99 bottles of rum on the wall, 99 bottles of rum…. Oh wait, that’s not how the song goes, is it. Perhaps it’s time to brush up on my pirate tunes? Despite my shoddy maritime musical repertoire, one thing I can say about pirates with a good deal of certainty is that Captain Jack Sparrow would be all over this cake! I had heard good things about the Triple Rum Black Pepper Cake from BAKED Elements (aptly located in the Booze chapter), but I also had some mild reservations. I’m not generally a big fan of booze-heavy desserts, and Bundt cakes are not typically that high on my list of favorites either. (Though I admit that the Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake from October radically changed my views on the humble Bundt…) However, my curiosity was piqued, so I was looking forward to this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings recipe. With a healthy dose of rum in the cake, soaking syrup, and icing, this cake is appropriately named; and while the rum is quite prominent, for once that wasn’t a deterrent for me– on the contrary! The black pepper serves to temper the booze a bit, and it adds a really nice layer of unexpected flavor that just works. I can’t really explain it—if you told me that a cake loaded with rum and pepper would be absolutely scrumptious, I might give you a pretty skeptical look… BUT this Bundt is in fact moist, flavorful, complex, and totally lovely. I found myself thinking about it and pining for it long after it was gone, and every time I remembered it was gone, I was a little sad all over again…
As far as booze goes, if I were to choose a preferred type of spirit, it would, indeed, be rum. I have been greedily protecting the bottle of 1 Barrel Rum that I purchased in Belize almost 10 years ago, and this recipe almost cleaned me out. I never actually drink it—I just use it for baking. I honestly don’t know if it’s considered “good” rum, but according to their website, it’s won awards n’ stuff. At any rate, I really like it in recipes calling for dark rum, and if you can get your hands on a bottle (supposedly they sell it in the States at select liquor dealers), I highly recommend it. This cake required a total of nearly 1 ¼ cups, so it’s a pretty serious rum investment, compared to many alcohol-infused recipes that call for a mere ¼ cup or so.
The cake has 3 components (cake, soaking syrup, and glaze), though all are quite easy to make. The cake is made using the standard creaming method of whipping the butter and sugars, then adding the dry ingredients alternating with a buttermilk/rum/vanilla concoction. I had a hunch that it would be good due to the use of dark brown sugar and buttermilk; dark brown sugar imparts moistness and deep, rich molasses flavor, and buttermilk also contributes to a moist and tender crumb. I didn’t detect a strong tang from the buttermilk, despite using a full cup, so I think its main function here is for texture. The batter came together very easily, and off to the oven it went.
My little Bundt seemed done after 45 minutes (much less than the recommended 1 hour), but I’ve jumped the gun in the past by taking cakes out too early, so I left it in for another 10 minutes, loosely covered in foil to prevent burning/crisping/drying out.
After allowing the cake to cool, the next step is making the soaking syrup of sugar, butter, water, and rum, which gets poured over the cooled cake after poking large holes in the bottom. This infuses more rum flavor into the cake and adds moisture. To call this a “syrup” is a stretch; my mixture was rather thin, and I envisioned my cake being completely soggy and drunk-tastic after pouring that entire quantity over it. Instead, I modified this step by poking tiny holes in the top of the cake and brushing it generously with the syrup, which I’ll just call “soaking liquid”. (I only used a tiny bit of the liquid, so I would cut the quantity in half next time to conserve the precious Belizean rum…) It immediately soaked into the cake, and all was well in the Bundt world. I actually did this step while the cake was slightly warm, and making the change cut down on the waiting time significantly. (The recipe says to let the cake cool completely before adding the syrup, then let it sit for 3 hours to soak up the poured liquid.)
I let the cake cool completely, then proceeded to make the buttered rum glaze—step 3 of the rum trifecta! It’s made by simply combining a cup of confectioners’ sugar with melted butter, then whisking in… *drumroll, please*… the rum. The recipe says to stir until the mixture is “almost pourable”, but my initial glaze seemed very thin and extremely pourable, so I added an extra ⅓ cup of sugar to thicken it up. It still seemed thin, so I added yet another ⅓ cup… buuuut when I tried to pour it, it was way too thick! I thinned it out with several drops of rum, and although it was still pretty thick, I was able to drizzle it onto the cake with my whisk. Next time I would probably just use a total of 1 ⅓ cups sugar, or I could reduce the 3 tablespoons of rum a bit. The rum flavor was pretty potent, but it was a lovely complement to the cake, and the extra sugar made it a striking, bright WHITE.
After letting the icing set for about 30 minutes, I was super excited to cut into my boozy Bundt… The interior was a warm, golden brown studded with flecks of black pepper, with a moist crumb and the sweet aroma of brown sugar and rum. I was so pleased with the flavor—not too sweet, not too boozy, not too peppery. It was just the right blend of ingredients for a delicious and well-balanced palate of flavors—kudos to BAKED for a great recipe and unique flavor combination!
This cake is casual enough for a picnic dessert or festive enough for a holiday party. The description in the book characterizes it as a holiday cake, but I think it’s great for any time of year. If you want to take the rum down a notch, consider dusting the cake with confectioners’ sugar instead of making the glaze; any way you serve it, this cake is a wonderful treat. Hmm, I wonder what it would be like to use Malibu Coconut Rum, and maybe garnish the top of the cake with toasted coconut flakes?? (Captain Jack would definitely approve!) Orrrr, omit the black pepper and add a twist of lime… Mojito cake, anyone? 😉
Check out the recipe for Triple Rum Black Pepper Cake at Baked Sunday Mornings, and take a peek at my fellow BSMers’ pretty Bundts while you’re there!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.