Nutmeg Cake

Glazed nutmeg pound cake in a loaf pan on a circular cooling rack

This nutmeg cake is my slightly more sophisticated take on a childhood favorite. The cake can be served as it is or, even better, soaked with a rum syrup. The plain nutmeg loaf is an easy and quick recipe, although the syruped loaf should be left for a day before cutting, as the flavor improves with time.–Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra

LC Gifters' Remorse Note

What a lovely gift this quick cake makes when wrapped in parchment, tied with a bow, and packaged with a handwritten recipe. Although you may wish to make a couple loaves—one to gift, one to keep. You know, just to stave off gifters’ remorse.

Special Equipment: 1 pound loaf pan

Nutmeg Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes 1 loaf


  • Scant 1 1/4 cups (6 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (from about 1/4 of a nutmeg)
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces) butter, softened, plus more for the pan
  • Generous 1/2 cup (4 1/2 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • For the rum syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar syrup
  • 2 tablespoons rum


  • Make the nutmeg cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Butter a loaf pan, line the base of the pan with parchment paper cut to fit, and dust the pan and parchment with flour. Tap out any excess.
  • 2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
  • 3. Beat the butter with a mixer or by hand until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  • 4. Whisk the eggs loosely in a small bowl and then add the vanilla extract. Add the egg to the butter mixture in two batches, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  • 5. Use a whisk as you would a spoon to fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk.
  • 6. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Make the rum syrup
  • 7. In a small bowl combine the sugar syrup and rum.
  • Finish the cake
  • 8. Remove the pan from the oven and use a skewer to pierce the cake all the way down to the bottom in several places. Slowly pour the rum syrup over the surface of the cake. Let the cake cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer it, right side up, to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • 9. When the cake has cooled completely, wrap it well in plastic wrap and keep it for a day, if you can, before slicing it to allow the flavors to mature.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

I made this without the rum syrup, as it was a last-minute “I-have-to-take-something-home-baked-into-work” decision. I can imagine that the syrup would’ve added an extra dimension to the already lovely flavor in this moist cake. The amount of nutmeg is enough to give a flavor that’s identifiable and warming, but not overpowering. It was a great hit—especially with my colleagues who don’t like overly sweet baked goods. I’ll definitely make it again.

This nutmeg cake with rum syrup is perfect for dessert, but it’s also lovely for brunch and with afternoon coffee or tea. It’s a simple recipe, letting the mixer do most of the work. What’s especially nice about this cake is that it’s not overly sweet, alcoholic or fussy. It’s unassuming but still special. TIPS: Make sure that the tester comes out perfectly clean, since the rum syrup will cause a slightly underdone center to become a little gummy (it tastes fine, but doesn’t look very pretty). Use an actual nutmeg or extremely fresh grated nutmeg, since it’s the main flavor.

For years, I’ve been using a similar recipe to this one as a simple weekday cake. While it was enjoyable, I had always thought that it was missing something. When this recipe came along, it was like a light bulb switched on over my head. It was missing booze, of course! The syrup elevates a simple, old-fashioned cake into something gift-worthy. I’ll make mini loaves of this and give them out as gifts. My only complaint about the recipe was the schizophrenic precision and imprecision of the measurements. Luckily, I had a scale, but if I hadn’t, I would’ve been very anxious about what a “generous 1 stick of butter,” “scant 1.25 cups,” and “loose teaspoon” all meant.

I loved this cake. For the sugar syrup, I used bourbon rather than rum, and it turned out just fine. I also made a smaller batch of syrup, as I didn’t know how much the cake would really need, using 1/4 cup sugar plus 1/3 cup water. I baked the cake a day in advance, wrapped it in plastic after cooling, and then ate the cake a day later. The flavors had really developed, and the bourbon was not at all overwhelming. I hope to make this easy-to-assemble cake again for Christmas. My only negative comment is that I found the sugar syrup section a bit too wordy—there was too much commentary about a syrup that’s simple to create! Also, pay careful attention to the wording about the sugar and use brown rather than white.

My kitchen smelled heavenly as the nutmeg cake baked. This is the perfect hostess gift, also pairing well with a cup of coffee or tea. The recipe was easy to follow, and the sugar syrup with rum and orange flower water really made it special. It was hard to wait the 24 hours to slice and taste, so we were sampling it at 12 hours. The cake was delicious with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream. I’ll make two next time!

While the finished cake wasn’t much to look at, it was so luscious, so aromatic, and so strikingly flavorful, that it’s definitely going in my “must make again (and soon)” recipe file. The cake’s flavors were unique and well-balanced. There was no way anyone in my family could stop at one slice—we devoured it in no time, and we’re still talking about how heavenly it was. I didn’t use even half of the sugar syrup recipe on the cake and it was plenty moist, but that’s easy to control when pouring the liquid onto the finished cake.


  1. Hey David!
    I LOVE nutmeg and rum and will be making this cake at X-mas for sure. Cake with booze will be a HUGE hit at my house! <3

    Especially for me!

    PS. So cool that you hooked-up with Ree in NYC last weekend. She’s so much fun!

    Happy Holidays!

  2. Moist; light; delicious. Loved the rum sugar syrup with orange water. I think it would be wonderful without it, though (and you definitely do not need the entire sugar syrup for this cake.) One issue: The cake didn’t get brown on top but was totally ready to come out of the oven at 40 minutes. I was not prepared to risk having a dry cake just to get a golden brown on top. Any thoughts? Other than that: lovely.

    1. Joan, so glad you liked the cake. One thought regarding the browning of the top: What position was your oven rack? In most cases, the middle is perfect. But I find that in sometimes putting it in the upper third helps things. I even, occasionally, turn on the convection element of my oven for a few minutes at the end of baking to aid browning.

    2. Joan, I’m with David on this one. And if for some reason that doesn’t adequately address the situation, well, a gentle sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar or a drizzle of a basic icing after cooling the loaf hides all manner of sins…

  3. David and Renee…Two great suggestions. Thank you. I was really stymied and figured it was because of the nutmeg coloring. BTW – I knew just from the batter that this would be a winner. Definitely a “come…sit down and have a piece of coffee and cake”; A “cozy” cake. :) JT

  4. I got the baking bug in the middle of the night last night. I must admit I am in love with this cake. However, I suggest this, if you have a largish family (we are five), you should definitely make more than one, as this cake is gone in one sitting!

  5. Luscious. Complex. The rum drizzle really makes the nutmeg bloom. I use a bundt cake pan to make this cake which renders it a tad dry but that is okay–great excuse for added rum syrup or a curl of rich vanilla ice cream.

  6. I am saving this recipe for just after the holidays. I have a need for something sweet everyday. This will be perfect for the transition of consuming what seems like “big rock candy mountain” at all of the celebrations to a more focused and well chosen treat.

    1. Penny, I love that you’re already looking ahead to your sweet fix for after the holidays. And in terms of a well-chosen treat, you couldn’t have chosen any better. Our recipe testers and readers have RAVED about this recipe. We look forward to hearing what you think…

  7. Has anyone tried to freeze this cake? If I want to freeze the cake, do I need to add the syrup only after it’s defrosted, or can I follow the recipe as is and freeze. Thanks in advance for any tips.

    1. Hi there ‘bit late the party’, I asked Susan, one of our senior testers, her thoughts on your question. She suggested making the cake as directed, then freezing it. Let us know if you try it- curious minds want to know..

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