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Rum Cake

This sweet, moist rum cake is filled with rich nostalgic flavors—and crunchy pecans! It’s one of my family’s favorite desserts and after you try this recipe, I think it will be one of yours, too. 

Overhead view of partially cut rum cake on platter

Every Christmas my grandmother made her famous rum cake, which is moist and sweet and just, well, wonderful. It has a permanent place in my recipe collection; I just call it Memaw’s Rum Cake. Once you make this rum cake, you’ll want to make it your holiday tradition, too!

Why You’ll Love This Rum Cake Recipe

  • An old-fashioned classic. It doesn’t get any more old-fashioned than rum cake—it originated in the 18th century! Rum cakes are a holiday tradition in the Caribbean.
  • Moist and flavorful. Pudding mix gives this rum cake a tender crumb to begin with, then adding a rum glaze ensures that every bite is supremely moist.
  • Easy to make. No fancy equipment or techniques needed – just a Bundt pan! This rum cake is perfect for beginner bakers. (If you’re new to baking, be sure to read my Baking Tips for Beginners.)
  • Perfect for any occasion. It might be a Christmas tradition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make rum cake for a birthday or just because. It’s the perfect dessert to share with friends and family.

An Updated Classic

The rum cake recipe we’ve made for years begins with a cake mix. Over the years, cake mixes have slimmed down, losing a few ounces along the way. This inspired me to recreate my grandmother’s beloved rum cake from scratch, ensuring the same delightful texture and flavor that has been a holiday staple in our family.

Prefer Using a Cake Mix? No Problem!

For those who love the convenience of a cake mix, you can still use it! See my note in the recipe card below for how best to do that. The rest of the recipe remains exactly the same, ensuring you get that classic taste we all adore.

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.

For the Cake:

Overhead view of ingredients for rum cake
  • Pecans – You’ll be finely chopping them, so buy pecan pieces instead of the pricier whole pecans.
  • All-purpose flour – Here’s how to measure flour for baking.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Instant vanilla pudding mix – Using pudding mix in cake makes it extra moist. While I usually bake from scratch, this is one boxed addition that’s absolutely worth it!
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter – Learn more: Unsalted or Salted Butter: Which is Better for Baking?
  • Oil – You can use either canola or vegetable oil.
  • Milk – I like to bake with whole milk, which yields a more tender crumb thanks to the extra fat, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
  • Eggs – Set these out with the butter to let them come to room temperature. I recommend baking with large eggs.
  • Rum – See my note below about choosing rum for this cake.
  • Vanilla extract – Use homemade vanilla extract or store-bought.

For the Glaze:

Overhead view of ingredients for glaze
  • Unsalted butter
  • Water
  • Granulated sugar – While most glazes are made with powdered sugar, the glaze for rum cake is more syrupy, so granulated sugar works here.
  • Rum

What Kind of Rum Is Best for Rum Cake?

Since rum is the star ingredient in this recipe, it’s important to choose a good quality rum that will enhance the flavor of the cake. There’s no need to buy the most expensive bottle, but don’t buy the cheapest either! You can use either dark or light rum, depending on your personal preference. Dark rum will give the cake a richer and deeper flavor, while light rum will have a more subtle taste.

How to Make Rum Cake

Make the Cake:

  • Prepare. Preheat your oven to 325°F and grease a 10- or 12- cup Bundt pan or tube pan. (I recommend a nonstick cooking spray with flour, like Baker’s Joy or Pam Baking.) Sprinkle the nuts evenly in the bottom of the pan.
  • Start the cake batter. Combine the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking powder, salt, butter, and oil in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the ingredients until thoroughly combined and sandy.
  • Add the liquids. Mix in the milk, followed by each of the eggs and then the rum.
  • Pour the batter into the pan. Spread the rum cake batter over the nuts in the pan. Tap the pan gently on the countertop a few times, which will pop any air bubbles.
  • Bake. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. (There’s a lot of liquid in this cake, so expect the top to dome.)
  • Cool. Let the cake begin cooling by setting it on a wire rack while you make the glaze.

