Sunday, May 22, 2011

Good Food: Why is the Rum Always Gone??? or, Captain Jack’s Cake

A short while back I posted a photo of a partially consumed bottle of vanilla rum.  It might be one’s first assumption that the conspicuously missing milliliters were consumed by someone such as yours truly.  I think a better idea is that a wayward pirate happened to wander into my home and helped himself to my stash.  Obviously, I interrupted his escapade, which explains why the bottle isn’t completely empty.

Actually, I keep rum around for one reason and one reason only – baking.  While I’m not quite a tee-totaler when it comes to drinking, I really don’t imbibe much.  And when I do, it’s usually just a nice dark beer or glass of wine.  That being said, ‘spirits’, such as rum can lend a mighty fine flavor to any number of goodies, as well as providing the important feature of preserving said items.

I actually made this cake a few weeks back, but catching up now on posts, it seemed that timing this post with the release of the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series just seemed apropos.  I mean, when you’re talking a dessert where one of the star ingredients is rum, you’ve got to think Captain Jack.

Now, a short back-story about rum, coffee and this cake.  We took a cruise through the Caribbean a number of years back.  While there, we decided to pick up some authentic Cruzan rum while on St. Thomas, just ‘cuz.  Then, on Jamaica, we were introduced to the best coffee I’ve ever tasted – Blue Mountain Coffee.  This coffee is only grown on Jamaica, which really stinks because it’s just dang expensive to buy here – upwards of $45 a pound through importers.  Finally were introduced to Tortuga Rum Cake.  If you’ve never had the opportunity to try original Tortuga Rum Cake, let me tell you, you’re missing out.  The cake is very flavorful, moist and yummy without being too boozy.  The ultimate culmination of these flavors for us was Tortuga Rum Cakes Blue Mountain Coffee Cake.  The blending of Blue Mountain Coffee and Tortuga Rum develops such an amazing flavor, one that I’ve never experienced before….or since.

Tortuga Rum Cakes, including my favorite, are available in the States, but they’re a bit pricey, and while I do long for a taste, I have a hard time paying more than $30 for relatively small cake.  So what to do?  I guess I’m going to have to try and copy the recipe as best I can.  Note that the particular Tortuga Rum used in these cakes is not available here and Blue Mountain Coffee is just too expensive, so I will make do with local ingredients.  Since I’m not a connoisseur of fine rum (or any other spirit for that matter), I’m highly unlikely to notice any difference between brands.  What I have been found is that a vanilla flavored rum appears to work well in this application.  Since my rum comes from the Caribbean,  I figure that’s close enough.

For the coffee, I’ve got a few ideas, including my Cold Brewed coffee blend (I’ll have to tell you more about that later).   To keep it simple though, I’ve decided to go with espresso powder for this round.  It’s easy to use, relatively inexpensive and provides a good coffee flavor in baked goods.

If you do a Google search of Rum Cakes, you’ll find many versions out there.   Most call for yellow cake mix and pudding.  I’ve tried one of these recipes and, in my opinion the texture just wasn’t the same as my favorite Tortuga Rum Cake.  I really think a from-scratch cake is the way to go.  So, back to Google again for from-scratch Rum Cake recipes.  Oddly enough, there simply aren’t that many recipes out there for a from-scratch version of these cakes.  I don’t know if people are simply more interested in a slightly simpler cake, or if they’re afraid they can’t do it.  Either way, I’ve been making a move away from boxed mixes in the last few years and was hoping to do so again. 

I finally found a recipe for ‘Almost Tortuga Rum Cake’ that was from-scratch and made the claim to be just like the Tortuga Rum Cakes.  It had to be worth a try.  Since I didn’t have a recipe for the coffee version, I made a guess about how to modify the recipe.  The results?  Mixed.  First, the cake wasn’t much harder to make than one from a box, and it held together better than my earlier box-mix attempt, that was nice.  Additionally, the cake texture was closer to the recipe I was hoping to copy.  Next, the flavor of the syrup/glaze.  I would say this was darn near spot on of what I recall.  It was smooth, sweet and just the right amount of rum and coffee flavor.  What didn’t go well was getting the full flavor of the glaze throughout the cake.  This particular recipe calls for pouring the hot glaze over the cake while it’s in the pan.  While that’s pretty much the standard for these cakes, where they do differ is the process.  Some recipes call for poking the cake to make holes for the glaze to penetrate while others suggest removing the cake from the pan, adding about 2/3 of the glaze to the pan, putting the cake back in and covering with the remaining glaze.  Still others suggest pouring the glaze over the cake after it’s removed from the pan, while also poking holes.  This recipe suggested leaving the cake in the pan and simply pouring the glaze over the top.  No holes.  The cake did absorb all of the glaze, but ended up with areas more soaked with it than others, and some portions had none at all.  This resulted in areas that were a bit stronger in flavor and others, milder.  Since the original Tortuga Cakes seem to be consistent in flavor throughout, I suspect a modification is in order.

