This Italian rum cake recipe makes a delicious dessert that is so impressive it is often served on special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries.
The final touch is a fancy-looking whipped cream frosting with sliced almonds, chocolate shavings, and maraschino cherries for decoration.
Make the sponge cake: Butter an 8-inch spring form cake pan and then line completely with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 340ºF (170ºC). Using either a hand mixer or stand mixer with whisk, beat the room temperature eggs with the sugar for about 12 minutes at the highest speed (photo 1). You will know it is ready when a frothy and firm cream forms (photo 2). Add the vanilla extract during the last minute of beating.
Sieve the flour and add it a little at a time (photo 3), incorporating it into the sugar and egg mixture with a spatula by folding it in carefully (photo 4) until all has been added and the mixture is uniform.
Carefully pour the cake batter into the prepped cake pan (photo 5) and put it into the preheated oven.
Bake the cake for approximately 25 minutes being sure not to open the door to check the cake for the first 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, you can test with a toothpick by inserting it into the center to see if it comes out clean.
When the toothpick comes out clean, turn off the oven but leave the cake inside with the door open for about 5 minutes to avoid deflating the cake. Remove the sponge cake from the oven, then carefully remove from the springform pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely (photo 6).
Prep the Italian pastry cream: In a medium saucepan put 2 1/2 cups of milk and the strip of lemon zest (photo 7) and heat over a medium flame until you see steam rising, but do not boil. Remove from heat once steam rises. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks, sugar, and flour with a whisk (photo 8).
When smooth, add the remaining 1/2 cup of cold milk and whisk until smooth. Remove the lemon zest from the heated milk and toss (photo 10).
Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture while whisking (photo 11) and then add the vanilla extract (photo 12).
Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan (photo 13) and turn on medium heat. Let the mixture come to a boil, whisking constantly as it thickens, and let simmer for one minute (photo 14).
When thick, divide the hot pastry cream into two bowls or heat-safe containers.
To make the chocolate pastry cream, stir the chopped chocolate into one of the bowls of cream until it melts and becomes a uniform color. Cover both the regular and chocolate custard with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface (photo 16), so a skin doesn’t form, and put in the refrigerator to chill.
Create a delicious rum syrup: In a clean saucepan, combine the water and sugar (photo 17) over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then turn off the heat and set aside until cool. Add the rum or rum extract and stir until combined and set aside until needed (photo 18).
Whipped cream frosting: Put a metal mixing bowl and whisk into the freezer until they are very cold. When thoroughly chilled, remove and add the heavy whipping cream and use an electric mixer to whisk until the cream starts to thicken (photo 19). Add the superfine sugar gradually, while whisking and then the vanilla extract. Whip until stiff peaks form in the whipped cream (photo 20). Refrigerate until needed.
Assemble and decorate your Italian rum cake: Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the cake into three even layers horizontally that can then be reassembled. On a cake platter, put the bottom layer of cake and lightly pour 1/3 of the prepared rum syrup over it (photo 21) and then spread all the vanilla pastry cream to make a nice thick layer (photo 22).
Place the second cake layer on the vanilla filling and press down gently but firmly so that it adheres. Pour another 1/3 of the rum syrup into the second cake layer (photo 23) and then create the chocolate layer with all the chocolate cream (photo 24).
Add the final layer of cake, moisten with the remaining 1/3 of the rum syrup (photo 25). Place in the refrigerator for about one hour or the freezer for 30 minutes to set.
To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the sliced almonds evenly on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 10 minutes or until slightly browned (photo 26). Remove and let cool.
Now to frost, remove the assembled cake and the whipped cream frosting from the fridge and use a frosting knife or palette knife to gently spread the majority of the whipped cream in an even layer over the top and sides of the cake (photo 27).
Gently press the sliced almonds into the sides of the cake. Place the remaining whipped cream frosting in a piping bag with a tip you like and make piping or decorations as desired. Decorate the top with chocolate flakes and maraschino cherries (photo 28) and you are ready to show off your beautiful Italian rum cake!
This cake is best eaten right away, but if you have leftover rum cake you can store it in a cake container, or fully covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. However, we highly recommend removing the frosting if you are planning on keeping it for more than 1 day so your cake doesn’t become a soggy mess.
This cake is great with sparkling cider, Prosecco or coffee drinks.
Yes, you can make everything up to 48 hours ahead of time and put in the refrigerator, except the whipped cream which needs to be made fresh.