Let’s be honest for a second; who doesn’t love adding a splash or two of rum to your baked goods? Rum specifically adds a very warm and rich flavor to your baked goodies and elevates them.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many guides to help you choose the best rum for your baked item. Most recipes simply say “use rum”, or if you’re lucky, “dark rum”. But that’s generally it!
No indication of what works, which flavors to look out for; you’re left to figure it out for yourself, which can get expensive.
Luckily, today we have made a breakdown of the best rums for specific baked goods. These rules aren’t set in stone, but we do have a guideline that will help you.
What are the best rums for baking? For vanilla-flavored baked goods, you can play around with virtually any type of rum. For white chocolate cakes and cookies, light rums work best. For dark chocolate flavored baked goods, darker rums (even blackstrap rums) will work great.
In this jam-packed article, we have not only made a comprehensive guide to pairing rums with specific baked goods, but we have even included some specific brands you should try.
We have broken down exactly what rum does, the flavors it adds, and exactly how you can pair them with your specific recipe at home!
What Does Rum Do In Baking?
Very few people have had the realization that adding a bit of alcohol to your baked goods actually has a lot of benefits.
Whether you are adding white wine, vodka, whiskey, or in today’s case, rum, they all can add a ton of unique flavor and alter the texture of the baked item.
There are two ways in which rum affects the flavor of your baked goods. The first, and most obvious way, is that rum adds its own unique flavor to the mix. We discuss the flavors of different kinds of rum in depth below.
The second way that rum improves the flavor of your baked goodie is that it helps fat and water molecules bind.
Now, the amount (or percentage) of fat and water molecules that have been bound is what determines the flavor percentage.
The higher the flavor percentage, the more flavor the item has—makes sense.
So, what makes alcohol extremely unique is that it can help these two kinds of molecules bind. Ultimately, increasing the flavor percentage of the item.
Alcohol does add more color to lightly-colored batters. This is beneficial for any baked good that should have a deliciously golden-brown color to it, like pastries and cakes.
You get rums that vary in color (which is to a certain extent how they are classified). If you want to add darker colors to your batter, you will obviously choose a darker rum.
But, if you don’t want to add color to your batter, or at least very little, you should choose a light rum.
Just keep in mind that rum won’t change the entire color of your baked item. It will only add a shade of brown to it. And, if added to recipes with dark ingredients (for example, cocoa powder) you won’t see a difference at all.
Alcohol can prevent gluten from forming—much less compared to waters’ gluten-forming abilities.
This is an extremely beneficial characteristic because some baked goods, like crusts, for example, should have as little gluten as possible.
If you need a flaky product, the gluten strands should be short and undeveloped. By adding a splash of rum to your dough instead of water, you will be able to get a much flakier pastry.
This one is kind of obvious, but few people think of alcohol as an ingredient that will help add moisture to your baked good.
You can substitute flavorless ingredients, like water, with alcohol to improve the flavor of your item while still giving it the moisture that it needs.
And, you can add it in many ways. Naturally, you can use rum inside the cake itself, but you can also incorporate it into a simple syrup that can be drizzled over the baked cake.
There Isn’t Any Alcohol
We just felt like it needed to be said that when alcohol is heated (baked or otherwise), the ethanol evaporates.
This leaves only the delicious flavors that the liquid carries. So, in essence, these rum-flavored baked goodies can technically be consumed by anyone and will not affect you in any way!
Now, keep in mind, that this is dependent on the time the recipe is baked and at which temperatures. There could still be traces left if your recipe only needs to be baked for a short amount of time.
Types Of Rum
The type of rum won’t affect the baked good in different ways other than in flavor. Rums are classified according to how they are made (also called the style of rum).
They can also be classified and marketed according to their origin. Today, we won’t be discussing origin rum in much detail as there are too many to list and they differ vastly!
These rums are also called white rums or silver rums and are the easiest to find. These rums are aged in stainless steel tanks for about a year before being filtered and bottled.
They are light in color and flavor and are perfect for baked goods you don’t want to be affected a lot.
Also known as medium-bodied rums, these are gold or amber in color. They have a much richer and smoother flavor thanks to their production method.
They are usually aged in oak barrels which gives them their flavor and darker color. You will also find that caramel is often added to them.
