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A Rum-Soaked Pound Cake That Tastes Like Home + Giveaway

by Kristina Gill

I have fond memories of being allowed to have a Bourbon Ball or two at Christmastime when I was little. I attribute that experience to my current fondness for cakes and desserts that incorporate alcohol, and I never turn down a chance to taste a bourbon or rum cake. In Coconuts & Collards, writer and radio producer, Von Diaz, shares a collection of stories and recipes from her beloved Puerto Rican kitchen. The cookbook includes not only Puerto Rican recipes, but also recipes influenced by having moved to Atlanta as a young girl. Von’s recipes for her mother’s Bizcocho de Ron (Rum Cake) and her own adaptation demonstrate how her family adapted from their move to the US, and how Von’s own cooking skills grew. Make them both and tell us which you prefer! —Kristina

Why Von loves this recipe: When I adapted my Mami’s traditional rum cake recipe for Coconuts & Collards, I hoped to perfect her version (made with box mix) and produce a denser cake with less sugar. I took inspiration from classic Southern yellow cake recipes and adjusted the rum glaze, but ultimately I discovered that I liked them both. Equally. Today I exclusively make Mami’s recipe, because it comes out perfect every time and makes me think of her.

To win a copy of Coconuts & Collards, respond in the comments section below by May 9, 5PM EST to the following question: What food reminds you most of home? Do you use a recipe to make it for yourself at home, or do you just order it whenever you see it on a menu and you’re feeling homesick? The winner will be announced in the comments section of this post, so be sure to check back!

About Von: Von Diaz, author of Coconuts & Collards, is a writer and radio producer based in New York City. She is a self-taught cook who explores Puerto Rican food, culture, and identity through memoir and multimedia. Her work has been featured on NPR, American Public Media, StoryCorps, WNYC, PRI’s The World, BuzzFeed, The Splendid Table, The Southern Foodways Alliance’s Gravy Podcast and Quarterly, Colorlines, and Feet in 2 Worlds. Find Von on Instagram @cocinacriolla, Twitter @vondiaz and Facebook @vondiazauthor.

{Photography by Cybelle Codish}

Image above: Von Diaz

Image above: Bizcocho de Ron

Image above: A well-loved notebook

Mami’s Bizcocho de Ron (Mami’s Rum Cake)

When my friends found out I was writing this cookbook, several asked if Mami’s rum cake would be in it. And so it is. First I give you her original recipe, which uses a boxed cake mix. I highly recommend this recipe if you need to make something quickly and easily or aren’t very comfortable baking. It’s perfectly balanced and is my favorite cake to this day. But in homage to Mami, I’ve adapted her recipe to give it a little more depth, and that version follows. (In case you were wondering, my family calls me Bombi.)

Special thanks to chef, friend, and mentor Kathy Gunst for her help adapting this recipe.

Serves 6 to 10

Ingredients

  • Mami's Cake Recipe
  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 box butter-flavor cake mix
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • Unsalted butter
  • Eggs
  • 
1/4 cup white rum
  • Mami's Rum Syrup
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup white rum
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Bombi’s Cake Recipe
  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 (3.4-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil

  • 1/2 cup white rum
  • 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Bombi's Rum Syrup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white rum

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

1

To make Mami’s cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a Bundt pan with cooking spray and sprinkle in the walnuts.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, combine the cake mix and pudding mix, then add the butter and eggs as directed by the instructions on the cake mix box. Add the rum. Beat at medium speed for 4 minutes.

2

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and level it with a spatula.

Bake for 33 to 35 minutes, until the cake is pale golden in color, slightly risen, and a toothpick or cake skewer comes out clean when poked in the center of the cake. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.

3

Meanwhile, make Mami’s glaze:

Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until the sugar is fully dissolved and the glaze thickens just slightly.

 

4

While the cake is still warm, poke holes throughout the cake using the same toothpick or skewer you used to test the cake for doneness. Pour the hot glaze on top; don’t worry if the cake doesn’t take in the glaze immediately. It takes at least 10 minutes for the glaze to be absorbed.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and allow to soak for at least 3 hours or overnight. Invert onto a plate, then slice and serve.

