Nutmeg Cake

This nutmeg cake is essentially spice cake soaked through and through with rum syrup. It’s as simple to make as a quick bread and it makes a lovely (and tipsy) gift when wrapped in parchment paper and tied with a bow.

Slices of glazed nutmeg pound cake on a white cutting board

No ordinary spice cake or quick bread, this deceptively simple nutmeg loaf has a spectacular depth of flavor thanks to it being drenched in a boozy rum-spiked simple syrup. What a lovely gift this quick cake makes when wrapped in parchment, tied with a bow, and packaged with a handwritten recipe. You may wish to make a couple loaves—one to gift, one to keep. You know, just to stave off gifters’ remorse. Originally published December 10, 2010.Renee Schettler

Nutmeg Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (6)
  • 15 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes 1 loaf
5/5 - 6 reviews
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Special Equipment: 1 pound loaf pan


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  • For the rum syrup (optional)


Make the nutmeg cake

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.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.

Beat the butter with a mixer or by hand until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

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.

Use a whisk as you would a spoon to fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk.

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

In a small bowl combine the sugar syrup and rum.

Finish the cake

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 and then gently transfer it, right side up, to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest overnight before slicing since the flavor of the cake matures with time. 

Print RecipeBuy the Warm Bread and Honey Cake cookbook

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Recipe Testers Reviews

I made this nutmeg cake 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. It was a great hit—especially with my colleagues who don’t like overly sweet baked goods. The amount of nutmeg is enough to give a flavor that’s identifiable and warming, but not overpowering. 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.

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. And 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 as a simple weekday cake. While my cake was enjoyable, I had always thought that it was missing something. When this cake came along, it was like a light bulb switched on over my head. It was missing booze, of course! The rum syrup elevates a simple, old-fashioned cake into something gift-worthy. I’ll make mini loaves of this and give them out as gifts.

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 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 rum 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!


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  1. This small cake is delicious! The nutmeg is subtle and the rum syrup adds complexity of flavor. I followed the suggestion of a previous comment and made it in a small tin. Perfect for a pair of empty nesters.

  2. I would love to try your recipe. If I don’t make the rum syrup, should I increase the amount of brown sugar in the batter?


    1. Hi Marta, the rum syrup is completely optional so you don’t need to make any adjustment to the cake recipe. Let us know when you give it a whirl.

  3. Amazing! I bake nonstop and have been for more than 50 years, and this is one of the best quick breads I’ve come across. The crumb is unbelievably moist and tender. It literally melts in your mouth. Despite the rum syrup, the cake isn’t overly sweet. The flavor is unique, and lip-smacking. I didn’t make any changes to the recipe. It’s perfect as written. This is a skimpy batter which bakes into a shallow cake. I used an 8 x 4″ loaf pan but would use a smaller pan the next time, or make 1.5X the recipe. I made a quarter recipe of the rum syrup and used 1/2 cup on the cake. There was a bit of syrup left over. The cake slices cleanly and freezes beautifully. Outstanding and very addictive!

    1. LOVE all of what you typed, Sadie! Love it. Many, many thanks for taking the time to let us know how pleased you were with this! Thrilled to hear you you like it so. Wishing you and yours a very, very happy Thanksgiving!

  4. 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 rum syrup on the cake and it was plenty moist, but that’s easy to control when pouring the liquid onto the finished cake.

  5. 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..

  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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

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