Sunday night -- I'm at a liquor store in the 'hood, looking for rum. It's one of those mama-told-me-not-to-come kind of places. Emilio, the store manager seemed awfully surprised that someone wanted to bake with the rum instead of drink it.* Asked me tons of questions about it. Next time I make this rum cake, he'll definitely get a piece.
If you're from the Caribbean, then this rum cake is not dense, midnight-dark holiday black cake loaded with dried fruit -- which y'all start macerating in rum in the spring! Let's just call the one I made this week a "new classic'' -- rich pound cake that has absorbed a rum-sugar syrup. (Be sure to see my story in The Miami Herald). I remember a similar cake from the late '60s, that was part of a promo for Bacardi rum. This version is moist and firm, with an extra depth of flavor from the molasses and brown sugar. You can find potato starch in the kosher section of the supermarket or at a natural foods store such as Whole Foods. To make simple syrup, heat equal parts granulated sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.
Warren Brown's Rum Runner Cake
• Vegetable oil spray
• 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup dark brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons potato starch
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup sour cream
• ¾ cup heavy cream
• ½ cup dark rum (divided use)
• 1 teaspoon molasses
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 ½ cups extra-fine granulated sugar
• ½ vanilla bean
• 4 large eggs plus 2 yolks
• ¼ cup simple syrup (see note above)
Place rack in the middle of the oven; heat to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil and set aside.
Sift flour into a bowl. Add brown sugar, potato starch, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Whisk to blend; set aside.
Put the sour and heavy creams, ¼ cup dark rum, the molasses and vanilla in a separate bowl. Whisk to blend; set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar on the lowest speed of an electric mixer for 2 to 3 minutes.
With the mixer still on low, add the vanilla, eggs and yolks, one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the dry ingredients alternately with the cream mixture in 3 additions each, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Don't wait for them to be fully incorporated between additions. This step should take about 60 seconds.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds.
Fill the prepared pan by depositing the batter in small clumps around it with a rubber spatula. Level the batter with the spatula.
Bake 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer into the center. When the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack. When the cake has cooled 10 minutes, invert it onto the rack and remove the pan. Let it cool to room temperature.
To glaze the cake, set the wire rack over wax paper. Combine simple syrup with remaining ¼ cup rum and use a pastry brush to brush it all over the cake until it is absorbed. Makes 16 servings.
(Adapted from CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch by Warren Brown (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $27.50).
*True story: A good friend was buying Grand Marnier, again, for a recipe a few years back. The customer in front of her at the cashier's also had a bottle of Grand Marnier. My girlfriend chirped to him: Oh, what are YOU making with yours? He looked at her with some element of scorn and said: Honey, I'm just adding two cubes of ice and a glass.