5

To make Bombi’s cake:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a Bundt pan with cooking spray and sprinkle in the walnuts.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a large bowl using an electric handheld mixer, combine the flour, sugar, pudding mix, butter, baking powder, and salt. Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until fully incorporated.

6

Add the milk, eggs, and coconut oil and blend on low speed for about 2 more minutes, until smooth. Pour in the rum and vanilla and blend on low speed for about 1 more minute to form a thick batter.

7

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and level it with a spatula. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the cake is pale golden in color, slightly risen, and a toothpick or cake skewer comes out clean when poked in the center of the cake. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.

8

Meanwhile, make Bombi’s rum glaze:

Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until the sugar is fully dissolved and the glaze is just slightly thickened.

 

9

While the cake is still warm, poke holes throughout the cake using the same toothpick or skewer you used to test the cake for doneness. Pour the hot glaze on top. Don’t worry if the cake doesn’t take in the glaze immediately; it takes at least 10 minutes for the glaze to be absorbed.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and allow to soak for at least 3 hours or overnight. Invert onto a plate, slice, and serve.

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Comments

  • For me, it’s chicken enchiladas. That’s what my mom made whenever we were feeling stressed or just wanted some comfort food. I still make them whenever I’m going through a hard time!

  • My dad is from Iran, so he would make a lot of Persian dishes when I was growing up. My favorite comfort food is Nargesi – a spinach and egg combination that I eat over rice. It’s super simple and easy to throw together, and reminds me of my childhood every time. I don’t follow a recipe, and sometimes I add extra things like mushrooms or other greens I have lying around. This recipe is basically what I make, but I scramble my eggs into the spinach. https://www.unicornsinthekitchen.com/persian-spinach-and-eggs-nargesi/

  • My mom’s orange poppy seed bread reminds me the most of home. I made sure recently she wrote me out her exact recipe as I don’t like to rely on memory. Especially in her handwriting, it means a lot to me! I make it myself at home as I love to bake.

  • Your colorful book makes me want to cook something. Your cake makes me want bake l,m a at home baker always looking for new recipes. Can,t wait to bake and eat that. My mom,s sweet potatoe pie is my favorite to bake every time I bake it I cry. She,s been gone since 1983. Thank you for sharing your gift. Ms. Margo fuller

  • What reminds me of home is my Mom’s chicken and rice (arroz con pollo). Fortunately she shared her recipe so i can make it at home. I only do it on special occasions.
    I have ordered it at several restaurants but none taste like hers. Thank God i have her recipe!

  • What makes me think of Home and my mother! I lived in a small family farm, we had fruit trees on the property, apricot, cherries, apple and peach! And my mother would can the fruit to have all year long and in a whim she’d throw together fresh fruit cobbles….we also had cows, so lots of fresh milk and cream. There’s was nothing like a fresh cobbler with with cream from that morning take-wed also make hand cranked ice cream with the fruit-yummmmm! It make s me feel like home-and no I can’t order it just anywhere-it not some thing that can be duplicated. What a special memory do memory to have! 😊

  • What reminds me of home is pot roast. My mom would make it once a week. I make it occasionally as it reminds me of home. However, when out and about I never order it. It is not the same.

  • Foods that remind me of home! So many.
    But I’d have to say the smell of homemade chicken soup that has been simmering on the stove for hours, and the oniony/cheesy smell of my mom’s mac and cheese recipe.
    I don’t use a recipe to make the soup, and I’ve added stuff to it over the years (cheese rinds, sometimes some honey, in case the chicken was cooked with lemons – to cut the bitterness). As for the mac and cheese, oh yes, recipe all the way, from an old wood-burning stove cookbook that my mom still has. The book is paperback and falling apart, so I think she took a picture of the page for us.
    Lastly, we all love noodles and cottage cheese, which is sweet and covered in cinnamon sugar. Everyone makes it better than me and it is the ultimate family comfort food (we’ve never met anyone else who loves it like we do, or even likes it!).

  • I come from the land of green chile. When I smell green chile I know I’m home. When green chile is freshly roasted or when you drive by a field of chile you can smell the scent in the air it automatically makes you hungry for your favorite dishes.

