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Holiday Rum Cake

A sweet and moist rum cake filled with rich nostalgic flavors and crunchy pecans is one of our family favorites! An easy recipe for rum cake just like Memaw would make – this is one dessert recipe that my collection will never go without.

A classic rum cake with a layer of crunchy pecans.

Every Christmas my grandmother made her famous rum cake. The thing I most remember about it, other than how incredibly good it was, was the process of getting the rum. We lived in a dry county, meaning there was nowhere to buy alcohol. Driving to the next county was the reasonable solution. However, my grandmother always had her brother-in-law bring her rum from a few hundred miles away. I’m sure somehow that made all the sense in the world. Anyway, we can readily procure our own rum, so that point of interest is now moot.

That still leaves us with an incredible rum cake. It is moist and sweet and just, well, wonderful. It has the added bonus of being so very simple. I’m not sure of the origin of the recipe, as my grandmother’s recipe box mostly contains scraps of paper with recipes scribbled on them. In any case, it is a permanent part of my recipe collection. I just call it Memaw’s Rum Cake.

Recently, I made one of these delicious cakes for a Christmas gift. With Quinn’s help (he is an engineer after all), we boxed it up very, very securely and sent it on its way to a friend in Virginia. It thankfully arrived safe and sound. I’m not sure how long it survived once it got there, since we were told that it more than occasionally “called to him”. It’s nice to share family traditions with others, no matter how quickly they are gobbled up.

Holiday Rum Cake

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes

An easy recipe for rum cake just like Memaw would make. This sweet and moist rum cake is an easy dessert made from cake mix and baked with crunchy pecans.

A classic rum cake with a layer of crunchy pecans.


For the cake:

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 package yellow cake mix (18.5 ounces)
  • 1 package instant vanilla pudding (3.75 ounces)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil (e.g. canola oil)
  • 1/2 cup rum

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup rum


To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease/flour/spray a 10-inch tube pan or 12-cup Bundt pan.
  2. Sprinkle nuts in the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  3. Mix together cake mix and remaining ingredients. Pour batter into pan over nuts.
  4. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan.
  5. Invert cooled cake onto serving plate. Prick all over the top of the cake with a toothpick.

To make the glaze:

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in water and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and gradually add rum while continuing to stir.
  2. Drizzle part of the glaze over cake. Allow cake to absorb the glaze. Repeat with remaining glaze until all used.


As an alternative for the glaze, use 3/4 cup sugar and add 1/4 cup corn syrup to help prevent the granulated sugar from crystallizing.

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    23 Comments on “Holiday Rum Cake”

  1. Mmmmmmm. My mom makes this cake, it is soooo good! If only she didn’t live across the country from us! Thanks for giving me the memory of the taste 😀

  2. Rum cake always reminds me of my honeymoon. We tried the pre-packaged version though and fell in love with it. I’m sure your Memaw’s recipe would be so much better though!
    Wonderful pic’s.

  3. Jennifer, talk about an easy and quick recipe!

    Good to know it’s OK to be shipped.

  4. My grandmother used to make an applesauce cake that uses a cup of whiskey. I don’t like it b/c I don’t like the taste of alcohol. When my mom got the whiskey last time she walked into the store and told the guy that she needed a “cup of whiskey!” Then when she walked out of the store she was “discretely” holding the bottle in a brown paper bag down by her side, “non-chalantly” walking to the car with a “normal” expression on her face. It was SO funny!

  5. my mother in law makes the same cake and even though i’m normally a snob when it comes to package mixes, i LOVE that cake! as for a “dry county”, i’ve never heard of such craziness!! happy holidays.

  6. I love the stories that come along with family recipes! You have a very lucky friend 🙂

  7. Jennifer, what you didn’t tell about getting the rum is that our dear Memaw would never have been caught in a liquor store to begin with. She was a Southern Lady afterall!

  8. Anytime you want to box up another rum cake and send it this way instead, you’re more than welcome!

  9. Recipes with legend are always the best.

    I made your cinnamon roll cookies yesterday and they’re fantastic. I’m so glad I found your wonderful blog.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  11. I also bake at least 1/2 doz. cakes from this recipe every December. But with at least one of them the glaze does not want to “soak” into the cake or the top is unattractive from attempting to punch holes. It is as if there are too many nuts. But everyone loves this cake so I keep baking them year after year.

  12. The rum cake seems to be a tradition in every family. Just dont do like me and lose the recipe

  13. Just wanted to let ya know I made and took this cake to a BBQ and everyone LOVED it!
    Thanks so much for posting it 😀

  14. I have to confess that I don’t know what yellow cake mix is. Does anyone know what the equivalent is in the uk or where you can get it?
    Can you make it yourself?

  15. Well, caked crusader, that’s a good question. I did some searching and found this to be the consensus. If you try it, let me know how it works.

    2 1/4 cup flour, sifted
    1/4 tsp. salt
    2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1 1/3 cup sugar

  16. I made this cake using this recipe for thanksgiving. All I can say is wow!!!!!!! Everyone loved this cake. The only thing that I did was a little different was adding 3/4 cup of rum instead of 1/2 adn I used a tsp. of vanilla. The rum sauce soaked in the cake and it was awesome. Everyone is asking for more, but it’s gone. Great recipe, thanks.

  17. Salut tout le monde ! J’ai trouv une perle de livraison d’alcool domicile ils livrent partout sur Paris ou banlieue en 25Mn ! et ont des tarifs tout casser, c’est vraiment le service de livraison d’alcool le moins cher de toute la capitale.

  18. I recall one Christmas for some reason your MeMaw made two cakes and there was a small portion of the second one left over. It somehow was left at our house and got placed in the refrigerator in “the barn”. I’m here to report that it’s really good fresh but it’s OMG CRAZY good if you can wait about a month.

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  22. How do I adjust the temperature and time of baking to 6 cups of mini bundt bake pans of around 3 inches by 1 1/2 inches each?

    • Hi, Marita. It’s been quite a while since I made mini versions of these, so I’m not sure I remember the exact adjustments. I would probably not adjust the temperature, but the bake time will likely be around 20 minutes.

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