I have no idea why I never noticed this recipe until it was my turn to pick one. Really, it has everything I enjoy. Rum. Vanilla Beans. Low Mess/Dirty Dish Count. No Waiting for Butter to Soften. Simple Straight-Forward Recipe.
I joined Tuesdays with Dorie back in August 2008 and now almost 2 years later it is finally my turn to host a recipe. It was a super-easy pick for me. I just flipped through Dorie Greenspan’s Baking…From My Home to Yours and the book fell open to page 226: Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes.
Originally when I selected this recipe I was going to make it three times. Once with the beans I bought in Taha’a, Tahiti; once with the beans I bought in Zihuatanejo, Mexico; and once with the beans I bought in Vava’u, Tonga. I even considered making it four times with the Madagascar vanilla beans that I have but did not travel to get. Yeah, I may have a little vanilla bean problem. I wanted to see if I could taste the difference.
I also have a time management problem and ran out of time. I went out-of-town this weekend, got home Sunday afternoon, went to go make the cakes, realized I didn’t have eggs or cream, ran to Trader Joe’s, got home, realized I was out of sugar, debated going to the store again, decided to use the homemade vanilla sugar I had and had just the right amount for the recipe.
This is an awesome recipe. The cake is unbelievably good. The texture is amazing and flavors work really well together. Yum.
Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes
The texture of this cake is so perfect–the crumb so soft, even and tightly knit–that you could mistake it for a Sara Lee pound cake. That’s high praise in my book: I’ve always loved Sara Lee’s compact, tiny-bubble crumb and the slices of cake are simultaneously firm and supple. But what you get here is a flavor Sara Lee can never deliver, one that depends on using the very best vanilla you can find. The first choice is a pair of moist, pliable vanilla beans. You get the truest flavor from beans, and if you follow the nifty technique of of rubbing the pulp of the beans into the sugar, you’ll get maximum results. If you use extract, you’ll still produce an excellent cake, but you’ve got to use pure extract. As for the rum–it should be high-quality, dark and strong.
Make the syrup as soon as you slide the cakes into the oven to bake–that way, it will have time to cool.
For the Cakes
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 1/3 cups of sugar
- 2 plump, moist vanilla beans, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved, or 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
- 2/3 cup of heavy cream
- 2 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
- 1 stick plus 7 tablespoons (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the Syrup
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup dark rum
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-x-2 1/2 -inch loaf pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. (Even if the pans are nonstick, it’s a good idea to butter and flour them.) Place the pans on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular sheets stacked one on top of the other.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
Put the sugar and the pulp from the vanilla beans, if using them, in a large bowl and, working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist and thoroughly imbued with the fragrance of vanilla. (If you are using vanilla extract, add it later, after you’ve added the eggs.) Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the extract, if you are using it, then whisk in the cream, followed by the rum. Continuing with the whisk or switching to a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. (As soon as the cakes go into the oven, make the syrup.) After about 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color–if they are browning too quickly, cover them lightly with foil tents.
Meanwhile, Make the Syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rum. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and let cool.
When the cakes test done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them and turning them right side up on the rack. Place the rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper and, using a thin skewer, cake tester or thin-blade sharp knife, poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the cakes all over with the syrup, working slowly so that the cakes sop it up. Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.