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.





There is nothing I miss most living in Rhode Island than being able to have tostadas y café con leche for breakfast.  Now, I have café con leche every morning; that is not problem.  But tostadas?  I can’t even get anything similar to Cuban bread for those.

But, Dios ayuda a los pobres, and I have good friends (Thanks Vivi!!!!).  Yesterday I received a package with Mallorcas and YES, pan de agua aka Cuban bread.  It might’ve not been the best bread ever, but when you’ve been as deprived as we have, trust me.  It. Is. The. Best. Bread.

So for those of you clueless on how to make great Cuban tostadas, it is quite easy.  So here we go!  The most MOST important ingredient for making Cuban tostadas, is a plancha.  You have to have one of these:

La Sanwichera! aka Grill

La Sanwichera! aka Grill

Of course the first thing you need is a libra de pan.

Pan de Agua from Pepín

Pan de Agua from Pepín

After you’ve cut the bread into the size toast you want (for example the picture depicts three tostadas), then halve it so we but butter inside.

Pan with butter

Pan with butter

Next key ingredient is softened butter.  NO, not margarine.  Aside from how unhealthy it is butter tastes sooooo much better.  So be sure to butter both sides of the toast.  Once we are ready, we heat up the grill machine, and I personally butter both sides of the planchas.  It gives the tostadas a nice color and an even better taste.  Once the grill is hot enough (I use the medium setting)  carefully place the tostadas inside, and let the lid fall with its own weight on the tostadas.  Be careful and make sure the tostadas stay parallel to the plancha.

In the beginning.....

In the beginning.....

Every once in a while apply a bit of pressure by attempting to close the grill.  After about 5-7 minutes, turn the tostadas over.  Leave them on another 5-7 minutes while again applying some pressure on the lid.  Lastly, flip the tostadas over.  This means that although your are turning them on their side, you are also turning them back.  For example if you had an end, with the end pointing towards you, now on this last flip the end should be pointing away from you.  This will finish off the flattening part of the tostadas.

Last leg of Tostadas....

Last leg of Tostadas....

See?  You can almost close the grill!  Now, just another 5 minutes and then they are ready to be served.  Accompany with a nice hot and foamy café con leche and you have a Cuban breakfast!

Cuban Tostadas!

Cuban Tostadas!


¿Coquito o Creme de Vie?

Revision: I forgot to tell you guys, that once it is done you can add nutmeg or cinnamon when you serve it.

I can honestly say that in my house, we never had Creme de VieMami never made it; neither did Abuela.  Strange for a Cuban exile household if you ask me.

In Puerto Rico it seems many Cubans were taken with Coquito (similar to Creme de Vie, but add some coconut milk).  Both are very sweet;  Creme de Vie a bit more and it also has a hint of vanilla.  Of course, they are both spiked with Rum.   Hey, we are Latin after all!

So this year I’m doing two things.  First I’m sharing with all of you my recipe for Coquito and Marta’s recipe for Creme de Vie.  Second, I will make a batch of each and have a neutral party – Alan of course – taste them both and see which he likes best.

If you don’t like coconut it goes without saying that Coquito is not for you, though the Coco in Coquito is really subtle.  For those of you with no clue of what I’m talking about Coquito is Puerto Rican Egg Nog and Creme de Vie is Cuban Egg Nog.


  • 2 cans of condensed milk
  • 2 cans of evaporated milk
  • 2 cans of coconut milk (NOT Coco Lopez)
  • 6 egg yolks.
  • You will also need about 1 cup of white rum.  I recommend you pour in 3/4 cup first and taste, and then add more as you see necessary.

Note: I personally use Don Q Cristal for two reasons over Bacardi – first, it is more bitter.  Second, it has a stronger kick than Bacardi, so it allows the Coquito to be spiked and thick at the same time.  If you use Bacardi, you’ll have to put in more rum to taste the “spike” and this will in turn make the Coquito more runny.

Creme de Vie (Marta’s Recipe)

Whichever you prefer, make sure you mix very well.  I have not met an Osterizer with that capacity, so I usually use the cake mixer and a Pyrex bowl.  Once you are done you store them in clean wine bottles (personally, I use Kahlua bottles) or any other bottle you like (you can buy some of those they sell at Michael’s too!).

The tradition is you give a bottle to friends and neighbors, so decorating the bottle is almost a requirement.  And like the rum, that is up to you. I find that  it’s best to make the Coquito for personal use on the day you plan to decorate the tree; between the sugar and the rum – and the Parranda/Trulla music in the background – you stay up and decorating becomes a lot of fun!

So, which one do you like best?