How to Bake a Christmas Cake in a Pinch

Because rum cake and Christmas go together like peanut butter and jelly!

Annabelle D’Costa

Famous for its uniquely dense texture, rich and robust taste; and boasting a slew of ingredients such as dried or fresh fruits, nuts and most importantly rum, this cake is as festive as a cake can get. Easy to bake, the rum cake is totally worthy to be served at your Christmas shindig.

(Also Read: Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ Wedding Cake Literally Takes the ‘Cake’)

Here’s a recipe by Chef Sandeep Kumar, Executive Chef at the Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel:


For the Cake:

1 cup (113 grams) chopped walnuts (optional)
1¾ cups (248 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (28 grams) cornstarch
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups (298 grams) granulated sugar
3 tbsp + ½ cup (99 grams) canola oil, divided
⅔ cup DIY instant vanilla pudding mix (or one 3.4-ounce package of instant vanilla pudding)
4 eggs
¾ cup (180 ml) whole milk
¾ cup (180 ml) dark rum
1 tbsp vanilla extract

For the Rum Syrup:

¾ cup (170 grams) unsalted butter
1½ cups (298 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) water
a pinch of salt
½ cup (120 ml) dark rum


1. Preheat the oven to 162°C. Grease and flour a standard cake tin (12-cup capacity). Sprinkle the chopped walnuts around the bottom; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together—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, or for about three minutes.
4. Next, add the flour mixture and the three tablespoons of canola oil, and mix on medium-low speed for one to two minutes—the mixture should look like wet sand. Then add the pudding mix and mix again on medium-low speed until well combined.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, rum, remaining ½ cup canola oil, and vanilla extract.
6. Add the egg mixture to the sand-like mixture and beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined, or for about two to three minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
7. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 50 to 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
8. When the cake has about 10 minutes left to bake, start work on the rum syrup. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, stir in the sugar and the water. Boil for five minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and stir in the rum. Once it is mixed in, return the pan to medium heat for about 30 seconds.

Last Minute is Possible

While some bakers swear by soaking the fruits for at least one year three to four months too is a good start. That said, even a 45 days head start allows the fruits enough time to soak the flavour of the rum believes Chef Sandeep Kumar, an Executive Chef at the Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel. But if it’s a last-minute cake emergency, he suggests soaking fruits of your choice in some rum and leaving them overnight (if that’s possible), or for a few minutes while you prepare the baking tin and other ingredients. While on the other hand, chef Rahul Dhavale, Executive Chef The Westin Mumbai Garden City says that to make sure your last-minute cake stands out, simply rely on store-bought preserved fruits, soak them in dark alcohol (preferably dark rum), and then bake as per the recipe.  

(Also Read: 

Easy Plum Cake Recipe to Win Everyone’s Heart This Christmas)

Cheat A Little

While some baking purists prefer making everything from scratch, a little cheating won’t hurt. A readymade cake mix can be upgraded by adding good quality dry fruits, orange zest, hazelnuts, fruit zests, pecan nuts and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice), suggests chef Dhavale. To add the gorgeous dark hue of a rum cake add little molasses (easily available at stores) at the last minute. However, he doesn’t encourage this method as the reward of soaking fruits in time is evident in the final product.

Be Choosy and Smart

What’s a rum cake without the rum? But don’t depend solely on the flavour from the rum, push yourself and experiment. Chef Dhavale says, “One could turn to warm seasonings such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. These spices work best when combined with candied orange peel, lemon peel, dates, prunes and even plums.” Go all out and add dehydrated tropical fruits such as berries, papaya, apple, guava, pineapple, or whatever you like!
For a more traditional approach, chef Kumar suggests turning to raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, cranberries, prunes or figs infused in rum/brandy/cognac/or all of them. To ensure that all these rum soaked goodies don’t sink to the bottom of the cake during baking, chef Dhavale suggests a simple hack: “Firstly, simply dust the dried fruits with some dry flour and then mix into the batter. Secondly, when pouring the batter into cake tins, do not tap the tin hard for the batter to settle. Rather, just softly tap the sides using a spoon, and you’ll have the perfect bite each and every time.”

The Perfect Temperature

“There are many components when it comes to baking, and temperature contributes to just about all of them,” says chef Kumar. Each recipe calls for an ideal baking temperature and time to ensure that everything you pop into the oven comes out perfect. Chef Dhavale explains, “An oven that is set at the right temperature, results in even cooking on all sides, ensuring that the baked treat is not under or overcooked.” And therefore, baking your rum cake at a lower temperature will help it cook evenly without drying it out. And to ensure you bake your rum cake to perfection, chef Kumar suggests aiming for anything between 180-200°C. To test, chef Kumar says, “Any thin skewer can be used as a cake tester, but use a simple toothpick could be your cheapest bet. If you insert it into the centre of the cake, it should come out clean, with no streaks of batter.” If not, then bake the cake for another 5-7 minutes; keep checking for readiness with the toothpick.

(Also Read: Personalise Your Cake Like Sonam Kapoor and Shilpa Shetty)

Prevent Baking Disasters

To prevent your rum cake from getting stuck to the pan, chef Dhavale says, “Grease the pan before you pour in the batter. However, these days, you get good quality Teflon coated moulds or even a thick butter paper would just do fine.” If not, he suggests using silicone baking moulds. Chef Kumar suggests another simple trick—just let the hot cake rest for a few minutes before taking it off the mould to prevent it from sticking.
“In general, rum cakes are known to have a good degree of moisture and are dense by themselves. Also, they do not tend to lose out on moisture, thanks to the good amount of fat (butter and oil) in them. And since they are made traditionally for winters, they have a good shelf life and do not dry easily,” explains chef Dhavale. And therefore, be generous with the butter. “Add butter to all your dry ingredients to preserve the moistness and simply brush your cakes with simple syrup,” suggests Chef Kumar. Besides, to prevent your rum cake from getting burnt, chef Dhavale suggests turning the cake mould by 180°, halfway through to ensure even baking. Moreover, the cake pan should be deep enough for the cake as a shallow pan carries more risk of browning a cake than a deep one.

The Storage Guide

Chances are you have baked your rum cake in advance, allowing it to age and grow in flavour. “Cooling of the cake is very important post-baking. Make sure it is cooled to room temperature after taking out of the oven. Then, placed on a wire rack or a perforated pan, to allow steam to escape from all side. Once cooled down, it can be kept in a cool and dry place, in an airtight container,” explains chef Dhavale. And if you plan on refrigerating your baked treat, chef Kumar suggests carefully placing the cake in a large airtight container to avoid any part of the cake getting crushed. In case your refrigerator is too packed, “Place the cake into a sealed freezer bag. Do not use ordinary plastic bags, as these will not protect the cake during freezing,” he adds.

The key to the cake is simple, it gets better the longer you let it sit and soak. So don’t shy away from baking this cake ahead of time.

(Also Read: 6 Easy Baking Hacks for Your Christmas Spree)

Images: Shutterstock 


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