Homemade Rum Cake

Rum cake. A dessert that is nostalgic and old-school, and one for which just about everyone has a family recipe. Rum cake was one of a small rotation of desserts that showed up at my grandma’s house on Sunday afternoons. You could usually count on one of the following: rum cake, icebox cake, angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream, or poor man’s cookies. There were some weeks that we made due with Klondike bars from the freezer, but for the most part we got to indulge in one of those four desserts. My great aunt made a killer rum cake that I could appreciate even as a kid. It’s been quite some time since we all sat down to weekly Sunday dinners, and recently I’ve been craving a nice big slice of rum cake. I remember it being so thick and moist, and of course, packed with rum. The problem I ran into is that my aunt always used a box cake mix, and all of the recipes I found online were the same. I wanted a truly homemade rum cake, and thankfully, I finally found a recipe that I tweaked to rum-soaked perfection.

Remember yesterday when I shared with you the DIY Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix, and I promised a fantastic cake for which to use it? Here she is! In all of her buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, glory. I’ll be honest. I really enjoy making as much as possible from scratch. But I still haven’t found a recipe for yellow cake that lives up to the product that comes out of those boxes. They are so thick, creamy, and moist. Thanks to chemicals, I’m sure. But, still. Such a wonderful consistency that I haven’t been able to replicate. Until now. The cake itself is out of this world – so incredibly moist and rich. The exact outcome that I was hoping to achieve! And then of course rum is thrown into the mix, which can only make it infinitely better, right?!

The key to the cake is twofold. First, make sure that you aren’t shy when it comes to poking holes all over the cake when it’s time for the rum syrup. The more holes the better, as the rum syrup will have more places to hide in the cake, which means that it will soak into the cake more evenly, and won’t pool on the bottom of the serving plate. Secondly, when you drizzle the rum syrup over the top of the cake, you want to go verrrrry slowly so it has a chance to seep into all of those wonderful holes. In this instance, you want to be the tortoise, and not the hare.

As you’d imagine, this gets better the longer you let it sit and soak. Definitely make sure you let it come to room temperature, but you could absolutely make this a day ahead of time. Then behold all of the 100% homemade, no box mix, rum-soaked cake goodness!

One year ago: Scalloped Potatoes

Homemade Rum Cake Recipe

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 to 60 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes


For the Cake:
1 cup chopped walnuts
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons + ½ cup canola oil, divided
1 cup DIY instant vanilla pudding mix (or one 3.4-ounce package of instant vanilla pudding)
4 eggs
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup dark rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Rum Syrup:
¾ cup unsalted butter
1½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup water
Pinch of salt
½ cup dark rum


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a standard Bundt pan (12-cup capacity). Sprinkle the chopped walnuts around the bottom; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture and the 3 tablespoons of canola oil, and mix on medium-low speed for a minute or two - the mixture should look like wet sand. Add the pudding mix and mix again on medium-low speed until combined.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, rum, remaining ½ cup canola oil, and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. (The batter will be quite thin - this is good! It will be nice and moist!)

5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

6. When the cake has about 10 minutes left to bake, start the rum syrup. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the sugar and the water. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and stir in the rum. Once it is mixed in, return it to medium heat for about 30 seconds.

7. When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately pour about one-third of the rum syrup over the bottom of the cake. Pour slowly so it has time to seep into the cake. Let it sit for 5 minutes.

8. Invert the cake onto a serving platter. Using a fork or a skewer, poke holes all over the cake - the top, sides, and around the inside. Don't be shy - all of the holes ensure that the rum syrup seeps into the cake evenly. Sloooooowly pour the remaining rum syrup over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. You want to do this step very slowly (it took me almost 15 minutes) so that the syrup actually seeps into the cake and doesn't just pool on the bottom of the serving dish.

9. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving. Leftovers can be kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

(Recipe adapted from Always Order Dessert)


249 Responses to “Homemade Rum Cake”

Comment Pages 1 2 3 4
  1. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on April 18, 2012 at 2:11 am

    This cake looks so moist! I have always loved rum cake. My dad buys a rum cake from this amazing bakery here in upstate, NY for every birthday, special occasion, etc.