    When I get a craving for home I always try to find green chile enchiladas, green chile stew, a burrito smothered in green chile topped with cheese and tomatoes. The only problem is sometimes when I’m outside the country or in another part of the U.S. and don’t have access to the fresh stuff I resort to canned and your taste buds know it’s not the same. Sometimes it’s really hard to duplicate your favorite recipes when you’re away from home and even harder to find restaurants that serve these recipes. But I love eating these dishes and making these dishes. And when you share them with people who haven’t tasted food from your area and they develop an appreciation for your food as well that is the best feeling ever.

  • My mom makes amazing cheese enchiladas! I crave them all the time. I always order cheese enchiladas when I go out, but nothing compared to the way my momma makes them. Probably because they are filled with so much love!

  • My Mom’ stuffing! I make it every year and since my Mom doesn’t have a formal recipe I always have to call and ask questions. I have the ingredients written down but somehow I always think it’s not right so I must make sure with a phone call.

  • My mother’s southern potato salad reminds me of home and awesome family get togethers. I’ve never tasted better potato salad the mom’s, and it my families go to by memory recipe. We share in the preparation, and savoring the great taste.

  • Lefse reminds me of home. The strong potato flavor, dusty flour surface, and texture like thin, tender leather. Only butter on it, ever, no sugar. Grandma made it a time or two but it was usually storebought. Having made it a time or two myself, her choice makes sense. I get the storebought now too.

  • I came from a family that didn’t cook much but we had wonderful strawberry rhubarb pie. That’s the thing that takes me back home.

  • Mom’s spaghetti which we ate every Thursday for 20 years. And because we love carbs we’d also have bread and butter on the side.

  • From my mother’s family, multiethnic transplants from Panama and Jamaica, the food of my home are Platanos Madurai’s (sweet plantains).

    From my step father’s family hailing from Lithuania, it’s potato pancakes with sour cream and home made applesauce.

    Both dishes signaled high family holidays in our blended clan.

    Food was important as we moved frequently during my childhood (we even spent two years in Kenya). No matter our location, these two dishes signaled home.

  • Chicken adobo. My mom taught me how to make this when I was 9, and to this day, I just eyeball my amounts of vinegar & soy sauce. Nothing fancy, but a transitional and easy Filipino dish that reminds me of home here in the Midwest.

  • Fried fish. My dad is from Arkansas and, when I was a kid, visiting relatives would bring fish up from the fish farms down south and we all enjoy fried jack salmon, buffalo fish, and catfish. Plus, we have a special breading back home in Sr. Louis we use to fry fish. After I moved to NYC, I begged my parents to send me some. Whenever I’m homesick, I cook some fried fish.

  • When I think of home, I think of my grandmother’s kitchen, a rather sparse space in comparison to today’s kitchen, a small enamel topped table, a large Hoosier cabinet, a sink that stood on legs, and a massive stove. She loved to make muffins with malt-o-meal cereal. She kept them in a pan in the lower section of her Hoosier cabinet, always in hand for that unexpected visitor. Just the right amount of seeet to accompany a cup of tea.

    I thought the recipe was lost once she died, but it’s on the box of Malt-0-Meal, Magic Muffins. Such a fitting name.

    I do not keep them on hand as she did, but when I need to feel her presence, I make up a batch, sit down with a cup of tea, and she is there, if only in spirit.

  • My mother was from Mississippi. Whenever I want my house to smell like home, I cook her collard greens with homemade chicken stock and bacon. I cook them on my 1951 Wedgewood stove and the ambience takes me right back to my childhood in Virginia.

  • What Reminds me of home is my Moms cabbage rolls( golabki) perogis, and polish crepes ( nalesniki ) as my family is Polish. Uunfortunately they are now deceased but I carry on the tradition and recipes which keeps them close to my heart.

  • Mami’s recipe looks delicious and easy to make. A winner! Our family has a huge collective sweet tooth so the food that most makes me think of my mom is chocolate chip cookies. Her recipe in my cookbook is tattered, stained, and torn. The other is cornbread, which is not at all sweet, and which I never order in a restaurant because it never tastes right.

  • My mom passed away in January. She hadn’t cooked a meal for me in a long time, so I had to think a lot about that answer. I always loved her crawfish etouffee. I used to make it at home, but it was never as good as hers. So now I order it when it’s on the menu.

