Category Archives: Latin Food

Red Rum!


For a recent cooking class, my tutee wanted to make rum cake. I don’t have rum cake in my repertoire, and although there are several fortified Nicaraguan desserts and rum is like mother’s milk to the populace, I couldn’t find one in the infamous Nica Joy of Cooking, Doña Angélica. My mom suggested I use our household orange bundt as a base and replace some of the milk with rum. A sensible suggestion, but I Googled “rum cake” anyway. Boxed yellow cake + rum. Not quite the avenue I’d planned on taking.

But then, an actual recipe claiming to be some well-known rum company’s original TOP SECRET recipe…

I like secrets! And I also like that this recipe had 3 sticks of butter plus 1 cup of heavy cream.

I added a few spices to the recipe and, deciding that ¾ cup rum in the cake was stingy (mother’s milk, remember?), made a buttery-burnt sugar-orange-rum glaze. This cake is incredibly moist and stays that way for about a week.  Love it. Love it. Love it.


I recommend a 7 or 12-year-old Flor de Caña (Nicaraguan rum) for this cake. If you can’t get Flor, substitute with dark rum of your liking. For an extra burst of orange flavor, process the sugar and orange zest in a food processor for about 1 minute.

Prepare the glaze while the cake is in the oven. It’s best to use a stainless steel saucepan for this recipe—a dark pan will make it difficult to determine the caramel’s color and progress. Avoid a shallow pan as there will be sputtering.

¡Atención! The base of this glaze is caramel, just like the one  on flan.  Please be careful when working with hot sugar—it’s like liquid napalm and you should never be tempted to stick your finger in the pot to have a taste. Unless you’re looking to erase the friction ridges on your fingertips.

For the Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup dark rum
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk

– Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 350˚F. Butter and flour (or spray with Pam for Baking) a Bundt pan.

– Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt; set aside. Combine the cream and rum in a liquid measuring cup; set aside.

– With an electric mixer (use the paddle attachment if using standing mixer) on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, and zest until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and beat until fully incorporated. Add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the cream-rum mixture, stopping once or twice to scrape the sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix until smooth, about 1 minute.

– Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.

For the Buttered Rum Glaze
½ cup dark rum
½ cup orange juice (use the zested orange from the cake recipe)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt

– Combine the rum and orange juice in a liquid measuring cup; set aside.

– Place the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed, stainless steel, medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, gently swirling the saucepan from time to time, until the sugar turns deep amber and begins to smoke, 10 to 12 minutes.

– Immediately remove the saucepan from heat, and slowly and carefully pour in the rum-orange juice mixture. The mixture will sputter quite violently—don’t move the saucepan or stir the mixture. Once the sputtering has subsided, return the saucepan to medium heat, and with a heat-proof rubber spatula, stir until smooth, about 3 minutes. Stir in the butter and salt. Reserve ½ cup of the glaze.

– Once the cake is out of the oven, poke it all over with a metal or wooden skewer. Pour the remaining glaze over the cake and allow it to sit in the pan for 20 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.  Brush the cake with the reserved glaze and cool completely before serving.



Today’s New York Times Dining & Wine section has a great article by Kim Severson titled Recipe Deal Breakers: When Step 2 is ‘Corral Pig’. She discusses the frustrations suffered by even the most adventurous and experienced cooks when they run into recipes with phrases such as “if you don’t have a helper,” or ingredients lists with impossible to obtain items like “wild boar from the hills surrounding Santa Fe.”

Usually, when a recipe seems convoluted and complicated, I simply plan ahead. I shop early, scouring shops all around town and ordering items online if necessary, and then I block out a day to spend uninterrupted in the kitchen. However, even my gung-ho-edness has its limits. While I have yet to encounter a recipe that requires me to corral a pig, I return time and again to my basic book of Nicaraguan cookery: 50 años en la cocina con doña Angélica, to read, for sheer entertainment’s sake, the recipe printed on page 58 of the 9th edition (published 2006): iguana en pinol. This plato típico (traditional dish) calls for one whole iguana, peeled. Just like that. Some recipes are indeed better left alone.

For your reading enjoyment, I have translated the recipe.


“This is a traditional Nicaraguan dish, product of the time-honored culinary creativity of Granada. As the iguana is a cold-blooded animal, the consumption of its meat is permitted on Wednesdays and/or Fridays during Lent, traditionally regarded as days of observance; besides, that season coincides with the oviparous reproductive period of that esteemed reptile, whose soft-shelled eggs are mostly yolk-filled, are considered by those in the know as true ‘DELICATESSEN.’
Sensible were the first naturalists that classified it in giving the name “IGUANA DELICATISSIMA.”

2 C. corn
1 whole iguana, peeled
2 sour oranges
8 C. water, with salt
1 head of garlic, pounded
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp. whole peppercorns
3 large onions, chopped fine
2 C. lard
1 tsp. ground black pepper
sour orange juice
6 small onions, sliced thin
¼ C. lard

-A day ahead, lightly toast the corn, without letting it brown; mill it in the machine, leaving a bit coarse and store it.

-Early the following day, buy the iguana at the market with its corresponding ration of eggs; wash it well with the sour orange juice, cut it into small pieces and boil it in the salted water, along with the garlic cloves, the onion, and the peppercorns, until it’s soft; remove it from the fire, and strain it. Reserve the liquid.

-Measure out 4 C. of the corn you toasted and milled; add the reserved broth, and return it to the heat, stirring constantly until thick and well cooked. In a casserole that can be presented at the table, fry the (3) onions in the (2 C.) lard over moderate heat, until the are lightly golden; add the cooked corn, the ground pepper, and sour orange juice to taste; cook everything over low heat, taking care that it doesn’t dry out.
-Add the iguana and cook a bit longer.
-Fry the (6) sliced onions in ¼ C. lard and reserve both.
-Boil the eggs for 3 minutes in boiling water with chili and reserve, warm.
-Serve the iguana in the casserole/serving dish, and drizzle over it the onions and lard. Garnish with the eggs.

Serves 12.