    • 'Sue on December 2nd, 2012 at 7:58 am

      this is the worst rum cake ever, it did not brown and it did not rise, I made it for a party and it looks like a door stop, it was a waste of good ingredients.


      • rico on December 13th, 2012 at 10:32 am

        This cake was amazing! Maybe you did something wrong. Only thing I will do different next time is half the amount of syrup.


        • lisa on December 24th, 2012 at 12:38 am

          I agree! I am currently in the process of making this rum cake for the third time this holiday season. It’s absolutely amazing! I love the vanilla pudding in the mix because it gives this cake a wonderful vanilla flavor. This one is definitely a keeper!


      • Mercy Rodriguez on December 28th, 2012 at 9:25 am

        If you put outdated flour or baking powder, the cake will not rise. And if you beat too much the batter it will kill al the bubbles. I think this is what happened to your cake. God bless and I hope you can find what happened to your cake so you won’t make the same mistake again in any other recipe.


  2. Averie @ Averie Cooks on April 18, 2012 at 3:13 am

    I love rum cake! First vacation I ever took with my husband we literally got drunk from eating free samples of rum cake in the Caribbean. Clearly, we ate tons of cake that afternoon and we both still remember it fondly!


  3. Villy @ For the love of Feeding on April 18, 2012 at 3:42 am

    This looks as perfect as a cake should be!


  4. Janet on April 18, 2012 at 4:39 am

    Thanks for another great recipe to try. I live on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean where you guessed it, rum is made. That being said, I’m still a girl from Pittsburgh just like yourself and especially appreciated the recipe for homemade peanut butter eggs that came in handy at Easter for the boys and me. Keep up the great work!


  5. Kathryn on April 18, 2012 at 5:01 am

    I haven’t had rum cake for years but I’m really craving it now!


  6. Meg on April 18, 2012 at 5:48 am

    This cake looks phenomenal! It is perfect for a summer afternoon…or breakfast :)


  7. Jessica @ Portuguese Girl Cooks on April 18, 2012 at 6:17 am

    I haven’t ever tried rum cake, but it looks like that may soon change. This looks so incredibly moist! Thanks for finding an alternative to a boxed cake mix; this changes everything.


  8. Kiri W. on April 18, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Mmm, this looks tasty! A friend of mine had rum cake as her wedding cake, I should pass this on to her :)


  9. Ellen @ The Baking Bluenoser on April 18, 2012 at 6:48 am

    I have never had a rum cake before. It looks kind of like a dense pound cake. Very interesting, I can’t wait to give it a try! Thanks for the recipe share!


  10. Crista on April 18, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Yummy! I’m trying to get the measurements right…this cake calls for 1 cup of DIY pudding mix (or 1 small box of store-bought). Yesterday’s recipe calls for 1/2 cup of pudding mix to make the amount of pudding that a small box of store-bought mix would make. If I want to use this in other cakes that call for 1 small box of pudding mix, should I use 1/2 cup or 1 full cup? I can’t wait to try this in a bunch of things…eagerly awaiting the chocolate version!


    • Michelle on April 18th, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      Hi Crista, I actually bought a couple of boxes of pudding just to dump out and measure for this purpose :) 1 cup of the DIY mix is equal to the amount in a 3.4-ounce box of instant pudding. So for any recipe that calls for that size box, you would use 1 cup of the DIY mix. Hope that helps! Happy baking!


  11. Sandra on April 18, 2012 at 7:23 am

    This brings back memories. I would always make a rum cake for Christmas, the boxed one of course. It was the thing to do waaaaay back then. I noticed the addition of cornstarch and have seen it other places also. What does it do to the mix? Have also seen recipes calling for potato starch. Are the two interchangeable? Looking forward to trying this but won’t wait for Christmas!


    • Michelle on April 18th, 2012 at 11:42 pm

      Hi Sandra, Cornstarch used alongside all-purpose flour creates a texture that is usually produced by cake flour. The cornstarch lightens the flour, which makes the cake crumb lighter and fluffier instead of dense.


    • godlovest on November 18th, 2012 at 11:44 pm

      Is there a way to substitute cake flour for the flour and cornstarch?