Glaze and Finish:

  • Make the glaze. Melt the butter in a saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in the water and sugar, then bring the mixture to a boil. Stir constantly and cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and slowly stir in the rum.
  • Add glaze to the bottom of the cake. Use a long skewer to poke holes all over the warm cake in the pan. Slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the glaze over the cake, then pause and allow it to soak in. Repeat the pouring and waiting for the glaze to soak in until you’ve used about half of the glaze. 
  • Invert. After the glaze has soaked into the cake, carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate. 
  • Add glaze to the top. Use a toothpick to make several more shallow holes in the top of the cake, then spoon or brush on the remaining glaze.
  • Soak. Loosely cover the cake and let it sit overnight; the cake will become moist and the flavors will develop during this time.
Overhead view of whole rum cake on platter

Tips for Success

  • Soften the butter. If the butter isn’t softened, it will be difficult to mix it evenly into the other cake ingredients. Learn more: How to Soften Butter
  • Don’t dump on the glaze. If you pour the glaze on too fast (especially after inverting the cake), it won’t soak into the cake; instead, it will drip off the sides. Take breaks as needed to let the liquid soak in.
  • Let the cake sit before enjoying. This allows the flavors to fully develop and makes for a more moist and flavorful cake. It’s important!

Serving Suggestions

You can serve rum cake at room temperature or warm slices in the microwave a bit. When served warm, a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top is fabulous. A dollop of whipped cream or some additional toasted pecans scattered over the top is also a great way to serve rum cake.

Rum cake slices on serving platter

How to Store

Cover the rum cake or store leftovers in an airtight container. It will keep for 3 days at room temperature, or up to a week in the refrigerator. 

Can I Freeze This Recipe?

To store for a longer period of time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Properly stored, it should keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let the cake thaw at room temperature before serving.

Slices of rum cake on 3 plates

More Bundt Cake Recipes

Rum Cake

Yield 12 to 16 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes

Revisit a holiday classic with this updated Rum Cake recipe. This delicious cake promises to fill your home with festive warmth and delight taste buds, continuing a cherished family tradition.

Overhead view of rum cake slices on 3 plates

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup (120g) finely chopped pecans
  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) rum
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (59ml) water
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 (118ml) cup rum

Instructions

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 10- or 12- cup Bundt pan or tube pan.
  2. Sprinkle the nuts evenly in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Place the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking powder, salt, butter, and oil in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the mixture until thoroughly combined. The mixture will seem sandy.
  4. Mix in the milk, followed by each of the eggs. Finally, mix in the rum.
  5. Carefully pour the batter over the nuts in the pan, and spread the batter evenly. Tap the pan gently on the countertop a few times to disperse any bubbles or gaps in the batter.
  6. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Set the pan on a wire rack to begin cooling while you make the glaze.

To make the glaze:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the water and sugar, and then bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook for 5 minutes. 
  2. Remove from the heat, and gradually add the rum while stirring.
  3. Use a long skewer to poke holes all over the warm cake in the pan. Try to get about 3/4 of the way down into the cake. Slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the glaze over the cake, and allow it to soak into the cake. Repeat until you’ve used about half of the glaze. 
  4. After the glaze has soaked into the cake, invert the cake onto a serving plate. Use a toothpick to make several more shallow holes in the top of the cake. Slowly spoon or brush the remaining glaze over the cake, allowing it to soak into the cake. (Some of the glaze will invariably run down the sides of the cake, but go slowly to keep that to a minimum.)
  5. For the best flavor, loosely cover the cake and let it sit overnight. Afterwards, keep the cake tightly covered.

Notes

2023 Update: Due to the ever-changing (and shrinking!) world of cake mixes, I changed this recipe to work without the mix. If you want to make this cake using a cake mix, simply omit the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, and vanilla from the cake ingredients. The only other difference is that I use milk in the batter, where my grandmother simply used water. The original recipe lists an 18.5-ounce yellow cake mix, but today's mixes are significantly smaller. My best suggestion is to use part of a second cake mix to make up the difference. It may still work well enough with just a smaller mix, but it won't be quite the same.

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    22 Comments on “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!

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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 😀

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. Thank You for switching from a box mix. They are so varied and the taste is never quite the same. Can’t wait to try it for the Holidays.

  18. Is there a substitute for the pudding?

    • I had the same question and did a google search. Here is a result –
      The alternative mix is simply 1 part cornstarch to 2 parts fine sugar, plus 1 part vanilla. I used 1 TBSP. of cornstarch and 2 TBSP. of sugar.Jan 1, 2022

      How to Substitute Instant Vanilla Pudding – Joyous Home

    • Hi, Gerry! There are some options that will be similar. You can mix 3/4 cup dry milk powder, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup cornstarch. For an option without the milk powder, try 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch. You can increase the vanilla in the recipe by 1/2 to 1 teaspoon. Leave the amount of salt the same, or add another 1/4 teaspoon.

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