The Jamaican rum cake that’s a typical Christmastime treat in the island nation is also known as "black cake" due to its very dark color. It’s often flavored with a number of spices and frequently includes dried fruits as well. In fact, it could be considered a type of fruitcake. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of that holiday offering, though. This particular American-style rum cake from recipe developer Stephanie Rapone, while made with Jamaican rum, is quite different from the traditional Caribbean dessert.
Rapone’s recipe is actually more of a typical yellow bundt cake, entirely fruit-free, although it does contain a layer of chopped nuts. It contains a fair amount of rum, though (Jamaican or otherwise), both in the batter and as part of a syrup that’s applied over the top and allowed to soak in. Rapone says the cake "tastes amazing if you enjoy rum," describing it as "rich and dense," and suggesting that it is "really yummy with coffee," either for dessert or as a sweet breakfast or brunch. Before making it, though, you’ll need to set aside a few hours as the syrup needs quite a bit of time to soak into the cake.
Gather the ingredients for Jamaican rum cake
To make the cake, Rapone uses almond flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, vegetable oil, butter, milk, eggs, vanilla paste, vanilla instant pudding mix, pecans, and rum. If you have no almond flour, however, there’s no need to run out and get some. It’s just used to coat the inside of the pan, and while Rapone does say it "add[s] a nutty outer layer that really makes the flavor of the cake more complex," she allows that all-purpose flour would serve the purpose just as well. She also favors using vanilla paste herself, but says most recipes call for vanilla extract, so it’s perfectly fine if you want to use that instead.
As far as the rum goes, Rapone says she uses Meyers’ dark rum, which does come from Jamaica, but you can use any type of rum you like. Dark rum, light rum, even a spiced or flavored rum — if you like the taste in a drink, you’ll love it in this cake.
Prepare the cake pan
In order to make sure the room temperature ingredients actually reach that level, Rapone advises taking the eggs, butter, and milk out of the fridge an hour before baking. With the milk, it’s probably best to measure out the amount you’ll need rather than letting the whole carton sit out on the counter.
While your eggs and dairy are sitting out, spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray, then sprinkle the almond (or all-purpose) flour inside the pan and shake so it coats the sides. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan in an even layer. You should also preheat your oven to 325 F before you start making the cake batter.
Make the cake batter
Mix the all-purpose flour with the pudding mix, baking powder, 1 ½ cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Beat them for 20-30 seconds until well-combined. Add 1 stick softened butter to the dry ingredients, along with the oil, then beat them in for about 2 minutes, At this point, Rapone says the mixture should resemble "wet sand."
Stir in the milk, then add the eggs one at a time. If you’re using a stand mixer, leave it running as you add each egg, then stop it, scrape the sides, start it again, and add the next egg. Rapone cautions "Do not over-beat or your cake texture will be tough."
Bake and cool the cake
Pour the batter into the bundt pan — Rapone suggests you "tip [the pan] slightly to make sure it’s evenly distributed." Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes, testing for doneness by sticking a toothpick or skewer into the middle. Once it comes out clean, the cake should be done. Take it out of the oven and let it cool in the pan.
Make the rum syrup
You should have half a stick of butter left. Melt it in a pan and stir in the remaining sugar and rum, also adding ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup water. Let it come to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and let the mixture simmer for 7-8 minutes. Let the rum syrup cool, then stir in the vanilla.
Apply the rum syrup to the cake
When the cake and the syrup are both relatively cool, take a long skewer and poke a bunch of holes in the cake and pour about half the syrup into the pan. Let the cake rest for an hour, then pour the rest of the syrup in there, too. At this point, cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the cake sit for a few hours (overnight is fine) to allow the syrup to infuse the cake.
When the syrup is all soaked in, use a knife or spatula to loosen the cake around the edges of the pan. Flip it out onto a plate, and it’s ready to serve.
When you want a boozy sweet to enjoy as dessert or with a morning cup of coffee, try this moist and tasty Jamaican rum cake.
- ⅓ cup almond flour (or all-purpose, if desired)
- ¼ cup pecans, chopped
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1 3.4-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ stick unsalted butter, divided
- ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
- ½ cup milk, room temperature
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup dark rum, divided
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, divided
- ¼ cup water
- cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 325 F.
- Spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray.
- Sprinkle the pan with the almond flour and gently shake the pan so the almond flour evenly coats the sides.
- Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly in the bottom of the pan.
- Combine the flour, 1 ½ cups sugar, pudding mix, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt, beating them together for 20-30 seconds.
- Add 1 stick butter to the mixing bowl, along with the oil, and beat on low for about 2 minutes.
- Add the milk and beat on low until combined.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- Add ½ cup rum and 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla, mixing on low until incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool.
- Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat, stirring in the remaining sugar and rum along with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup water.
- Bring the syrup to a slow boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7-8 minutes.
- Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool.
- Stir the remaining vanilla into the syrup.
- Poke holes in the cake with a long skewer.
- Slowly pour about half the cooled syrup over the cake and allow it to sit for 1 hour.
- Pour the rest of the syrup over the cake and cover it with plastic wrap.
- Allow the cake to sit for several hours, or overnight.
- Loosen the cake around the edges of the pan and turn it out onto a plate before slicing and serving.