      • Ryen on January 1st, 2015 at 7:41 pm

        I used 2 cups of Swans Down, nixed the nuts for the picky eaters, brushed a little melted butter on the very top of the cake on top of the glaze, and this cake was SUPERB. Next time I’ll just make the cake for me and my mom and include some walnuts. Michelle, thank you so much for this recipe! Moist doesn’t even adequately describe the texture. Such a hit!


  12. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on April 18, 2012 at 7:25 am

    I have never had rum cake but would be so perfect to side with my coffee or Margarita! :) Looks fantastic! I think I’m going to make your recipe, but make them mini!! :)


  13. Tanya Schroeder on April 18, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Looks so moist. I have never had rum cake but this is convincing me to try. I admire the use of homemade pudding mix.


  14. Zahava on April 18, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Lools great , but is there any way to make this without alcohol ( like with vanilla?) I know it won’t taste the same….


    • Erik on April 18th, 2012 at 9:48 am

      I’ve made cakes like these without rum before. You can modify the soaking syrup with other flavors, such as strong brewed coffee, or use flavored extracts like orange. I’ve even been thinking about trying a cinnamon version, using cinnamon sticks steeped in the syrup as well.


      • Zahava on April 18th, 2012 at 6:25 pm

        Thanks! What would I substitute for the rum in the cake?


        • Michelle on April 18th, 2012 at 11:40 pm

          In the cake, you could use water, or brewed coffee. Those are the two that come to mind.


    • Lynette Phillips on January 28th, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      There is an imitation rum by Mc Cormic in the spice section.


  15. Katrina on April 18, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Oh my! This cake is right up my alley. Yum!


  16. Catalina @ Cake with Love on April 18, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I adore rum infused desserts it just takes it to the next level!!!


  17. Judy P on April 18, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Am I the only person who has a problem with current boxed cake mixes? I think they are smaller by weight than they used to be and I don’t honestly find them to be as sturdy or tasty as they used to be. Maybe it is a problem with my tastebuds. I had a disaster using a cake mix for my Easter lamb cake. I have been looking for a really good “from scratch” yellow cake recipe. I think this recipe looks great. Can’t wait to try it but must buy some rum first.


  18. Samantha on April 18, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Finally! A homemade version of my favorite boxed cake mix! Thank you so much for sharing this. Rum cake is a standard in our household, but the cornflour and pudding mixture in you batter sounds as though it’ll take the cake to an entirely new level. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe with other soaks as well.


  19. Jenn on April 18, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Oh YUM!! That looks so tasty… and moist, and Rum-y!! Thank you for tackling the yellow cake from scratch for all of us out there who have wanted to try but never did… I am certain my search ends here!!! (and I can’t wait to try ALL kinds of different liquor in the cake)


  20. Ryan on April 18, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Yesssss you are my new favorite person! I have been looking for a run cake recipe forever and haven’t been able to find one that was totally from scratch. Yay! I cannot wait to make this! :)


  21. rani on April 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

    this looks sooo good…i love your website! i’m a little confused though…where does the 1/2 cup oil go??


    • Michelle on April 18th, 2012 at 11:36 pm

      Hi Rani, My apologies, I forgot to include in with the milk, eggs, and rum. I have since edited the recipe so it is clear now. Thank you for catching that error!


  22. Nancy @ CouponClippingCook on April 18, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Looks soooo delicious. And the recipe includes your DIY pudding mix…I’m going to need to made extra pudding mix for sure. This cake looks so moist…I wouldn’t be able to eat just one serving.


  23. Candice on April 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Yum! I love rum cake. Would the cake still be good if I opt out on the rum syrup?


    • Michelle on April 18th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      Hi Candice, I would definitely still do a syrup (you can omit the rum) – it keeps the cake incredibly moist.


      • Judie on November 24th, 2012 at 9:16 am

        I make the syrup without the rum–it is great. When I use rum in the syrup, we feel it is too “rummy.”


  24. Angela on April 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    My mom and I used to make a lemonade-drenched bundt cake similar to this. We would always poke holes into the cake with it still in the pan, then pour all the syrup over and let it sit for 15-20 minutes before flipping onto a cake plate. I don’t remember any problems with it sticking in the pan.
    This might be a more simple method than trying to portion it out very slowly across the top of the cake. I think I’d end up with all of it on the cake plate and have a dry-on-top-sticky-on-bottom cake mess.


