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Friday, September 17, 2010

Eat Like a Pirate: Tortuga Rum Cake

September 19th be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which means we can all wear eye patches, brandish cutlasses, 'n yell "arrrr" 'n "avast" t' our heart's content while mutterin' about our mates and protectin' our booty.

I be completely unabashed in me love fer this holiday. It might only be 8 years ole, but 'tis already me fav'rit savin' only Halloween 'n Christmas (Ye can find out more information about International Talk Like a Pirate Day 'n any local activities here). This year, I be celebratin' by bakin' like a pirate, namely by combinin' those two thin's most often associated wit' pirates: Tortuga 'n rum! I present t' ye: Tortuga rum cake(s), potentially plural 'cause although I be usin' a mini-bundt pan here, I also include th' bakin' time t' make a full sized bundt cake.

I chose t' make mini-bundts 'cause I 'ave been dyin' t' try th' pan, 'n 'cause 'tis me mighty first submission t'
Sugar High Fridays (SHF), th' theme fer this month bein' Bite-Size Desserts. Th' mini-bundt pan I used has 12 cavities per pan, which are each roughly equivalent t' half th' volume o' a standard cupcake. Th' recipe yielded up 24 mini cakes.

Wha' follows below be a brief historical interlude, scroll down if ye wants t' skip right t' th' recipe, or keep readin' t' find out a wee bit o' pirate history!

Tortuga, literally th' Spanish word fer "turtles", be part o' Haiti 'n be situated jus' off o' th' northern coast o'
Hispanola. Jus' prior t' th' golden age o' piracy (1650-1730), 'twas a French settlement. But th' Spanish eventually expelled th' French 'n 'cause th' island 'twas too wee t' be o' any real use t' th' major colonizin' nations o' th' 16th 'n 17 centuries (France, England, Dutch Netherlands, Spain 'n Portugal), Tortuga became a strategic base o' operations fer pirates in th' area. Although words such as "pirate," "privateer," 'n "bucaneer" 'ave come t' mean th' same thin', they used t' be more distinct. Many pirates in fact considered themselves privateers, that be they were santioned by thar mother countries t' attack ships o' rival nations, carried Letters o' Marque t' this effect, 'n were granted safe harbor in thar nations' ports. Although they carried th' permission o' thar sovereign, privateers were nah directly paid by thar country, rather they sailed "on account" 'n loot thar pay from th' spoils o' captured ships, often payin' th' Crown as much as 1/2 th' booty.

Th' most famous Tortuga pirate, Cap'n Henry Morgan, was in fact an English privateer, 'n th' Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones, father o' th' U.S. Navy, was an American privateer considered t' be a pirate by th' British --  which jus' goes t' show that sometime th' distinction between legal (privateer) 'n illegal (pirate) activities comes down t' a matter o' perspective. In contrast t' Henry Morgan,  th' infamous Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, was a true pirate in th' sense that he didn' sail under any nation's Jolly Roger: although he was English, he routinely blockaded English colonies 'n was consequently hounded by th' British Navy 'til his death. Buccaneers originally denoted a specific subtype o' Tortuga seafarer. They may 'ave been either pirates or privateers, but they were distinct 'cause they were 1) only in th' Caribbean, 2) often had larger crews than other pirates in th' area, 'n 3) operated as a democracy wit' an elected cap'n. O'er th' centuries, th' distinctions between pirate, privateer 'n bucanneer became blurred as th' idea o' piracy became increasingly romanticized.

Th' pirates o' Tortuga formed th' Brethren o' th' Coast, which was a (mighty) loose association o' pirates 'n privateers governed by a code o' conduct, known as th' Articles o' Agreement, or simply th' Pirate's Code. Th' Codes would vary in wee details from cap'n t' cap'n, but were alike in essentials. Each new crew hand would 'ave t' sign th' Code when joinin' th' ship, which entitled 'im t' vote on "affairs of the moment," bear arms, 'n 'ave a share o' th' plunder. Th' majority o' th' Code dealt wit' discipline onboard th' ship 'n wit' th' distribution o' any captured booty.

