The elusive Miami “RumCake” Cuban Birthday Cake

You always take for granted what you have.  ALWAYS. Until of course, you no longer have it.

I grew up in Puerto Rico in pretty much a Cuban enclave.  All of our cakes were the same, they all tasted the same, mainly because they were all done by the same woman Tete Fundora.  She made awesome panetela borracha cakes with Royal Icing. Wedding, birthdays, graduations – you name it.  If you asked who had made the cake it was always Tete Fundora.

Let’s get something straight Rum Cake and RumCake Birthday cake are two different things.

What makes the birthday cake awesome is that the cake comes out spongy and somewhat wet – to the point that it can last days and it can be frozen and defrosted successfully.  Our top tier of the wedding cake defrosted beautifully a year later and tasted AWESOME.  You would never know it had been frozen.

In Miami I never ever gave this a second thought, are you kidding?  I had places and places to choose from!  There was Sweet Art, Cakes by Edda and the now gone Cake Emporium (all three of whom I’ve used in the past) and even the cake lady contracted by our wedding package knew how to make a kickass rumcake cake.  More recently we’ve been using Moulin Rose for H’s birthday cakes as we usually do a birthday party for her in Miami so Abuela can be present.

Oh those wonderfully rum flavored birthday cakes.  Yes FOR KIDS.  And adults too.  We are Cuban, we are from the Caribbean,we like rum everything and that’s how we roll, right Martha?

So, you ask?  Well the problem is I no longer live in Miami, and I am in a No Cuban zone apparently so I cannot get my fix of RumCake whenever I want – or when I need to.  My Birthday, Alan’s Birthday, Our Anniversary, Easter, Thanksgiving and of course H’s birthday (on her actual birth day) which is of course what brought us to this post.  My somewhat failed attempt to start my daughter early on the Cuban RumCake addiction (she already loves Buttercream frosting so I need to get her to eat the cake!).

H was turning 3 and I thought what better deal than a home made Cuban RumCake Birthday Cake!  So I took to the net and to friends and got a recipe from my good friend Vivi for a cake her aunt used to make.  I already had a theme – Olaf from Frozen – so I went to Michael’s to get the Fondant and the decorating sheets, to Wegman’s for my ingredients and got to work.  I followed the recipe to a T.

Beat Egg Whites to punto de merengue? Check.

Eggwhites "a punto"

Eggwhites “a punto”

Beat butter with sugar into a cream? Sort of check.


Butter & Sugar

Add yolks one by one? Check.

Add cake flour? Check.

Fold in the EggWhites? Check.

Butter the mold? Check

Cake Batter

Cake Batter

Dress up the cake?  SUPER CHECK – I mean isn’t it amazing for my first Fondant cake?

Olaf Cake

Olaf Cake

Fluffy, spongy, rumcake? FAIL.  EPIC FAIL.  This cake came out so dense I could probably kill someone with it!



Arrrrgggghhhhhhh.  The trials and tribulations of being a Cuban mom.


There are two things I think went wrong here.  One is I do not own a Kitchen Aid mixer – I own a hand mixer by Sunbeam that was probably $20.  So the settings and the speeds may have been off and maybe the butter or the eggwhites were not beaten as they should.  Two, is I think I needed a bigger mold.  I think I made the cake too tall (4″) and it took the oven almost two hours (instead of the one hour on the recipe) to cook the cake and maybe it got a bit over cooked?  I dunno.

The cake did look gorgeous, so at least of that I am proud and happy.  But I did get frustrated that taste wise and look wise the inside was such a fail.

Does anyone have a recipe they want to share?  I will try it and post a review here.  I just really want to get this cake thing right, as I do not want H growing up without the staple Cuban RumCake Birthday Cake!

RumCake Cake recipes anyone? For sure there has to be a Cuban or a PuertoRican reading this who knows EXACTLY what I am talking about.  I will patiently wait for your feedback.




40?? Really??

Today is my 40th birthday and I can hardly belie it.  Where has time gone? I remember so vividly being a Senior in high school and our amazement at the fact we would be 30 when the new millenium arrived….and here we are now at 40.

I gotta admit I don’t feel any different from 30!

So as society dictates that 40 is a milestone, we are on our way to RI to celebrate with friends and family.

Raise a Ketel One Gimlet in my name today!!

Take me out to the ballgame…

Yes folks, I’m alive.  You see after being cooked up in the house for 3 months, we needed some air.

So I turned in the first draft of the first manuscript (there are two) of my dissertation; and I also ran the data for the second manuscript.  Guess what?  The data did what I predicted it would do!!!! Yipppeeee!  If you have no clue what I’m saying, just now that THIS is a GOOD thing!

Of course, with such good news we went out for the air we needed so much.  We are BIG baseball fans, and BIG RedSox fans (especially Alan) so it was only natural that when we heard Dice-K would be doing rehab starts at Pawtucket PawSox (AAA RedSox) well we bought tickets of course!  Dice who? Daisuke Matzusaka, the Japanese pitcher who helped his team win two World Baseball Classics.  Why not see him at a RedSox game?  Yeah, good luck getting two tickets.