  • I grew up in Montreal and every Christmas my Mom would make tamales, a staple for the Holidays back home. She had never made one single tamal in all of her life back home; she would always buy them from a neighborhood tamal maker…. She had to go searching for “exotic” spices and corn flour at the time in Canada and tried her hand until she got a perfect recipe…. now, the smell of spices, tomatoes and garlic roasting fills the air in our homes on December 24th and tamales cook slowly so we can have the first one of the year at midnight…it takes me both to eating tamales on Christmas eve back home, as well as my childhood in Montreal with my parents…. comfort food, smells and sounds of the Holiday season!

  • My parents both can and do cook. My childhood was fueled by pans of cheesy baked pastas, meatloaves, and stews. It was all very 90s and very delicious. All that being said, and my mother may kill me for this, the food that reminds me most of home are slices of Pepperidge Farm whole wheat bread thickly spread with either ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ or Jif. I was (and still am) always hungry and between meals, this was the solution. Bread and “butter” or peanut butter provided me with the necessary energy to play outside for hours. Or, at least until my parents called me in to eat.

  • For me, it has to be new baby potatoes, boiled in plenty of salted water. My parents live close to where I grew up and still grow a few of their own veggies. Nothing compares to a fresh potato straight out of the garden, served alongside some pan-fried fresh fish. It’s pure comfort food for me.

  • My mom’s banana bread! She substitutes half the sugar with honey. Not only is the bread moist and delicious, it has a beautiful sheen fresh out of the oven. Hot banana bread served with room temperature butter always reminds me of home and the extra effort my mom put in while baking it from scratch. T.Askew

  • My mother wasn’t the greatest cook, by any means, but every now and then when the spirit moved her (like maybe once per year), she made the most wonderful cheesecake — one based on cottage cheese. She got the recipe from the thinner of the two cookbooks she owned (and then covered with gross sewn-on green oil cloth) and kept stashed away. She wasn’t about to share the recipe, so I was delighted when I found a similar recipe in Craig Claiborne’s N Y Times Menu Cookbook (published in 1966), and found that it had the taste and texture of the one she made. That recipe has now been handed down by me to my daughter and daughter-in-law, and pretty soon I’ll be enlisting my eager 7 year old “sous-chef” (and grand-daughter) to help make it.

  • Perogies remind me the most of home because we had a lot of them growing up. I don’t make them at home. I buy them when I’m in the mood.

  • Galumpkies. My grandma made them, and always called them “pigs in a blanket,” so I was always confused with the dough-wrapped hot dogs my friends called pigs in a blanket. I make them at home, using her recipe, and a couple tweaks I’ve made. She used tomato soup, but I make the tomato sauce from scratch.

  • My mom’s Filipino stews on a cold winter’s night taste like home. Nilaga, sinigang, afritada. So good!

  • Thank you for sharing these recipes! I made the cake (Bombi’s version) over the weekend and brought some to work to share with coworkers. It is getting rave reviews all around!

  • my mom’s pierogi with potato, cheese and carmelized onion filling, a pretty little crimp around the edges

  • There’s a cake that’s quite common in Brazil which is called ‘Ant Hill cake’. The name is because the cake is traditionally baked in a bundt type cake tin and it’s doted with chicolate sprinkles that look like ants. I normally have it when I visit my mom and she makes it for me. It brings back all the wonderful memories of growing up, and habing food I really loved.

  • I love love love (enter a zillion more loves) my grandmother’s quiche. I’m not sure why but it’s the best quiche ever. I don’t eat it anywhere else or try to make it at home, I wait to eat in person a few times a year.

  • it’s a toss-up for me, between maternal Prinzregententorte (eight layers of torte and buttercream) or the paternal beignets de carnaval (Calvados-scented doughnuts). Fortunately I make them at home because one won’t find them on most menus. It’s better to live well – the calories are expended during a good stiff postprandial walk.

  • For me, it’s all about the soups. My mom’s sopa de pollo and my dad’s split pea soup. Both super comforting and as different as night and day,but they perfectly represent my mash up of southern roots and Central American roots.

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