I was generally pleased with the outcome, as were the folks who tried it.  The cake was a hit with everyone, but I’m not done with this recipe just yet.  I want to achieve full flavor distribution, so next time, I’ll try doing the full glaze in the pan, but adding the holes to better absorb the glaze throughout.  I also forgot to add espresso powder to the cake mix itself, so I've corrected the recipe below to reflect that addition as well.

Ready to give it a try for yourself?  I’m sure Captain Jack would approve.  Here’s the recipe:

Almost Tortuga Rum Cake

Basic Cake Mix
·  2 cups cake flour
·  1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
·  4 teaspoons baking powder
·  1 teaspoon salt
·  1/2 cup butter, cut into bits
·  3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Rum Cake
·  1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (or pecans)
·  1 (3 1/2 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix
·  1/2 cup milk
·  4 eggs
·  1/2 cup vanilla rum
·  1/2 cup vegetable oil
·  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·  1 ½ tsp espresso powder
·  1/2 cup butter (do not substitute)
·  1/4 cup water
·  1 cup granulated sugar
·  1 ½ tsp espresso powder
·  1/2 cup vanilla rum


Basic Cake Mix Instructions:

·         In a large mixing bowl, stand mixer or food processor, combine basic cake mix ingredients.
·         On low speed (or pulse for food processor) combine ingredients until the mix is the consistency of fine gravel, and all particles are about the same size.
·         Use right away or place in an airtight container and store for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

Rum Cake Instructions:

·         Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
·         Spray a large Bundt pan (12 cup) with nonstick cooking spray with flour or grease and flour the pan.
·         Sprinkle the chopped walnuts (or pecans) on the bottom of the pan.
·         Heat the milk until warm, but not hot.  Mix in the espresso powder and set aside to cool slightly before proceeding.
·         Place Basic Cake Mix, pudding mix, milk/espresso, eggs, rum, oil, and vanilla extract in a large bowl and combine on medium speed with electric mixer for 2 to 3 minutes, scrape down the bowl halfway through.  Batter should be very smooth.
·         Pour into Bundt pan.
·         Bake for about 55 minutes- until fully golden and tester comes out clean and cake springs back.
·         Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack while making the glaze.

Rum Soaking Glaze:

·         Combine butter, water and sugar and espresso powder in a small saucepan.
·         Bring to a boil carefully as mixture boils over very easily.
·         Reduce to a simmer and cook until sugar is dissolved and syrup is well combined and a little thicker.
·         Remove from the heat and add the rum, mix to combine.
·         While cake is still cooling, pour some of the hot syrup on top of the cake, allowing it time to soak in (this may take a few minutes as there will be a lot of syrup) continue to add syrup until all of the syrup is added.
·         Allow cake to cool completely in pan before turning out onto serving platter.
Be sure to coat your pan really well with nonstick baking spray (preferably with flour) as this cake will stick.
It is best to let this cake sit a full day before eating in order to fully develop the flavor.
Keep refrigerated.

Get Some Cake Flour

Add the Dry Ingredients

Add the Butter and Oil

Work the Butter into The Dry Ingredients

Stop When the Butter is Pea Sized

Prep Your Pan Well

Add Nuts to Pan

Add Additional Ingredients

Mix Well

Begin to Prepare Syrup Mixture

Cook Down

Remove Cake from Oven

Pour Hot Syrup Over Cake

Let It Soak In

Wait For It

Turn the Cake Out

Admire the Beauty

Enjoy with some Dulce de Leche if you Like

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