Sunday, March 13, 2011

Walnut Rum-Raisin Cake

So this past week, Maida and I had a conversation. It went something like this:

"Maria! You need to bake something!'
"I don't know, Maida. It seems like overkill. We still have some fruit bars and zwieback lying around."
"But Maria, you have the day off and a pound of butter in the fridge! You should really bake something!"
"Yeah, but it's just going to sit around. I don't have anyone to give anything away to, and Julia is giving up sweets for Lent."
"All the more reason to bake today, Mardi Gras! You should make Walnut Rum-Raisin Cake. It is moist, keeps well, is easy to make, and especially delicious."
"'s true that I have nothing to do today. And that recipe does look good. If it keeps well, we can maybe get through a half recipe..."

Strangely enough, I had all the necessary ingredients right there. Bit of trivia: I read or heard somewhere that Hemmingway's favorite drink in Paris was Rhum St. James. I just bought it because it was cheap. Come to think of it, that's probably why he did as well.

Half a recipe is perfect for a loaf pan; the whole recipe would have been a Bundt.

As Maida promised, this was really easy to make--it's just a standard butter cake with a lot of additions.

And there it is, golden brown and delicious, soaked in rum syrup.

Funny story--this cake was gone within 48 hours. I swear it wasn't me! I think it was all Sami ate for two days. He called it the "rum-soaked deliciousness". Even Claire the Raisin Hater didn't mind it. Maida was right. Once again.

Therefore I'm giving you the original recipe for the full Bundt pan. Even if you think you won't eat it, you probably will. And after all, it keeps well.

Walnut Rum-Raisin Cake

1 c. (5 oz.) raisins (use a mix of dark and golden if you have them)
1/3 c. (2.7 oz.) dark rum
2-1/4 c. (8.5 oz.) walnuts (Maida says this is also good with almonds, if you prefer)
1 cup (8 oz.) butter, room temperature
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
finely grated rind of 2 (organic) lemons
finely grated rind of 2 (organic) oranges
1 t. vanilla
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
2 large eggs
2-1/2 c. (10 oz.) flour (I used some whole wheat, as usual)
1 c. (8 oz.) buttermilk (or plain yogurt thinned with some milk)

If you're good at planning ahead, put the raisins and rum in a jar and let sit overnight, giving it a shake whenever you think about it. If you're like me, put them in a microwave-safe dish and zap for about 30 seconds, or until steamy. Let sit for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Put about 3/4 cup or about 1.5 oz. walnuts in your food processor and process until quite fine. Butter a Bundt or other fancy tube pan heavily and coat as best you can with the walnuts. Any leftover walnuts can stay at the bottom of the pan. Chop the remaining walnuts into medium-sized pieces--6 to 8 pulses in the food processor.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange and lemon rinds, and vanilla until light and fluffy--a minute or two. Gradually add the sugar and beat for another minute or two. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. At low speed mix in the flour in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions. Take the bowl from the mixer and add the rum-raisins (don't drink that rum--put it in the cake batter!) and the walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted gently comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. While the cake is cooling, make the rum syrup:

1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) sugar
1/4 c. (2 oz.) water
1/4 c. (2 oz.) orange juice
3 T. (1.5 oz.) lemon or lime juice
1/4 c. (2 oz.) dark rum

In a small saucepan over moderate heat, stir together the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and let boil without stirring for 2 minutes. Take off the heat. (By the way, you've just made simple syrup, the basis of many a cocktail. Actually, come to think of it, this rum syrup over ice would make a lovely cocktail...) Add the orange juice, lemon juice, and rum.
Unmold the cake onto a cake platter and then brush it with the syrup. It's a lot of syrup, but the cake will eventually end up soaking it all in. I got impatient and just carefully poured on the syrup, and that seemed to work well. Let cool and enjoy the rum-soaked deliciousness.

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