Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Own Italian Rum Birthday Cake

Yesterday was my birthday! I spent the morning at the doctors- a convenient way to justify a birthday sick day- then lunch with a former coworker and then the evening baking and being lazy. It was delightful!

The baking I was doing was for a birthday cake for me. Now, before you scold me or my husband for making my own celebratory pastry, have no fear- I wanted to do it! It is rare I can justify making an extravagant dessert that is both involved and fattening. So it was truly a joy to try my hand at a new dish.

I chose to make an Italian Rum Cake. My grandmother regularly would buy an Italian rum cake for my mother's birthday from La Cascia Bakery in Massachusetts. Their cake was always rich and fancy and as a kid I mostly wanted to eat the buttercream roses.

This was a 2-day process. Yesterday I made the sponge cake and the pasticciera custard. I let the rum soak in last night while the custard cooled in the fridge. Today was assembly and the frosting. In the criticism department, I didn't cook my custard long enough, so it was a little runny, and my buttercream frosting was a little soft since I used more butter than shortening. In the complement department, oooooh-weeee, it's good! So many great flavors all tied in together and it really did look quite fancy.

Happy 30th birthday to me!

Italian Rum Cake
Based from
Sponge Cake

  • 5 Egg Yolks
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 C. White Sugar, divided
  • 5 Egg Whites
  • 1 1/4 C. Flour, sifted

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1 C. of sugar until a light lemony color.
  3. In a stand mixer (or another bowl using a hand mixer), whip the egg whites until soft peaks start to form.
  4. Blend in the remaining sugar to the egg whites and whip again until stiff.
  5. Gently fold about 1/2 cup of the egg white mixture into the egg yolks. Layer the remaining egg whites on top of the yolks. Sift the flour on top of everything else.
  6. Fold in the flour until the batter is smooth and no veins of flour remain. During the mixing process you want to keep the eggs light and fluffy- this is what keeps the sponge cake airy.
  7. Pour into 9" round cake pan. I greased and floured mine and it was a bear to remove, so I can't offer much in the way of advice in that regard!
  8. Bake for 15-30 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  9. Remove from oven and cool completely on a baking rack.

Pasticciera Cream (vanilla and chocolate)
  • 3 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. Flour
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 C. Milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 Heaping Tbsp. Cocoa Powder

  1. In a medium bowl, mix sugar, flour, eggs, and vanilla together until smooth.
  2. In a small saucepan, scald the milk. I think this means to take the milk until almost boiling... that's what I did right or not!
  3. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. When all combined, transfer back into the saucepan and cook over low-medium heat.
  4. At this point, you need to cook the custard over the right heat so that it stays nice and hot and steamy, but not boiling. You will want to cook it until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Your custard will need to be fairly stiff, but it won't cook down all the way- it will do its final thickening while cooling. This is where I didn't cook my vanilla enough. I went for about 15-20 minutes and probably should have done 30.
  5. When you are satisfied with the consistency, melt the butter into the mix and then remove half of the vanilla to a bowl. It will be about 1 1/2 - 2 C. worth. Cover this portion with plastic wrap right up against the surface (to prevent a skin from forming) and let cool on counter.
  6. Back in the pot, whisk in the chocolate. When smooth, pour into a another medium bowl and cover with wrap and cool.
  7. When the bowls are not too hot, finish cooling the custards in the fridge. They will need at least 3-4 hours, but I recommend just going overnight.

  • Cooled Cake
  • 1/4 C. Dark Rum
  • Vanilla Custard
  • Chocolate Custard
  • Light Buttercream or Whipped Cream Frosting (I used this reduced 4 servings with more cream and 2/3 butter, 1/3 shortening.)
  • Toasted Sliced Almonds
  • Strawberries or Cherries (optional)