    • Michelle on April 18th, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      Hi Angela, Thanks for sharing your method, it sounds nice and easy! I will give it a try next time!


  25. Brandie @ Home Cooking Memories on April 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Oh gosh…my husband loves Rum! Now to decide if I should make it now or save this for Father’s Day.


  26. Martha in KS on April 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    The only rum I have in the house has been made into homemade vanilla. How do you think that would work in the cake?


    • Nancy on April 18th, 2012 at 8:20 pm



    • Michelle on April 18th, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      I think it would be fine – tons of flavor!


  27. Amy @ Gastronome Tart on April 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Since my husband and I were married in the Caymans, rum cake was our wedding cake! I always try to make it every year and am always looking for new recipes to try. This one looks absolutely stunning and superiorly boozy which is always a plus when it comes to rum cakes!


  28. Maria on April 18, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Never had this cake! Looks great!


  29. Nancy on April 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    I’ve been making a cake like this for many years at Christmas. The difference is that I use Southern Comfort in place of rum. But why wait till Christmas? I’m going to make this rum version soon!


  30. Paula on April 18, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Well you did not disappoint! You certainly made a beautiful and delicious looking cake with your DIY pudding. The rum must take it over the edge of wonderful.


  31. Dani on April 18, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Hey Michelle, do you reckon I could use Bailey’s to substitute the rum? That’s all I have right now!


    • Michelle on April 18th, 2012 at 11:32 pm

      Hi Dani, I think you could! It will just be Baileys cake instead of rum :)


    • Kennedy on December 18th, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      In place of the dark rum do you think I could use a Bacardi rum? It’s all I have available at this time.


      • Michelle on December 18th, 2013 at 11:59 pm

        Yes, for sure!


  32. kelly on April 19, 2012 at 12:40 am

    Rum cake has always been my very favorite and my grandmother makes it every year for my birthday. Her recipe too is the simple boxed cake version so this one is a must try in my book! Thank you.


  33. Rachel @ The Avid Appetite on April 19, 2012 at 10:06 am

    thanks for sharing this! My husband – Mr. No Sweets – actually loves rum cake! Since his 30th birthday is approaching, I may just have to whip this up!


  34. Courtney on April 19, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Hi! This sounds incredible! I’m a little confused about the directions in lines 6 & 7. “Return it to medium heat for about 30 minutes”. Is that a typo? You say to start the syrup 10 minutes before and then to pour it immediately pour it over the cake when it comes out. Where is the 30 minutes to have it over medium heat? I am so excited to make this but want to make it perfect! Thanks!


    • Courtney on May 28th, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Michelle- can you please address my question? Thanks so much!


      • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:24 am

        Hi Courtney, My apologies! It is actually 30 seconds, not 30 minutes. Enjoy the cake!


  35. Erin on April 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I made this cake today for my mom because rum cake is one of her favorites. The cake turned out perfect, but the syrup did not. I followed the directions exactly and it is wayy too thick, about the consistancy of candy. When it cooled, it hardened up and made the whole outside of the cake hard. I also poked a lot of holes and it wouldn’t seep into the cake :(. I will make the cake again though but maybe a lemon or vanilla glaze instead.


  36. chris on April 22, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    I have made this cake for years but never from scratch.Can’t wait to try it.I add the rum syrup while it is still in the cake pan so the liquid soaks in on all sides.Thanks


  37. Mai on April 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    HI I have the same concerns as Courtney and Erin. The cake was delicious, but the t instructions for the glaze were unclear. The glaze was more like candy than a syrup. Please advise. Thanks


    • Liza on September 1st, 2013 at 1:53 am

      I’m just guessing what went wrong. Courtney wrote here (Courtney on April 19, 2012 at 10:21 am) the same concern and check the date, Michelle only corrected the recipe in May. You might have boiled the syrup for 30 minutes instead of 30 seconds?

      (Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:24 am)

      Hi Courtney, My apologies! It is actually 30 seconds, not 30 minutes. Enjoy the cake!


  38. Phoebe on April 29, 2012 at 7:29 am

    My mum loves rum and raisin, this cake would be great for her!


