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Tales from the kitchen: Rum cake infused with redemption

The Central Voice reporter Adam Randell tries his hand at rum cake.
The Central Voice reporter Adam Randell tries his hand at rum cake. - Contributed

They say the fun is in the trying, and when there’s rum involved, this rings particularly true.

Last year, I offered up a Christmas treat from rural Newfoundland and Labrador’s past – molasses candy. And considering the floption (state) it turned out to be – what was supposed to be a chewy treat turned out a rock-hard mess – there was a need for redemption.

RELATED: Bringing back homemade molasses candy

Rum cake isn’t a unique dessert to the province, but it is quite popular during the holidays.

I’ve come to realize though, most traditional rum cake recipes for Newfoundland and Labrador are done in a fruit cake style. But seeing how the only good thing about fruit cake is that it makes an excellent boat anchor, there had to be another way.

In considering the options, I immediately thought of my Ship Cove friend, Kathleen Tucker, who passed away earlier this year.

The former Northern Pen columnist would often stop into the St. Anthony office, where I was working at the time, with a yellow cake style rum cake, cookies and other goodies. She always offered them with a smile and a warm voice for a friendly chat.

Kathleen often marveled at the coffee cup collection that lined my desk. She was so fascinated by this, she had to take a picture of it, and after several requests, Kathleen got one on the condition it was never shown publicly.

But since I’ve begun working from home, I have a much stricter office manager, and when a cup ends up on my desk, I’m often shown where the trash bin is to.

But I digress. Kathleen’s rum cake was so amazing it didn’t always make it home.

So, with her in mind, I decided to make the yellow cake style.

After googlizing the internet, there were numerous options, and the good people at became my guiding light with their online recipe. God bless the internet.

My baking skills haven’t gotten any better, or worse, since last Christmas, but cake from scratch has never been an issue. How hard could it be?

After all, flour, sugar, baking powder, a dash of salt, it’s all standard stuff when it comes to cake. But instant pudding is something I’ve never heard tell of in a cake. Who puts pudding in cake?

Plus, there was no instant pudding in the pantry.

So off to the store it was, in the middle of a storm and in the middle of the Christmas shopping madness.

Thirty minutes later, and slightly frustrated with the line ups, the instant pudding was added.

Then, it was back to the good ol’ standards, butter, oil, milk, eggs and vanilla.

Until, at last, the good part, adding the rum.

While this wasn’t a traditional Newfoundland style cake, there was a need to infuse something to give it a provincial flair. Enter Old Sam, that dark rum with a head when mixed with cola.

Old Sam comes from Guyana, South America, and according to its website, “The original recipe for Old Sam Demerara Rum stretches back to 1797 when Edward Young & Co. imported their rum from Guyana and brought the first barrels marked ‘Old Sam’ to London, England.”

Because of its connection across the pond, it’s easy to tell why it became a well-known rum in this province.

Furthermore, it has been blended and bottled in Newfoundland since 1999.

And putting my not-so-established baking knowhow to use, it seemed the sweet taste of this rum would pair well with cake.

Plus, I get to enjoy the leftovers.

So, into the batter it goes. A half a cup, and a splash or two extra, for good measure.

With everything mixed together, into to a Bundt pan it goes.

What the heck is a Bundt pan?

I kid, that bit of research was done beforehand and one was took out on loan from a friend.

Then the waiting game begins, 50-60 minutes, at 325 degrees, to be precise.

What came out of the oven, a very crisp and delicious looking cake, until I remembered, the vanilla was sitting next to the oven and not in the cake where it was supposed to be.

Ruined! Fire it in the garbage, one would assume, but the saving grace to it was the sauce.

Now I’ve never been one for sauces, it’s too much effort and attention for a wandering mind.

But the ingredients are simple. Water, butter, sugar, salt and another half a cup of rum. Bring it to a boil, let it simmer to thicken up, then add vanilla. Don’t forget the vanilla.

It didn’t thick up, but the vanilla was added anyways. I was informed by a baker afterwards that I likely didn’t use enough sugar.

But in the name of soldiering on, I poke holes in the cake, and added the sauce a little at a time.

Letting it soak in and repeating until the sauce was gone. Then leave the cake to absorb the sauce.

Five hours after adding the first ingredients, surprisingly in one fluid motion, the cake slid out of the pan and onto the serving platter. The bumps in the Bundt a little burnt, but the addition of the sauce had made it moist.

The plan was to add an icing sugar glaze for a little showmanship, however, the taste was perfect just the way it was. The choice in rum had helped maintain a moist, sweet tasting cake.

And the success was quickly noticed. Slice after slice was freely carved out and carted off by friends, whereas last year’s molasses candy would still be in the container if I hadn’t thrown them out.

It appears the best part of this cake wasn’t the rum, but the redemption.

Anyone wishing to get in on the rum cake fun themselves, King Arthur Flour has a wonderful recipe online. It can be found here.

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