  1. Using a long, serrated blade, slice the sponge cake into 3 layers. (That's 2 cuts for those like me who have to think hard about simple math!)
  2. On the cut sides of cake, brush on the rum, allowing it to soak in.
  3. On the bottom layer, spread the chocolate custard evenly.
  4. Place the middle layer on top of the chocolate custard.
  5. On the middle layer, spread the vanilla custard evenly. If desired, layer on any berries if desired. I like the sliced strawberries from the frozen section in the grocery stores.
  6. Put on the top layer of the cake.
  7. Frost the edges of the cake. Press the toasted almond slices into the sides. I kind of lightly threw them on with a cupped hand because my custard was oozing out and I couldn't roll the edges on wax paper with almonds.
  8. Frost the top of the cake. If you have extra frosting and are feeling ambitious, pipe on a border. This helped my rounded edges gain some height.
  9. I then made a Nutella glaze (Nutella, cream, hot water) to drizzle on top with a few strawberries for punch. More almonds or pretty flowers would also be lovely.
  10. Let sit for a little bit to let the rum soak in and the flavors meld. Be sure to keep refrigerated when not serving or else the frosting and custard will run.


dlee said...

happy birthday to you
happy birthday to you
happy birthday dear be-an
happy birthday to you!

Sherri said...

Uuuuuuh. I am drooling. yum.

Jaime said...

wow, it's beautiful!

happy birthday!

Elly said...

This looks incredibly tasty. Mmm. I only recently made my first sponge cakes & pastry cream, so I am much more confident that I could make this recipe than, say, a few months ago. But then, I would eat it all. Hmmph. Decisions, decisions. Hope you had a fantastic birthday and ate a LOT of this cake :)

Anonymous said...

Growing up in East LA, my mom would bring home a rum sponge cake each year for my birthday. Now, thousands of miles away from East LA and no longer posessing a mom, I have searched and searched for my rum cake of old. I think you found it for me.
Thanks so much,

Doris said...

I have been searching all over for this recipe and finaly found it with you. This cake came out just the way i remember growing up. I made this cake for my 50th Birthday. Just wanted you to know it made my day. Thank you,

Erika said...

Roberta- I'm so glad this brought back memories of your mom- hope it was just as you remembered!

Doris- Happy birthday to you! I know just how the perfect pastry can bring you back. Hope your day was delightful!

fraserco said...

You don't know me, but I found your posting, while I was searching for Italian Rum Cake. Love your recipe, can't wait to try it. It sounds very much like a rum cake that my aunt used to buy at Montillio's Bakery in Quincy, Mass., but there were layers of rum, chocolate and italian cream in the middle. I sure wish I had their recipe. My aunt is no longer with us, and I would love to make this cake for old time memories. Guess I'm getting a little sappy, as it is Memorial Day weekend. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

Anonymous said...

Ok I can not cook to save my life, seriously ! My idea of cooking from scratch is opening the package of cookies and all I have to do is put them in the oven. I found this online and decided to make one for my husband (just got married, so I am motivated to do the wife stuff) THANK YOU for the step by step directions. For a rookie like me this was great and easy to follow.... I made it, it looks pretty good. But have not tasted it yet ( a little scared )..

Annie27 said...

I'm curious about the origin of this particular recipe. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks much more like it will produce the cake I loved as a child in the oh-so-very-Italian NJ suburb, Belleville, NJ. If you get a minute, please let me know where you found this recipe. Thanks! Oh and belated Happy Birthday. ;-)

Ritz Crackers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritz Crackers said...

Thanks so much for this recipe.

It was the first recipe that came up when i googled it, thank god.

So far i've made the cake and the cream and so far so good. I can't wait to assemble it tomorrow.

It's easter on Sunday and I wanted to make this cake for my mom because she never eats anything i make or buy because she complains they are just too sweet. She always complains that people just don't know how to make good cakes anymore.

The best part about all of this is that they use to make this cake for my birthday when i was young and i hated it. Who would make a 5 year old a liquor cake???????? lol. Did i complain? For sure. Did they care? Heck no. Did i eat my piece? Hell yeah, that's all there was.

Ahhh the good old days.

Caroline said...

Found your recipe through a Google search as well and boy am I glad I did!! I made this today for my FIL who requested an Italian Rum Cake for his birthday and everyone really loved it. Thank you so much!!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the recipe. This was the only one I could find without a million steps. It was really tasty!! the only thing I would do differently next time is make 2 spongecakes b/c the one was almost too thin to cut 3 ways. Otherwise, really flavorful and beautiful presentation!!

nic said...

I am making this cake for my mom for her birthday on friday, I just pulled the cake out and the top is kinda crunchy is that right? I have never made a cake like this im lost and coyld use any help you can give thanks!