Posted by: njbrown | September 26, 2012

Ursula’s Rum Cake

Ursula’s Rum Cake

This is the second recipe that appealed to me from The Body in the Gazebo.  Ursula is the elderly mother of sleuth Faith Fairchild’s best friend.  A murder on Martha’s Vineyard when she was very young is the focus of the plot.

In the 60s, cakes made in Bundt pans were all the rage.  They involved using cake mix and a box of instant pudding.  The fad for Bundt cakes went out, and I eventually gave my pan away.  In order to make this, I had to buy another, but I’m so glad I did.  This is an absolutely wonderful cake!  There is a pronounced orange flavor, and it is very nutty.  The texture is light and moist.  After a small test piece, I could have eaten the whole thing, but I restrained myself.  It was hard to detect the rum, and I think the addition of ¼ teaspoon of rum extract would enhance the rum flavor.

Katherine Hall Page, author of the Faith Fairchild mysteries, writes, “Truth be told, this extraordinary recipe is not Ursula Lyman Rose’s, but Valerie Wolzien’s – the author of many of Faith and my favorite books: The Susan Henshaw mystery series and the one featuring Josie Pigeon. Slice a large piece of cake and settle down with, say, Murder at the PTA Luncheon or This Old Murder, or Death in Duplicate, or…”


  • 2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Optional (Nancy) – ¼ teaspoon rum extract

Glaze ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from lemon grated for zest)
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice (from oranges grated for zest)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons dark rum
  • Optional (Nancy) – powdered sugar to sift over finished cake


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour an 8-cup Kugelhopf or Bundt pan.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
  4. Beat the butter in an electric mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat to mix. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  5. On low speed, add the sifted dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with buttermilk, scraping bowl as necessary.   Beat in optional rum extract.
  6. Remove from the mixer and stir in the zest and nuts.
  7. Pour into the prepared pan, smooth top, and place in the hot oven. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until top springs back when pressed lightly.
  8. Remove from the oven and set on a rack.
  9. Immediately prepare the glaze.
  10. Place the juices and sugar in a saucepan over moderate heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil.
  11. Remove from heat, add the rum, and stir.
  12. Pierce the top of the cake with a cake tester (I did it about every ½ inch – Nancy)
  13. Spoon the hot glaze over the hot cake (still in the pan), spooning a little at a time. When you notice glaze oozing around the edge of the cake pan, use a metal spatula or knife to ease the edge of the cake away from the pan, allowing the glaze to run down the sides.
  14. Continue this until all the glaze is absorbed. It will be absorbed, believe me.
  15. Let the cake stand for 10 to 15 minutes, until the bottom of the pan is cool enough to touch.
  16. Cover the cake with a plate, hold the plate tightly in place against the cake pan, and flip over the cake and pan.
  17. Remove the cake pan from the cake. Let stand for at least two hours until cool, and cover with plastic wrap. Can stand overnight before serving.

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