Afore th' days o' effective water sanitation, few beverages were safe fer consumption. Jus' about th' only exception was spirits, since th' alcohol content would hold th' growth o' microbes at bay, although even then thar was a problem wit' long-term hold. Originally, naval ships carried ale, but 'twould sour after bein' stored fer any significant length o' time. Plus, on a long voyage, th' amounts o' liquid needed t' be stored would simply take up too much space, 'n was too expensive t' boot. Rum, on th' other hand, was cheap 'n plentiful in th' Caribbean, 'n became th' official drink o' th' British Navy from 1655 onwards. Pirate ships likewise made use o' rum. 'Cause o' th' boisterousness o' shipfuls o' rum-drunk sailors, th' British Crown officially imposed rum rationin' 'n rum dilutin', makin' fer mighty unhappy sailors ripe fer bein' lured into a life o' piracy. Th' most common dilutant was lime juice, which had th' added bonus o' combatin' scurvy. Th' resultin' rum-lime concoction was dubbed "grog" after Admiral Edward "Ole Grog" Vernon, who first introduced it t' th' British Navy. Rum thus became an effective method fer captains (pirate 'n Naval alike) t' motivate 'n control thar crews. Interestingly, th' official grog ration continued in th' British Navy 'til 1970.

If ye be interested in th' original Tortuga Rum Company 'n thar cakes, ye can find that information here. Th' recipe o' thar official Tortuga Rum cake be a closely guarded secret, but I found an excellent copycat recipe online, which I adapted fer use wit' a cake mix. I include both sets o' directions aft.

Th' recipe itself be fairly simple 'n consists o' 3 basic parts: basic cake dry mix (from scratch or boxed), cake add-ins to assemble th' batter, 'n rum sauce.

Th' basic cake mix can be made ahead o' time, 'n consists o' cake flour, sugar, bakin' powder, salt, butter 'n vegetable oil. Once combined, 'twill keep, covered, in th' fridge fer up t' 3 months, 'n can be used as th' base o' multiple kinds o' cakes. Or, ye can be substitutin' a box o' Duncan Hines yellow cake mix for th' basic cake mix if ye be not havin' enough sands in th' hourglass. If ye use th' boxed mix, ignore th' ingredients 'n directions for Basic Cake Mix, 'n treat th' boxed mix as if it be th' basic mix already assembled, 'n proceed directly t' th' directions fer th' cake batter. Follow th' directions fer th' cake 'n add in all th' "add-ins" for th' batter as if it were from-scratch cake. I've made th' cake both ways before, 'n they both turn out delicious, so 'tis a matter o' how much time ye be havin' and be willin' t' spend. Fer this post, I used boxed mix.

Me mini-bundt pan, filled with nuts 'n batter.
Additional add-ins fer th' cake batter include nuts (walnuts or pecans), instant puddin' mix, milk, eggs, vanilla, vegetable oil 'n rum. Th' original recipe calls fer vanilla instant puddin'. Here, I use French Vanilla, but I 'ave also used Banana instant puddin' in th' past 'n gotten fabulous results.

Th' cake workflow be fairly simple: make th' dry mix (or be usin' th' boxed cake mix), assemble th' rest o' th' batter, sprinkle nuts into th' pan 'n then pour th' batter in, bake, make 'n use th' rum sauce, 'n then wait. Th' rum sauce be potent, it needs time t' soak into th' cake 'n meet th' other flavors. Lettin' th' cake sit o'ernight be best, t' give th' flavors time t' get acquainted wit' each other 'n become hearties. When I make a large cake, I jus' poke holes in th' cake 'n spoon th' glaze o'er it (ye do this while 'tis still in th' pan, so th' glaze be soakin' in bottom t' top). Fer th' mini's, I chose t' use a flavor-injector syringe t' expel th' glaze rather than a spoon, 'cause 'twas less messy wit' so many wee cakes. Th' syringe makes it easier t' control th' flow o' th' glaze o'er th' cake. If ye have access t' a syringe or flavor injector, ye should be shootin' for in excess of 10cc per cake (1 tbls). This cake be delicate once th' rum sauce be soaked in, s'o when ye turn it out o' th' pan, 'tis best if ye turn it out onto th' servin' dish or carrier ye plan t' use, 'twill be a dicey propostion t' move it around too much once it be de-panned.
Make sure both holes be submerged in th' cake afore you inject th' rum!
Tortuga Gold Rum be available online or in th' Cayman Islands (if anyone wants an excuse t' loot and plunder on a Caribbean vacation), but Whaler Vanille Rum or Cruzan Vanilla Rum make great substitutes. I use Cruzan 'cause that was all me liquor store carries, 'n th' cakes always come out fantastic.

