that be okay in the recipe? Also , can I use light brown sugar or is there something I can do to make my light brown sugar dark ?
Thanks in advance!
Jennifer Farley says
Hi Jada! I rarely drink, so I get it. I tend to keep smaller bottles of alcohol on hand specifically for baking and ice creams. I tested this with assorted rums, and it definitely had the best, most pronounced flavor with dark rum. I didn’t use Myers, but since dark rum is similar to black, I think it will be fine. Brown sugars can almost always be used interchangeably, but I do think the light version will create a slightly less pronounced flavor. It will still work, though! If you happen to have molasses on hand, you can add a bit to the light brown sugar (pulse in a food processor) to create dark brown sugar. More on that here.
I am making this now. My husband says he will miss the crunchy glaze on top of the cake. Will it be okay to put half on the bottom, let it soak in, turn over, and then add half to the top? Or is the crunch inside completely satisfying? Thanks
Jennifer Farley says
Hi Cathy! I’m a little confused what you mean by the crunch inside? Before adding the rum syrup, this has a texture similar to pound cake. Once the syrup is added, it’s still a similar texture but with additional moisture.
Leona Konkel says
This cake was fantastic! I made it to take to book club, and everyone happily took leftovers home. It’s still pretty moist 3 days later. I ran out of dark rum while making the syrup, so it only had 5 tablespoons rum, plus an extra tablespoon vanilla, cooked into it. I stirred 2 tablespoons barrel-aged rum (light rum, with a little extra flavor) into the cooked syrup. Using a little less rum, although accidental, led to a nice flavor without an overwhelming punch of alcohol.
I’m in the western slope area of the Rockies and wanted to know become I try this rum cake, do I have to add anything more for 6000′ of altitude? Thanks in advance for the reply. Kev
Jennifer Farley says
Hi Kevin! I wish I could be more helpful, but I have zero experience with high altitude baking. If there are any recipe websites that specialize in this, you might want to reach out to them for advice on how to adapt my recipe. I know there are often changes that need to be made, either to the ingredients, time or temperature.
Kevin J Lyons says
Thanks for the reply and candor. Have a wonderful day. Kevin
Can I make ahead and freeze?
Jennifer Farley says
Hi Jana! I’ve never frozen this particular cake. My instinct is that because it’s soaked it rum, it could potentially get a bit mushy when you defrost it because of the rum syrup. I’m not entirely sure, though, so I’m sorry I can’t give you a definitive answer.
Because we were traveling, I took a chance. It was perfect! My husband is asking for another one. Thank you for the recipe.