Dark rums are extremely heavy and rich in flavor. These are perfect for baked goods you want to intensely flavor. They are always aged in wood, but uniquely also charred wooden barrels.
Some dark rums, classified as “blackstrap rums”, have added molasses to it to intensify the dark color, deep heavy flavor, and thick consistency.
Aged rum is very similar to gold rum; however, it doesn’t contain any additives like caramel. Most dark rums are also considered to be aged (as long as they don’t contain additives).
These rums get their range of colors to form the wooden barrels they are left in. The longer they are left, the darker their color will be. With these rums, you can also expect them to have a slightly woody flavor.
Rums are often flavored with spices, herbs, and fruits. This gives them a very unique flavor and we love using these types of rums in our baked goods. It is especially rum to pair the flavor of rum with the flavor of the specific recipe.
One thing to keep in mind, again, is the quality of flavored rum. You get artificially flavored rums and naturally flavored rums. Neither is better in the general sense, but their flavors will differ even if they should be the same.
How To Bake With Rum: Tips And Tricks
Baking with rum is extremely easy, but we do have a few tips and tricks for you that will help you achieve the best results possible!
- You don’t need to add a ton of rum to get good results. Rum has a very strong flavor, so it isn’t likely that you will need to add a ton of it. For flavor, you can add about the same amount of rum that you would extract, especially if it is heavily flavored or spiced rum. Always start with a little and add more if you need to. Unless of course, you are also adding rum for moisture. But, you won’t ever have to add more than ½ cup rum.
- Use good quality rum! We cannot stress this point enough. Just like all of your other ingredients, don’t skimp. Rum is an incredibly versatile ingredient and even if you have to buy a big bottle, we guarantee that it won’t be long until you find other uses for it.
- When incorporating rum into your recipe, you will likely always add it to the liquid ingredients first. Then, the wet and dry ingredients are combined. It isn’t necessary to do anything to the alcohol beforehand. At most, you can cook it in a saucepan over medium heat to get rid of the alcohol inside.
Best Rums For Baked Goods
Below we have compiled a list of our favorite rums paired with specific baked goods. However, we feel that it is necessary to mention that these are only suggestions and you can experiment with different flavors as much as you’d like.
We start with arguably the most famous rum-baked dessert, the rum cake. It is very similar to fruit cake but has a much lighter (less dense) texture.
Naturally, rum is the hero ingredient of this cake, so it is essential that you choose a high-quality good tasting rum. What makes this cake fantastic though is that you can pair any type of rum with it.
The only rum we don’t recommend using is white or light rum. They aren’t as versatile to pair fruit flavors with as compared to darker rums.
One of our all-time favorite gold rums to use in baked goods is this medium-bodied rum, Bacardi Gold (Carto Oro).
This rum is slightly aged in toasted oak barrels and boasts flavors of vanilla, caramel, toasted almonds, and some orange peel. It has a lighter flavor for those who don’t love heavy rum cakes.
Another gold rum we highly recommend is this Tortuga Gold Rum.
It goes especially well with heavily spiced rum cakes because of the rum’s ability to enhance flavors (remember the water and fat molecule binding abilities we spoke about earlier).
Our favorite dark rum to use for a rum cake is this easy-to-find and affordable Captain Morgan Dark Rum. It is an oak barrel-aged rum with a very rich and smoky flavor.
And, you can even taste some of the oakiness in the rum itself, which will translate to the cake.
Then, if you are into blackstrap rums (dark rums containing molasses), try Myers’s Original Dark Rum. It pairs well with lighter rum cakes that have sweeter flavors. And, it also pairs well with allspice and hazelnut.
Vanilla Cakes Or Cupcakes
What makes pairing rum with vanilla so extremely easy is that literally, any rum will work. Because vanilla is such a neutral flavor, there is no way you can go wrong!
As long as there aren’t any other unique flavors in the recipe—here, we are talking about plain vanilla cakes or cupcakes.
Our favorite aged white rum to sue for vanilla cakes is this 3-Year-Old Rum from The Real McCoy. It has been aged in American oak bourbon barrels and is then charcoal filtered to remove all color.
Technically, it doesn’t have an extremely light flavor (as compared to traditional unaged white rums), but it won’t add any color.
