Homemade Chocolate Rum Cake Recipe (From Scratch Tortuga Copycat)

Rum Cake has long been my favorite type of Christmas treat. When we were kids, my dad used to pick up a cake from a local health food restaurant to serve with Christmas Eve dinner. I have no idea why the place made totally-not-at-all healthy rum cake, but it did, and it was delicious, and yes...we ate it even though we were kids. (Well, I did--my brother was never a fan.) Incidentally, I was recently working on a project where a little girl mentioned that her favorite type of cake was "rum cake," so I know I'm not the only one.

I first posted my original recipe for Rum Cake from Scratch back in March of 2011. Since then, it's definitely become one of the most popular ones on this site for people looking for a way to recreate that moist, boozy Tortuga-style rum cake without all the funky additions of box mixes.  I decided to revisit it this year with a From Scratch Chocolate Rum Cake Version for your holiday (or any day) pleasure.

The chocolate flavor in this cake comes from a combination of both cocoa powder (use the regular unsweetened, not dutch process kind) and melted chocolate chips. Together they give the cake a rich chocolate flavor and lovely dark color. I also added cocoa to the soaking syrup at the end, for additional deliciousness.
I baked some of my batter in tiny little bundt cake molds, for individual treats, and it works just as well either way. They actually came out looking like rum cake donuts. Christmas breakfast idea, perhaps? I've included baking times for both, below.

The first time I made this cake, I had a bundt cake disaster and it wouldn't come out of the mold (happens to the best of us!), so I decided to use that cake to make Chocolate Rum Cake Truffles and I daresay they're even BETTER than the cake itself.

A Few Notes Based on Previous Questions:
    •    Cornstarch is also known as "cornflour" in the UK and other countries.
    •    1 cup DIY pudding mix is equivalent to 1 standard 3.4oz package of boxed mix
    •    Use regular "unsweetened cocoa powder" (such as Hershey's), not Dutch Process
    •    Yes, you can replace Kahlua, for a Kahlua cake.
    •    A spiced rum such as Bacardi Oakheart, Captain Morgan, or Sailor Jerry would be wonderful here.
    •    Dark rum is preferred, but you CAN use white rum if that's what you have.
    •    You can use equal amounts of brewed coffee instead of the rum for a non-alcoholic version.

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Homemade Chocolate Rum Cake Recipe (Totally from scratch! No box mixes.)

1/2 cups walnuts, crushed
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3 tablespoons + 1/2 cup vegetable oil, divided
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch process)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup DIY vanilla pudding mix (click for my easy homemade pudding mix recipe; if you prefer, you can use 1 box of packaged instant vanilla or chocolate pudding mix OR substitute 1/3 cup dry milk powder + 1/3 cup cornstarch + 1/3 additional cup sugar and increase vanilla extract by 1 teaspoon)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup dark rum (substitute half or all Kahlua for a Kahlua Rume Cake!)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

For the syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark rum OR Kahlua


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour bunt pan, and drop crushed walnuts into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

In the base of a mixer, cream the sugar and butter for 3 minutes. Mix in the 3 tablespoons oil, flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and pudding mix.

In a small saucepan, combine the whole milk and chocolate chips and stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted. Set aside and let cool slightly. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup oil, rum, vanilla, and eggs. Stir in the cooled chocolate milk mixture.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix and mix until smooth with no lumps. The batter should be very thin and pour easily. Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake 5- to 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the cake comes up clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack. Let cool for 20-30 minutes.

While the cake cools, prepare the rum syrup. In a large saucepan with high sides, combine the butter, water, granulated sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Cook over medium heat until the butter completely melts and the sugar dissolves. Let reduce slightly, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum (it will bubble).

Wash and dry the bundt pan, then place over the cool cake and invert the cake back into the pan. Pour the hot rum syrup all over the cake and let soak for 8 hours (overnight). In morning, invert the cake back onto a serving platter. Keeps covered for 1 week at room temperature.

Variation: This can also be made in mini bundt pans; bake at the same temp about 17-20 minutes, depending on how mini your pans are.

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