  39. Ashley Flanagan on May 3, 2012 at 10:07 am

    This looks like an awesome recipe. I’ve been looking for one that does not use a boxed cake mix. The first time I ever made a rum cake, I realized I did not have any skewers or anything small enough to poke holes…I found a small injector (for turkeys, chickens, etc.), and decided to use it to inject the rum syrup into the cake all over and it worked perfectly! The cake didn’t look like it had holes at all!


  40. Jocelyn on May 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Hi B.E.B..love your site!!

    I would like to make cupcakes with your recipe. The measurements seems pretty good for cupcakes. Would I still need to use 1 1/2 cups of liquid or should I reduce the liquid to the traditional 1/2 – 1 cup?



    • Michelle on May 8th, 2012 at 9:23 am

      Hi Jocelyn, I haven’t made them into cupcakes, but you should be able to get about 24 cupcakes out of the recipe. I would keep the rum the same in the cake recipe, but you can reduce it if you’d like for the glaze.


  41. Sharon on May 8, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Hi, a few questions:

    Can the AP flour and cornstarch just be swapped out for cake flour? Also can a light colored rum be used in place of dark rum? Lastly, if I were to do this in two 9″ rounds instead or a bundt pan, would I keep the oven temp the same and just lower the cook time?


    • Michelle on May 8th, 2012 at 9:27 am

      Hi Sharon, I wouldn’t swap in cake flour, because I don’t know if the ratios would be exactly correct for the cake flour. You can substitute light rum if you’d like, and you can make it in two 9″ rounds and reduce the cooking time. Enjoy!


  42. Tina Counts on May 11, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Your website it now my go-to for so many recipes…love it! I swear it’s like I have the same exact tastes in food as you! Can’t wait to make this cake for my mom for Mother’s Day! It was my grandma’s favorite and my mom used to make it for her every year on her birthday. Grandma has since passed, but I think my mom will really enjoy this cake. One question…could I use 2% milk instead of whole milk or does it definitely need that whole milk? Thanks!


    • Michelle on May 11th, 2012 at 11:21 pm

      Hi Tina, Aw, I am so sorry about your Grandma’s passing, but love that you’re going to make this for your mom. Mine LOVED it! You can use 2% milk, that should work just fine.


  43. Ally on May 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Always wanted to make rum cake from scratch! I wondered which rum do you use for baking purposes? Aside from alcohol in cooking and for baking I don’t drink so I have no idea what to buy in the very vast liquor section in the supermarket!


    • Michelle on May 30th, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Hi Ally, I use Meyer’s dark rum for baking, unless a recipe specifically calls for a light or spiced rum.


  44. Quicha on July 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    This is my hubby’s favorite cake – he does not like frosting as it’s usually too sweet. I will make it for him as a surprise!


  45. Jennifer on July 17, 2012 at 3:09 am

    I should have googled you first! Almost every rum cake I found involved a few boxes of mixes, as you point out in your blog. Not my style, either. I will be baking your fully homemade rum cake to make dark and stormy cupcakes for a friend. I tweaked your limoncello cupcake recipe nearly 3 years ago, and took 2nd place for it! Since then, I regularly peruse your blog, print your recipes and bake from them in my kitchen. YUM!!! Thank you!


  46. clara on July 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    This worked lovely! It turned out nice and strong, and the cake carries the flavor of the rum very well.


  47. Iliana on August 4, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Great recipe! Just made it and everyone loved it. I didn’t have dark rum so I used the clear one in less quantity. It still turned out so yummy!


  48. Maria on October 31, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Question RE: Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
    Do you mix/make the pudding mix according to it’s package directions or just dump it all in (dry) with the ingredients?


    • Michelle on November 1st, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Hi Maria, You just add it dry to the rest of the ingredients.


  49. CC on November 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    I can’t wait to try this recipe, however, my boyfriend doesn’t like walnuts. Can I just omit them? Thanks!


    • Michelle on November 13th, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      Yes, definitely!


  50. Mandy on November 20, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I made this today to take to my family in Austin for Thanksgiving. I have no doubt it will hold up for two days (if I can resist eating it). However, the cake is sitting in a huge puddle of syrup. I do have some left over. My question is, should I sop up the excess syrup and add the left over on Thanksgiving day?

    Thanks, M


    • Michelle on November 20th, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Hi Mandy, Yes, I don’t see why you couldn’t. Enjoy!


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