Another fantastic rum to pair with vanilla cakes is spiced rums. This Boukman Botanical Rhum is perfect, but it does come at a slightly higher price tag.
It is made in an Agricole style from fresh sugar cane and has been infused with woods, baking spices, and bitter orange. It has a ton of complex flavors that will take your vanilla cake to an entirely different level.
And, for a dark-aged rum, try the Coruba Original Spiced Rum. The rum itself has been aged in charred oak barrels, so you can only imagine the intensity of the rum itself. It also has flavors of vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon.
Chocolate Cakes Or Cupcakes (And Brownies)
Chocolate and rum are very unique flavors to pair and it isn’t commonly seen. But, let us tell you, we are obsessed with it!
This is a difficult combination of flavors to pair but will allow you the opportunity to experiment a lot. There are some general rules you can follow.
White chocolate and even milk chocolate pair best with lightly flavored rums like white rums. You can also look at fruity rums and lightly oaked-flavored rums.
Bittersweet dark chocolate (usually between 60-75%) is arguably the best chocolate to pair with rum.
Rums that pair with these should have darker flavors and can include heavier flavor notes like coffee, smoke or tobacco, dried fruits, and dark berries.
Here are some of our favorite pairings we have tried before. Remember, these are all specific to our liking and will also vary slightly depending on the specific chocolate you are using.
We have an old family chocolate cake recipe that uses 75% dark chocolate. We love adding a dash of this St Abbs Captain’s Table XO Rum. This rum is extremely unique and a highly recommended investment.
It is made with a blend of rums from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and Guyana. Then, the rum is aged in charred American oak barrels.
This rum enhanced the bitter and earthy notes of the dark bittersweet dark chocolate and adds its own heavy notes to it. This includes mainly toasted wood, raisins, tobacco, and leather.
A great and affordable white rum that pairs with white chocolate best are this Bacardi Superior Rum. With hints of vanilla, this white rum is easy to pair with any white chocolate-baked goodie and has a dry, crisp finish.
For pastry crusts, it is extremely easy to add virtually any rum that you’d like. Personally, we don’t think it adds all that much flavor considering you are adding a dash or two.
You should add a heavily flavored rum if you want to have a definitive rum taste.
You can try this spiced Gosling Black Seal Rum. It has notes of vanilla, baking spices like allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise, and dried fruit flavors.
Another great rum to use is this Hamilton Overproof Rum 151. Overproof rum is a rum that has an extremely high alcohol level (between 75 and 75.5% ABV).
It has delicious stone fruit flavors, bananas, and baking spices. But, be careful, not to add too much. You literally only need a teaspoon of this rum.
And, on a side note, never cook with overproof rum. It is highly flammable and will catch alight when heated too much.
When it comes to pairing rums with cookies, like with cake, you have to look at the flavors in the cookies. As a general and easy rule of thumb, use lighter rums for lighter flavored cookies.
However, you can also play around with darker rums for plain vanilla-flavored cookies. You can even use flavored rums!
For chocolate cookies, the same rules apply to chocolate cake and cupcakes. The best rums to pair with white and milk chocolate cookies will be light rums. For dark chocolate cookies, pair darker rums.
For spiced cookies, it is also best to choose an un-spiced rum so that the flavors in the cookie itself can be elevated.
We listed some of our favorite flavored rums for simple cookies below. All of these are easy to add to plain recipes and you can use them instead of the extract.
You can even add a teaspoon or two more, as long as it doesn’t change the consistency of your cookie dough too much.
- Jan Stephenson Pineapple-Flavored Rum
- Bacardi Coconut Flavored Rum
- Boracay Cuppaccino Flavored Rum
You can also play around with spiced rums, which are all usually gold or dark rums. Spiced rums will work great to spice up (pun intended) your vanilla cookies, but they also work well with milk chocolate and caramel cookies.
You can even add some extra to already spiced cookies. Just make sure the spice profiles are similar.
- Bayou Spiced Rum
- Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum
- Twenty Boat Spiced Rum
For intensely dark chocolate cookies, try a dark rum or even a blackstrap rum. The darker the chocolate (or more bitter the cookie) the darker rum you can use.
- Warship Small Batch Reserved Black Strap
- Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum
- Appleton Estate 8-Year-Old Reserve
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