(Printable Recipe)  (Printable Pirate Recipe)

Basic Cake Mix (or ye can be substitutin' a box o' Duncan Hines yellow cake mix)
  • 2 cups cake flour (can substitute 1 3/4 C AP flour 'n 1/4 C corn starch)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons bakin' powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into bits
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cake Batter Add-ins
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 (3 1/2 ounce) packages instant puddin' mix (vanilla, banana, etc)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup rum
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Rum Soakin' Glaze
  • 3/4 cup butter (do nah substitute, 1 1/2 sticks))
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup rum

Basic Cake Mix:
  1. In a large mixin' bowl, combine all basic cake mix ingredients.
  2. On low speed combine ingredients 'til th' mix be th' consistency o' fine gravel, 'n all particles are about th' same size. This mix may be covered 'n stored in th' fridge fer up t' 3 months.

Fer th' Cake Batter:
  1. Preheat oven t' 325 degrees.
  2. Spray mini-bundt pans or a large Bundt pan (12 cup) wit' nonstick cookin' spray. Sprinkle th' chopped nuts on th' bottom. Th' minis take a wee 1/2 (heaping) tsp nuts each, more if ye like.
  3. Combine Basic Cake Mix (or boxed cake mix), puddin' mix, milk, eggs, rum, oil, 'n vanilla extract on medium speed wit' electric mixer fer 2 t' 3 minutes.  Batter best be mighty smooth when ye be done, ye don't wants lumps!
  4. Pour into Bundt pan(s) 'n bake fer about 20minutes (mini-bundts) or 55 minutes (large bundt pan). Keep an eye out 'n bake 'til th' cake be fully golden 'n a tester comes out swab. Th' cake will spring back when touched.
  5. Remove promptly from th' oven 'n ship on a coolin' rack while ye make th' rum soakin' glaze.

Rum Soakin' Glaze:
  1. Combine butter, water 'n sugar in a wee saucepan. Ye can 'ave everythin' measured 'n ready t' go in th' saucepan while th' cake be bakin', 'n then apply th' heat once th' cake comes out o' th' oven.
  2. Brin' t' a boil carefully. Th' mixture boils o'er mighty easily, so keep a sharp eye on it.
  3. Reduce t' a simmer 'n cook 'til sugar be dissolved 'n syrup be well combined 'n a wee bit thicker.
  4. Remove from th' heat 'n add th' rum, mixin' t' combine.
  5. While th' cake be still coolin', poke some holes in th' cake wit' a toothpick 'n pour some o' th' hot syrup on top o' th' cake, allowin' it time t' soak in (this may take a few minutes as thar will be a lot o' syrup) continue t' add syrup 'til all o' th' syrup be added. Fer th' mini-bundts, I used a syringe t' inject n' drizzle th' glaze, as 'twas easier t' control.
  6. Allow cake t' cool completerly in th' pan afore turnin' out onto servin' platter.
  7. This cake be delicate, so once 'tis turned out, it can nah be moved around easily.
  8. Can be eaten when fully cool, but 'tis better th' next day.

This cake be buttery 'n delicious, 'n I loved how th' minis came out! Packaged up properly, they'd be great favors fer a Pirate-themed party! By alterin' th' type o' rum 'n puddin', ye can easily customize th' flavor o' th' cake. As I said, here I used vanilla rum, puddin'  'n pecans, but I've also used banana puddin'. Ye could also add additional mix-ins such as cocoa powder or melted chocolate. In fact, usin' th' basic cake mix as a startin' point, ye can vary th' liquor as well, 'n make any kind o' liquor-soaked cake ye wish: kahlua, amaretto, frangelico, etc etc, 'n jus' pair it wit' a neutral puddin' 'n appropriate nuts. How good does a chocolate Frangelico cake wit' toasted hazelnuts sound??

1 comment:

Aparna said...

Quite some history behind those most interesting cakes. :)
I'm always interested in knowing where food comes from. :)

Thanks for sending them in to SHF: Bite Size Desserts.