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Our Orange Rum Cake Does Not Suck

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When I was a kid growing up in Florida one of our holiday favorites was Orange Rum cake. Its a little different than the typical hodgepodge of cakes and besides it was just fun to make. I liked helping to shave the orange and lemon zest (peel) and there was something cool even then about a cake that needed to sit for a few days before you could eat it. And it had RUM. No matter that its hardly a trace amount, as a kid it was just a fun cake and we looked forward to it every year at Christmas.

Once we were grown and out of the house the Orange Rum Cakes became less and less frequent. I really missed this cake especially during the holidays and in fact the effort to preserve the ‘traditional’ Orange Rum cake was one of my first culinary ‘quests’. I pestered my family for months for the recipe which was in a lost book scratched on an index card by some distant relative in barely readable scrawl. Finally after a few years someone stumbled on the book, the card dropped out and the Orange Rum Cake lived on. I made it for the family, I made it for my friends, and I went on to make it nearly every year for the past 25+ years. Most people quite like it. The fact that you pour over 1/2 a cup of liquid over it after its done makes it very very moist and just a little bit different. So imagine my surprise when 25 years later I find the recipe for Orange Rum Cake on on a popular recipe site with only single year old review that said it sucks.

Well maybe not in those words but you get gist.

Obviously it didn’t surprise me to find it on the Internet, I’d have been a lot more surprised if I hadn’t. But what did surprise me at first was that no one was trying this recipe even though it had been on the site for awhile. But a quick glance showed why, the one bad review. Some guy whose name is not important and we should keep anonymous his name is JHARRING79 called it ‘not very tastey (sic) at all, very dry’. At first I thought the nerve of JHARRING79 this guy but then I realized he just over baked his cake and didn’t know it. The taste is subjective, the cake may or may not appeal to you but face it when you have a cake that you finish off by pouring over a 1/2 cup of liquid over come out dry then you’ve just messed it up. Nine times out of ten ‘it was dry’ really means ‘I over cooked my food but don’t realize it’. This is pretty easy to do with the typical badly calibrated uneven heating ovens most of us have. It happened to me more often than I liked until I learned to cook AND bake to temperature. When the cakes internal temperature reaches 190 degrees then the cake is done. Not to say I don’t botch things up but now its because I keep forgetting to check the temperature. Stupid oven.

Anyway I didn’t get to it this past Christmas so I made Orange Rum cake for Easter. A cake that goes back at least 50 years in our family.

At least I like it.

Orange Rum Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup orange juice, strained
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons light rum


1 Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2 In large bowl of electric mixer cream butter, 1 cup sugar and orange and lemon peel until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat after each until thoroughly blended. At low speed add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk. Fold in walnuts.

3 Spread batter evenly in greased 9 inch tube pan. Bake in center of preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven about 40-45 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out clean, cake shrinks slightly from sides of pan and surface springs back when pressed lightly with finger. Cool pan on rack slightly.

4 In saucepan mix juices, remaining 1 cup sugar and the rum; bring to boil, then pour carefully over cake in pan. Cool, cover; let stand in pan 2-3 days before serving.

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