It wasn’t a good day for baseball. It was COOL. It was DAMP.  It was WINDY.  It was DRIZZLING.  How did we fare?  Well just look at me:



You think I look funny?  You should’ve seen the people with blankets.  And all the Japanese media that left after Dice-K completed his three innings.  Of course we also took some pictures of Dice-K while he was warming up at the bullpen.  This one is my favorite:

Dice-KWe are sort of a tag team.  Alan takes the pictures; I edit them online.  I don’t have very good editors, only iPhoto and Acorn, the latter of which I’m still getting around.  Once I buy something decent, Photoshop or Aperture, they will be better I promise.  Originally the picture was in color, but I like how the BW treatment gives the picture a sort of ajada look, and fits with Dice-K’s pose.

The game was actually good.  We each had a Smithwicks and a hot dog…..and after bearing the cold, we finally broke down and had some hot chocolate with fried dough.  We only made it to the 7th inning, but we also saw Rocco Baldelli play, which for us was an added plus.  And being AAA we had great seats right behind home plate, which sucks for pictures because the net is in the middle but the view is SPECTACULAR!

McCoy Stadium

As you can see, we’ve also been making use of Alan’s gift.  He literally does not leave the house without it, so I have many pictures of the area to post, so you can get to know this little state that we will be leaving and will be missing dearly.

Yes, yes, recipes to come too.  I have a couple in particular I believe you will like.

For now, PLAY BALL!

Pastel de Choclo…say what?

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe….I didn’t want this to be 100% cooking oriented blog.  I’m trying to achieve a balance between life and cooking that I hope keeps you the reader entertained!  So for your entertainment, I bring you a CHILEAN recipe…because you know, now that I am married to one I’m an excellent Chilean food cook ;-)!

Birthday Flan!

Birthday Flan!

A month ago, January 5th to be exact, Alan turned 40.  In honor of his birthday I made him two things: first per his request, his birthday cake was a flan de queso and second I made him Chilean comfort food Pastel de Choclo.  For those impaired in Chilean Spanish, Choclo is nothing more than maiz (corn).  This pretty much resembles a pastelón or shepherd’s pie, except instead of mashed potatoes its pureed sweet corn.  Trust me it sounds weird but if you like corn you will like this.  And if you are Cuban, or have ever tasted Frituras de Maiz (Corn Fritters) and liked them, then you will absolutely like this dish.

I must confess, it didn’t come out right the first time I attempted this….so in full disclosure the pictures of the prepping and the pictures of the final product might not match because I had to do it on a separate occasion.  I almost cried when I served Alan and saw that the maiz had not cuajado and was regado throughout the plate.  Alan really tried his best to comfort me but I’m just not good at having a recipe come out wrong.  The good thing for you, is that I finally calibrated a receta that works!

The ingredients (for two people):

  • Two cans of 15oz corn no salt added, drained.  You can use frozen corn, but it holds too much water
  • 3/4 to one full pound of ground beef
  • half a small onion – chopped
  • two garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 hard boiled egg – halved
  • one small chicken breast (or two chicken drumsticks)
  • Sugar
  • salt, pepper and cumin to taste

Season the beef with salt and pepper, then brown the ground beef in olive oil with chopped onion and minced garlic.  As it brown, add cumin to taste and stir. You should be able to taste a hint of cumin in the beef.  Make sure the beef doesn’t clump together.  Once the beef is cooked set aside and drain.  You can also add some raising to the beef.  I don’t because Alan doesn’t like them, so he only accepts them in picadillo.

Browning Ground Beef

Browning Ground Beef

Grab the two cans of corn and drain out all the water.  Puree them in your Osterizer.  It will take many tries, you’ll have to puree, stir, puree, stir.  Whatever you do, DO NOT ADD WATER.  You want the maiz to have the consistency of dry mashed potatoes.  If by chance anything happens and it is too watery, simmer it in a small saucepan for a while so it thickens a bit.  Another option is to add some powdered milk.  Or lastly, some more drained corn.

Pureed Corn

Pureed Corn

*Remember this is the one that was to liquid, so if yours looks pastier or thicker, don’t worry!

Note: if you have access to fresh corn, you can desgranar a mazorca and puree fresh niblets, which is the way it is supposed to be done.  However, you’ll have to reduce it a bit in a small saucepan, b/c it will be a bit watery.  This whether you cook the mazorca or not.

But what about the chicken?  Ahhhh the chicken….boil it.  Yup, you read right, boiled.  I know it sounds disgusting, but just think like you were making chicken soup.  I skin the drumstick or the breast (boneless) and boil it in about a cup of water with half an onion, garlic clove and some salt.  It should take about 10-15 minutes not much more than that.

Chicken Breast

Chicken Breast

*Note: Here you see more chicken because I was also preparing Vaca Frita de Pollo or Chicken Vaca Frita (yes, yes, I will post that recipe too!)

