A Cornish girl's food adventures

DRUNKEN RUM CAKE – with strawberries and basil

This cake is as damp as a British February and so boozy it could have been used to treat shock in the 1940s. I had my first taste of rum cake a few weeks back when we took a quick trip to the Bahamas. It was delicious but definitely beyond the budget of an unemployed trailing spouse so I really wanted to try my hand at making it when we got back. And what better excuse than having some friends visit from the UK.

rum cake with basil and strawberries

However all the recipes that I found online seemed to use packets of ready made mixes. It is beyond me why, if you are going to all the trouble of making something from scratch you would want to throw in a sachet of mystery ingredients.

Most seemed to include vanilla ‘pudding’ mix. I haven’t been brave enough to try it myself but I gather that it is a little bit like very thick instant custard.

With this in mind I thought that I would try adding corn flour to the dry ingredients (to help absorb all the rum that I plan on saturating the cake with) along with cream and vanilla paste. With the eggs and sugar in the cake batter this would be what I would use to make custard anyway.

Obviously you should use whichever dark or golden rum you enjoy drinking. I favour Flor de Cana but it is hard to find in the UK, so something like Mount Gay or Havana 7 would be fine. Basically if it tastes nice in a glass with ice it’s going to taste nice in a cake. Just promise me you wont use a bog standard Bacardi or rum essence, your taste buds will be grateful.

rum cake with strawberries and basil
Not nearly as innocent as it looks…


300g plain flour

115g light brown sugar

115g white sugar

115g butter (softened)

70g corn flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp vegetable oil

150ml double cream

4  eggs

100ml dark or golden rum

1 tsp vanilla paste

juice of one lemon

Preheat your oven to 180°c. Grease your tin and lightly dust with flour. Traditionally this cake is cooked in a bundt tin but I should imagine a loaf tin would work too, just keep an eye on the timings.

Using a large bowl cream the butter, oil and sugars together until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and baking powder and beat together. It is going to be very dry and like biscuit dough at this stage but don’t worry.

rum cake

Crack the eggs into another bowl and whisk in the corn flour, making sure there are no lumps. Add the vanilla paste and cream and whisk until blended.

Pour this into the dry mix in two stages and beat until just combined. Add in the lemon juice and the rum and beat well. By this stage you should have a nice loose batter.

rum cake

Carefully fill the prepared tin and bake for 50 mins until the cake is golden and is pulling away from the sides of the tin. If you stick a skewer through it it should come out clean. Once the cake is cooked it’s time to get truly boozy.

rum cake


2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp butter

4 tbsp rum (you can change the water to rum ratio if it’s too strong for you, or if you’re driving!)

1 tbsp water

Keep the cake in the tin and poke lots of holes in it with a skewer.

In a small saucepan melt together all of the glaze ingredients until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is just starting to turn syrupy.

Carefully turn out the cake and use a pastry brush to gently brush away any patches of flour from its surface. Pour a few tablespoons of the glaze into the bottom of the tin. Return the cake to the tin and pour the rest of the glaze over it.

rum cake

Now, using all or your will power and restraint, leave the cake for a day so that it can soak up all of that rummy goodness. You’ll be glad that you did.

If your cake has puffed up a lot then you may need to level off the bottom before plating it up. As a bonus you get to taste the trimmings as a chefs perk.

To serve, mix quartered strawberries with shredded basil leaves and tumble into the hole in the centre of the cake. Dust liberally with icing sugar and pipe rosettes of whipped cream around the base.


To make a mojito cake switch the lemon to lime and use the zest too. Fill the middle with fresh mint and raspberries.

For a delicious and festive alternative use a spiced rum (by sheer coincidence I have a recipe for that on here too) and add 1/2 tsp each of ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg to the cake batter. You could even toss in a couple of handfuls of rum soaked raisins.

If you are feeling especially decadent then lose the lemon and sift in 50g of good quality cocoa powder along with the flour. Serve with a rich chocolate sauce.

For nut nuts (sorry) then throw a couple of handfuls of finely chopped pecans or walnuts into the base of the tin before you pour in the batter.

If you like pina coladas (as the song goes) use coconut cream in place of the double cream, white rum instead of darker varieties and serve with slices of grilled pineapple.

I cannot urge you enough to give this cake (any of these versions) a try next time the baking bug grabs you.

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