OCTOBER

OCTOBER

October 27, 2010

Getting Better with Age!

Traditions play a huge part in our family at The Maine House! Miss Helen always produced a most marvelous rum cake every Christmas holiday. It was one of the most beautiful and most flavorful cakes she ever made and to think it was rather easy to prepare. The rum cake has also been a tradition in Old English cooking and we thought we would find out a little more on how this delectable dessert came to be in our dinner discussions last Sunday evening!


Rum Cake is a moist and tasty cake that truly gets better with age. It is often referred to as blackcake. It keeps, freezes and mails well because the rum acts as a preservative. Rum cake has a long history and has been enjoyed for hundreds of years.

Caribbean.....What today is called the Caribbean Rum Cake was first bought to the Caribbean Islands by English settlers in the mid-17th century. Its recipe was altered by Africans who were brought to the islands during the slave trade.


English Pudding...The original recipe was similar to English pudding, which is actually a thick cake. The standard method of steaming was changed to baking and the ingredients also changed, most noticeably by the addition of rum.

Charles Austen......"Our own particular little brother" ....Jane Austen to Cassandra....January 21, 1799
Charles John Austen CB (1779 – 7 October 1852) was an officer in the Royal Navy. He served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and beyond, eventually rising to the rank of rear-admiral.


As a Naval man, Charles Austen would have been quite familiar with the Rum rations offered at sea, and with his many years in Bermuda and the Caribbean, would, no doubt have been familiar with rum cake, as well. Just as rum was adapted from available resources, so rum cake is a variation on classic Christmas, or Plum Pudding recipes-- instead of boiling it for hours in a pudding cloth, however, cooks in the tropics took to baking the ingredients in a cake tin-- saving a lot of labor and heat in the kitchen!


"So romantic is the history of rum that it has long since been adopted as the drink of the working class man throughout the world. This might be due to its association with the “fighting man” and the strength of victorious sailors fighting for the New World; or perhaps, the defeat of Napoleon’s fleet by Admiral Nelson’s rum drinking crew at the crucial battle of Trafalgar; or maybe down to the swashbuckling, freedom-tales of Caribbean pirates handed down through the centuries. Whichever, it is clear that rum has had a checkered history undeniably linked to the riskier business of the day.


One of the main challenges of sixteenth century sea voyages was providing their crews with a liquid supply to last long journeys. Navy captains turned to the most readily available sources of liquid in the day – water and beer, with no real discrimination made between the two. Water contained in casks was the quicker of the two to spoil by algae, but beer also soured when stored for too long. Royal Navy sailors took to drinking their rations of beer first and water second, sweetening the spoiling water with beer or wine to make it more palatable. The longer the voyage, the larger the cargo of liquid required, and the larger the problems of storage and spoilage would be.
As seafaring vessels entered the Caribbean regions captains took advantage of a cheaper and more readily available source of liquid sold by local sugar cane plantations called “kil devil” – a foul tasting by-product of sugar cane processing which later became known as rum. Rum quickly replaced the beer rations and became an official ration on British navy ships from 1655 onwards. Reportedly these rum rations were causing such a “rumbullion” (drunkenness and discipline problems) amongst the seamen that in 1740 Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon issued an order to dilute rum rations with sugar and lime juice (possibly why the mixture was reputed to fight off the sailors ‘lurgy’ or scurvy). Due to his nickname – the ‘old grog’ – this new mixture attained the new name of ‘grog’.
Dilution ratio’s varied aboard different ships and over time but the tradition continued until ‘black tot day’ on July 30, 1970 when the last “up spirits” rum measure was served aboard Royal Navy ships forever."

Estelle's Best Rum Cake
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
1 18-1/2 ounce yellow cake mix
1 1-3/4 ounce  instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup  dark rum
Glaze---
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark rum


Cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts on bottom of pan. Combine all cake ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes on high with electric mixer. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool in pan. Invert on serving plate. Prick top with fork. Drizzle glaze over top of cake. Use brush or spoon to put extra dripping back on cake.
Glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in rum.



The only way that I could figure they could improve upon Coca-Cola,
 one of life's most delightful elixirs, which studies prove will heal the sick and occasionally raise the dead,
 is to put rum or bourbon in it.” Lewis Grizzard


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