A Family Tradition: Rum Cake

In our family, every year on your birthday you got to pick the meal you wanted made for the family birthday celebration. While I don’t think this is a terribly unique tradition I do think the menus that have graced our family table over the years on the occasion of my or my sister’s birthday are. One year my little sister asked for baby carrots stuck into giant black olives, canned mandarine oranges served in ramekins and eaten with shrimp forks; and her drink served out of a liquid medicine measurement spoon - she is a real unique soul, that one. I often requested supper nachos or egg kaka and my older sister’s menus usually rotated around cheesy mashed potatoes.

As for desserts we’ve each explored different sweets – french silk pie, birthday cake cones, angel food cake, brownies. There is one phase we have all gone through though, the rum cake phase. For as long as I can remember my mother’s rum cake, with it’s dense cake soaked in a sweet boozy sauce, has appeared on the table at least once a year for someone’s birthday. It’s a recipe she learned from her mother that relies on boxed cake mix and when she makes it it’s perfection.

In culinary school I made it one of my projects to recreate the cake from scratch and after a few tries – mostly figuring out the egg factor – I nailed it. It’s the recipe I now use when I’m tasked with making rum cake, as I was a few weeks ago when I made my little sister’s birthday dinner (she’s matured into a rather sophisticated menu of pot roast and salad), which also served as the impetus for this post. If you’re looking to start a new addiction tradition give this a try immediately.

Rum Cake:
3 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Rum Sauce:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbs – 1/4 cup rum

Preheat the oven to 350˚

  1. Spray one angel food pan with a removable bottom*. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Cut up the butter into 1-inch pieces and place them in the large bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment or beaters. Beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl.
  4. Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Add the eggs & yolks one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each egg. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the side of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a knife. Lift up the pan with the batter, and let it drop onto the counter top to burst and air bubbles, allowing the batter to settle.
  7. Center the pan onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top and comes away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. While the cake is baking combine the sugar, water and butter for the rum sauce in a pan on the stove. Bring to a boil then add the rum.
  9. Using a skewer poke holes in the fresh out of the oven cake then pour the rum sauce over the warm cake.
  10. Let the cake cool then remove from pan.

*I used a spring form for the cake pictured and it works just fine but if you have the angel food pan I highly recommend using it.

An Introduction

It has been a long while since I last visited this space and while I have missed it I’m not going to use this post to apologize for my absence. Instead I’m going to introduce you to the reason I’ve been otherwise occupied.

Meet Finnick.

He arrived in July and has been pretty much the best baby a pair of new parents could have hoped for. He was a big guy from the start – we joked he would come out a toddler – which I think helped with all the big hurdles like eating, sleeping and, well, growing making it an easier transition for us form a family of two to a family of three. He is also the sweetest, giggliest and freakishly strong babies I’ve known so he is a lot of fun to hang out and be silly with, by far my current most favorite activity. Continue Reading →

Italian Plum Torte

This one is going to be a quicky, mostly because I’ve been cooking like a crazy person over the last few weeks and the recipes are starting to pile up which is only contributing to the crazy person status. So I figured I’d get this recipe out there since a friend of mine, who is lucky enough to have a plum tree in her backyard, was looking for the recipe. This one is I’ve thrown together whenever I have stone fruit that needs to be used up (it works beautifully with apricots and peaches) so if you ever find yourself in the same spot then give it a go.

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Chocolate & Stout Are A Perfect Pair

I’ll be honest, it’s taken me years to come around to the allure of chocolate. I was not born a chocoholic, nor do I think I would qualify myself as one today but I can say that I do occasionally find myself craving it. Last weekend while making up my Oscar party menu I found myself coming back to some of the chocolate recipes I’ve pinned to my Pinterest page. Since I’ve also been on a pretty intense investigation into stouts I settled on this recipe for chocolate stout cake. Of course, I had to futz with the recipe and my god the result is something that I have actually dreamed of. Yes mom, I am finally dreaming about chocolate. The crumb is incredibly tender and you can actually taste the stout peaking through the cocoa flavor. Continue Reading →

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

At the last minute we ended up having quite the crowd at our place for the Super Bowl last weekend which meant pulling together a nice spread of snacks to keep the crowd happy. I did the usual – guac, seasoned popcorn, chipotle bean dip, etc. – and Ry grabbed some bbq from our neighborhood rib joint. It was a rather impressive menu given the short notice and as I was looking for my standard brownie recipe I realized there wasn’t really anything healthy to offer so, I put the cocoa powder away and took out the banana bread recipe I’ve been trying to sort out. Usually when I get to the point when I’m trying to refine a recipe I get more diligent with my measurements and notes but since I had only a little time to get this in the oven I barely managed to make some chicken scratch notes – but definitely caught the changes that I believe make the difference. It was a pleasant surprise to to discover that in my haste I managed to get the exact flavor and texture I had been hoping for – and it was a huge hit with the football crowd. Continue Reading →

Naner Donuts

Before we cleared out of the house for the holidays I did my damnest to empty our fridge and pantry of perishables. I really really hate to waste food and I have actually come up with some of my best recipes in these last minute cupboard emptying extravaganzas (southwestern pasta putenesca anyone). This year I was actually rather strategic with my grocery shopping leading up to our departure knowing I wouldn’t have a whole lot of time to cook before we headed back to the Twin Cities so I really only had some bananas to use. Instead of making a loaf of banana bread I combined a few recipes I found and did them donut style. Two batches later I found a pretty solid recipe and ended up giving them to co-workers as their holiday gifts.

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Heath Crunch Cookie Truffle

Need a good last minute gift idea? Try this recipe for Heath Crunch Cookie Truffles. It makes 3-4 dozen truffles (depending on how big you make them) so you can get a lot of gifts out of one batch. But be warned, these are addictive little treats so package them up quickly or you’ll find yourself snacking on them endlessly.

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Jewish Apple Cake

I can really geek out when investigating desserts tied to holidays or various cultural traditions. I think this has a lot to do with the central role meals take during the holidays for my family. Christmas is my aunt’s molasses bars, making julekake with my mom and fresh cardamom coffeecake. New Years is something ridiculously decadent with equally indulgent breakfast sweet in the morning. Tucking into these traditions each year brings me such pleasure that over the years my eye has wandered to the culinary traditions in other cultures. I’ve made celebration breads from a middle eastern cook book, eaten my fair share of Mexican wedding cakes and dedicated a weekend to making a variety of pancake recipes from all over the world. Continue Reading →

Watch This: Beet Cake By Tiger In A Jar

All cooking demonstration videos should be this beautiful. Tiger In A Jar capture the essential grace and art of a kitchen session in her food videos. We may not all be this smooth in our baking endeavors but it’s something to aspire to.

Banana Blueberry Bread + Maritime, A New Found Appreciation

This is banana blueberry bread.

And this is Maritime

After the last week I have a greater appreciation for both. Maritime is a band I have known about for a while and enjoyed but my real true love of them was borne last Thursday when I got to see them live. It was from the stage at Johnny Brendas that the waves of their midwestern bred indie rock emanated and the full weight of their greatness hit. The group initially sprouted from the remnants of The Promise Ring and Dismemberment Plan and the post punk pop sound has definitely stuck with them but they’ve developed their own sound over the years. Continue Reading →