If you use el muslo, it will be one per serving.  If you use the pechuga, then shred it manually and you’ll probably have some left over. Lastly you’ll need to cut the hardboiled egg in half (the long half, that is ;-)).

So, now what?  Ah!  now comes the easier part.  Grease a pyrex and pour in all the beef.  Make sure that the beef layer is at least 1″ thick.

Beef Bottom Layer

Beef Bottom Layer

Follow up by placing some of the chicken and one of the egg halves on each portion (side).

Beef, Chicken and Egg

Beef, Chicken and Egg

The evenly pour the pureed maiz on top of the beef, chicken and egg.  The maiz layer should be as thick as the beef layer.

With corn, ready to go in the oven!

With corn, ready to go in the oven!

Place in a preheated oven at 400 Farenheit for about 15-20 minutes.  When you see that the corn is starting to set, sprinkle some sugar on top and put back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes.  Then evenly sprinkle sugar on top, and place back in the oven on broil.  At this point, do not take your eyes off the pastel.  The purpose here is simply to dorar el azucar, get a golden color.  As son as it hits the color take out of the oven.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

Let the pastel rest (sit) for about 5 minutes; enough for the maiz to settle a bit and lose its steam.  That way it will be easier to cut into to serve.  This one in particular is two portions.  However, you could extend to three if you think the pieces are too big.  Pastel de Choclo is usually served with an ensalada de tomate (tomato salad) which is nothing more than tomatoes, onions, oil and salt.  But you can serve it with whatever you prefer!

A heaping serving!

A heaping serving!

Typically, Pastel de Choclo is cooked in ceramic bowls as individual portions so if you have those then you don’t have to worry too much about the corn setting.  If you have a sweet tooth, like Alan does, then you can also sprinkle some sugar on top.  Enjoy!

My Boo is turning 40!

dscn2058 For those of you who do not know him, meet my better half Alan.  At first impression you’d never know how quirky he is since he comes off as being a very serious quiet gentleman.  He is a gentleman, and among Caribbeans boy he is quiet…but don’t be fooled he is not that serious.  Underneath that Chilean facade hides quite the Caribbean!

He has rhythm and hence can dance anything from salsa to cha cha cha, from merengue to regueton!  Alan also has a very artistic side that he showcases mainly through writing (like me!) and photography.  One of his specialties is autoretratos like the one above (taken at La Concha Hotel in Condado, PR).

vaciado-225Let me show you.  This for example is his serious side, taken at the fitting rooms of Macy’s while I was trying some stuff on. Doesn’t he look handsome with this gallego look?

In addition to taking self portraits at department stores, he also has this tradition (?) of taking self portraits of reflections which of course, for some Godforsaken reason, has to include public restrooms – airports, restaurants, even people’s homes.  But we won’t get into those.

dscn1767Now for his quirky side, he will do things out of nowhere that just leave s you thinking okayyyyyyy …. such as deciding that sunblock can turn him into a football player while wearing a Red Sox hat! He also at one point wanted to see what his hair would look like all white (he is heavily salt & pepper).  When the bleach left his hair orange, he shaved his head.  So for a while I had a baldie around the house!

All kidding aside, Alan is quite possibly the best thing to have ever happened to me.  I cannot imagine surviving my doctoral studies or the passing of Papi, or everything that has happened since we married in 2003 without him by my side.  Heck, just the thought of him not by my side freezes me.

In addition, he is also the gentlest man I know, see?

Alan & Nemo

Alan & Nemo

This from a man who owns a  Siberian Huskie back in Chile.  And yes that too is an autoretrato!  Now don’t get me wrong, like any other human being he is not without flaws: extremely organized, way too normal and sane, loves to move the furniture around every 6 months, and has a bit of a father complex.  But hey, I’m not a billete de 100 either!

Ironically enough, my Christmas loving Jew was born on víspera de Reyes!  That is the night before the Epiphany which Puerto Ricans and Cubans alike celebrate (January 5th for those of you with no clue what I am talking about).  He was born on the eve of the epiphany….hmmmm now that explains a lot!

We have no friends or family around us to hold a 40th Birthday Bash so  I am planning a great comfort food dinner Chilean and Cuban style.

  • First the birthday cake: He has requested his birthday cake to be none other than a Flan de Queso which with some vanilla ice cream I will turn into a copa Lolita
  • Second: There is this Chilean dish which he loves called Pastel de Choclo; think pastelón or shepherd’s pie, only that instead of papas and platanos it is cornmeal (think a stuffed friturita de maiz but baked!)

I’ve contacted my mother-in-law who has given me her recipe, which I will share with you later on.  For now shhhhhhhhh because Alan has no idea and I want it to be a surprise.

While he will not be seeing this post until after the fact (no, he doesn’t read our blog 😦 ) please join in in wishing Alan a Happy 40th Birthday!

Happy40th Birthday Boo!