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.
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.–Renee Schettler Rossi
- 1 pound loaf pan
- Scant 1 1/4 cups 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 oz) butter softened, plus more for the pan
- Generous 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup milk
For the rum syrup (optional)
- 1/2 cup sugar syrup
- 2 tablespoons rum
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.
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!
Originally published December 16, 2020