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.




Cuban Home Economics

My friend Marta has two great posts on how Cuban girls get groomed to be the Perfect Cuban Wife (PCW) through intense training on Cuban Home Ec.

So, it got me thinking about my own Cuban upbringing, and how I’ve supplemented or added to it, through the years.

I graduated with HONORS from the Cooking course, but unfortunately failed miserable on the Home Management course……much to the avail of Alan, my husband.  We’ve butted heads more than once on cleaning schedule, where things should be stored, how they should be stored until I found the HOME. MANAGEMENT. BIBLE:

The Home Bible

Master Martha, as she is referred to at my home, has come to be the decider on many argument.  Like what you ask?  Ask and you shall receive.

I always keep all the cleaners under the kitchen sink.  Perfect sense right?  Not to my husband who came up with a different scheme – the linen closet.

But honey the cleaners ALWAYS go under the sink. Says who?  You and your Cuban upbringing?  That doesn’t mean it’s right or the ONLY way.  HERESY! How dare he attempt against the Cuban Home Ec.?

Alás!  Martha Stewart to the rescue.  There under Your Kitchen, and Organizing, guess where we are supposed to keep all the cleaners?  UNDER THE KITCHEN SINK!

So now, whenever my wonderful husband gets a new idea of moving something to a different place in the home, I just go ask Martha.  But don’t get smug, Martha has been on Alan’s side sometimes too.  That Martha she is one nit picker when it comes to cleaning – as is Alan – so when I won the cleaner argument, Alan won the DREADED clean as you go argument.  *blushing*

I must admit, I WAS one of those cooks that creates a big mess as she cooks, but always cleaned everything at the end.  Now Martha has me cleaning as I go, and cleaning the kitchen every single night…..with Mrs. Meyer’s All Purpose Cleaner in Basil which now is my favorite cleaner (love, LOVE, how it smells)….  And Alan is a very proud husband, and very grateful to Martha. *sigh*

So what is your Home Ec. upbringing story?

ICU 101

ICU 101????  Why, Introduction to Cuban Upbringing of course!

I’ve been suffering from writer’s block (I’m sure it is all that data analyzing that my dissertation has me doing that has pretty much stymied my creative juices…) so I decided to desempolvar un paper that I wrote for a class a while back in which we had to contar nuestra historia.  Since being the offspring of Cuban exiles just gives you so much to work with (Que Pasa USA anyone?)  I’ll do this in parts.  It is outlined in what I call the four caveats of Cuban upbringing: Chaperonas, Ebony and Ivory, The Last Cuban Virgin, and the classic Shhhh…don’t let anyone see you.

The daughter of one of my friends went to a party de marquesina the other day and made me remember how different my upbringing had been from my Puerto Rican counterparts.

But, first things first.  Comencemos con el principio, mainly why do I consider myself Cuban and not Puerto Rican, starting with the most common thing I hear.

“But you were born in Puerto Rico, right?” “Yes” “So you are Puerto Rican” “No, I’m Cuban” “But you weren’t born in Cuba” “No I wasn’t” They didn’t get it I’m sure of it.

If I had a penny for every time I’ve had to go over this in my lifetime, I wouldn’t need to be pursuing a Ph.D., I’d be a millionaire. Born in exile is a curse and a blessing at the same time, you get two patrias right? Well that depends. From what I gather if you were born in the mainland U.S., you do. But if you are like me, and you are born somewhere else, well then, you just might hit a bit of xenophobia on the way.

I was born on the beautiful tropical paradise and U.S. Territory island of Puerto Rico, a sunny morning of October 15, 1970. I was born to two wonderful Cuban parents. Well sort of. Papi was the son of Spanish immigrants to Cuba, Gallegos to be exact.  But they weren’t Gallegos because they were from Spain; they were from Galicia. They had four children, three boys and one girl; and Papi was the only one of them to be born in Galicia, so he knew a bit of xenophobia too – and as kids can be cruel, Papi dropped the Spanish accent quicker than a hot potato. If you would’ve met him, you wouldn’t have doubted for a second that he was Cuban; then again neither did he.

My parents met in Spain (in Madrid to be exact) while in the exilio and decided to move to Puerto Rico, were they later married and raised me and my brother.  Raised in a Cuban enclave, or as my husband likes to refer to it, una burbuja cubana, the first five years of my life I grew up believing I was Cuban.  I don’t know when or how it happened but I was inoculated with the anti-communism vaccine, the I hate Fidel vaccine, and the Cuban vaccine. Much to my dismay this included an entirely different vocabulary which I would discover my first day at school.

People often ask me why I don’t feel Puerto Rican if after all I was born and raised there.  But aren’t niuyorikans Puerto Ricans too? And as far as I know, many of them have never set foot in the little island.  One thing is what your birth certificate says, usually a technicality, but another is the culture you are raised in within the four walls of your home. Now that is your true nationality.

It’s ironic when I think about it. As a child, I was always made very aware of my “cubanness”; as an adult my friends could not understand why I considered myself Cuban. In their eyes if I had been born in Puerto Rico, then I was Puerto Rican no matter where my parents came from.

It was easy for them to say; they ate habichuelas we ate frijoles; they used traje de baño I used a trusa; my girlfriends wore an enagua while I wore a sayuela, yet they never understood the difference. I dreamt of places they had never been to, nor I for that matter, but they were dear to my heart – it was as if a micro-chip with borrowed memories from a Cuba long gone had been uploaded into my soul.

It should come as no surprise than I am a moderate Republican. I’m not clear yet if I’m right wing or center, since I really have not paid much attention to the difference. I believe in my ideas, my values, my morals and my ethics, no matter what that makes me politically in front of others. Through the discrimination I endured for being the daughter of Cuban exiles in Puerto Rico, I learned to be me and be proud of who I was no matter how different that was.

So….which of the four caveats would you like to read next?????