When reader T.J. Campbell wrote in search of the recipe for a famous rum cake that used to be the signature at Cuneo’s Bakery in Austin, Texas, I didn’t have much hope of finding it. Cuneo’s closed more than 50 years ago, and attempts to find the former owners didn’t get me anywhere. But, a string of phone calls to food-history buffs in Austin, led to Addie Broyles, a food writer at the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, who unearthed a link to an article in the paper mentioning Ray Kennedy, former production manager at Cuneo’s.
With that, I tracked down Kennedy’s son James and daughter Rita who were more than happy to talk about Ray, Cuneo’s and the famous rum cake. Turns out Ray, who learned the baking trade from the Fleischman School of Baking in the 1930’s created and perfected the rum cake recipe and brought it with him to Cuneo’s where he baked for 11 years before leaving to open his own bakery in Cisco, Texas. “But,” recalls Rita, “Mr. Cuneo asked him to please come back, so he did.”
Decades later (1977), Ray shared a bulk-version of his recipe with Austin readers. Among other ingredients, the recipe called for 6 pounds of sugar, 2 pounds of water and more than three pounds of shortening. Introductory copy with the recipe included Ray’s memory that, “They used to line up outside the bakery to buy those rum cakes, they were so good.” Ray’s secret to the buttery-sweet flavor? Submerging the whole cake in a butter-rum syrup while the cake is still warm. “Give ’em a bath in it!” said Ray. Here then, is the scaled-down-for-the-home-cook recipe.
You’ll use a tube-cake pan lined with brown paper cut to fit around the inside and bottom of the pan, copiously coated with vegetable shortening. (Makes for a much-easier release.) Makes one, tall, 10-inch tube cake. P.S.–A note on the photo: I LOVE preparing the food for, and styling these shots : ) For this one? I found those sweet silver cake forks in that little leather box, the tatted table square, the bakelite cake server & bakelite backgammon chips, and the rum-filled glasses at Secret Treasures, in Evanston, IL.
- 4 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
- ¾ cup butter, softened just a bit
- 6 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon each lemon and orange extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum
- Generously grease 10-inch angel-food tube pan. Trace and cut out a paper liner for the bottom round and sides of the tube cake pan. Place in the pan and grease again over the paper.
- Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In bowl of a standing mixer on medium speed, beat sugar, butter and shortening together. Slowly (one at a time) add eggs, beating between additions. Beat for three minutes. When batter is fluffy, add extracts.
- Mix dry ingredients into the batter in two batches, alternating with the milk.
- Pour batter into the prepared tube pan and bake at 325 for between 1 hour and 30 minutes and 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until crowned, nicely browned and firm and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove cake from oven to a cooling rack and let rest for 15 minutes.
- While cake is resting, make butter-rum glaze. Stirring constantly, mix sugar, water, butter and salt in small saucepan and heat until syrup begins to thicken and bubble. Boil, whisking for three minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly. Mix in rum (it will bubble up, so be careful.)
- Using a sharp knife, loosen cake from sides of the pan. Invert pan onto a foil-covered plate (to catch the syrup drips you'll be pouring over in a second) and remove pan center, using a sharp knife as needed to separate pan center from what is now the top of the cake. Remove paper from top of cake. While the cake and glaze are still warm, brush or pour butter-rum glaze all over cake. Remove cake to a clean platter and serve. Cake keeps well wrapped in foil.
- Ray Kennedy said, "Give the cake a bath in the butter-rum!" You can do that--or put out a little extra butter-rum syrup warmed in a pitcher when you serve the cake. This cake goes REALLY well with peach ice cream for some reason...