This cake is so fluffy and delicious! Everyone will love it with its rum and vanilla flavor, sponge layers and two types of delicious frosting. The Italian Rum Cake is your next party cake.
About the recipe
This cake consists of three sponge layers, soaked lightly with rum syrup, two layers of classic pastry cream and whipped cream on top. It can be kids friendly if you use rum extract instead of liqueur.
The recipe is somehow popular in the US. There is a similar version in Italy called Torta Chantilly. The main difference between the two is that the American version has one layer of chocolate pastry cream and one of vanilla. In the Italian version both are vanilla.
Nevertheless the two versions are nearly the same. I adapted my recipe from one of the biggest Italian recipe sites Giallo Zafferano.
What ingredients you need
For the layers you need: sugar, eggs, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, vanilla extract, baking powder and a bit of salt.
In the original version baking powder is not used and the beaten separated eggs are the only leavener. This is an old technique which works well if you have experience with it.
However since this blog aims to bring you easy to make recipes, I added some baking powder to the batter which will guarantee you a great result.
For the pastry cream you need: egg yolks, milk, starch, sugar and vanilla.
For the rum syrup you would need: sugar, water and rum. Beware that this is not exactly syrup since the sugar is not too much. I don't like excessively sweet desserts that's why I limited the sweetener.
The whipped cream (a.k.a. Creme Chantilly) is made with cold heavy cream, some powdered sugar and vanilla.
You will find the complete ingredient list and detailed steps below the post, in the recipe card.
Is this recipe easy
This cake is not hard to make, just takes some time. If you want to prepare it all in the same day, you would need several hours in order to allow the layers and the pastry cream to cool down.
I usually prepare the layers on one day, keep them in the fridge overnight and assemble the cake on the next day.
I made the recipe in two 7 inch/ 18 cm cake pans. It became quite tall so I had to assemble it with a cake ring to ensure it was even.
If you want your cake to be lower, use one or two 8-9 inch / 20-23 cm pans.
Since this is a three layer cake, baking is a bit tricky. You can do it in three ways:
- Bake the whole batter in one pan and cut the cake in three afterwards: this won't work with a 7 inch/ 18 cm pan but will work with 8,5-9 inch /21-23 cm pan.
- Bake 2 layers simultaneously in two pans and the third one afterwards: keep the batter for the third layer in the fridge if you decide to do that.
- Use 2 pans to bake simultaneously two layers in one pan and the third one in the second pan: this is what I did to save time but you need to be very careful and trusting your oven. The single layer will be ready first and needs to be removed earlier. Don't open the oven before the 30st minute and don't leave it open for more than 5-10 seconds. The second layer will need about 40-45 minutes to bake.
This is a classic sponge cake: nothing too complicated as long as you follow strictly the preparation steps. Make sure you mix very well the baking powder with the flour and then mix very well the flour within the batter. This will ensure an evenly baked cake.
When the layers are half cooled you can start preparing the pastry cream. Mix the yolks with the starch, vanilla and some milk. Heat the rest of the milk until it starts simmering. Remove it from the stove for a minute and add the yolk mixture. Start whisking and bring back to the stove for a few minutes. It is important to whisk continuously to prevent lumps.
Let the pastry cream cool down, mixing it from time to time to prevent forming a crust on top.
When the pastry cream is completely cool, prepare the rum syrup by heating the sugar, water and rum (or extract) until the mixture starts simmering.
How to assemble
Assemble the cake with the layers and pastry cream at room temperature and the syrup warm or hot!
In case of 7 inch/ 18 cm pans, a cake ring will make it easier to assemble the cake.
Ideally let the cake cool down for at least 2 hours or overnight before frosting it with whipping cream.
You can keep the layers in the fridge for up to 2 days, wrapped in plastic wrap. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months, again wrapped very well.
As for the frosting, both of them should be prepared right before assembling the cake.
This is one of the few cakes that can be served right away after preparation. Still I consider that it has a better texture after staying several hours in the fridge.
It is a light cake that literally everyone would love. Perfect for birthdays and celebrations!
I really hope you would love this cake as much as I do! Please let me know in the comments if you made it or tag me in Instagram.
Other Italian-style recipes
If you loved this cake, I am sure you would also like the following recipes:
- No Bake Amaretto Cheesecake
- Raffaello Cake (Almond Coconut Cake)
- Tiramisu without eggs and alcohol
- Easy Strawberry Charlotte
- Lemon Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut frosting
Italian Rum Cake
For the layers:
- ¾ cup + 1 tbsp/ 165 g caster sugar
- 5 eggs, separated
- ¾ cup / 90 g all-purpose flour
- ½ cup/ 60 g cornstarch or other starch
- 1,5 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ teaspoon salt
For the pastry cream:
For the rum syrup:
- ½ cup / 120 ml water
- 3 teaspoon rum extract, or 3 tablespoon rum
- 2 tablespoon caster sugar
For Creme Chantilly:
- 1 ⅔ cups/ 400 ml heavy whipping cream, cold
- 2 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350º F/ 180º C. Grease two 7-9 inch pans and line them with circles of parchment paper (see notes for more info about the pan sizes).
- In a small bowl combine flour with baking powder and salt. Whisk very well and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- In another large bowl beat together the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until the mixture becomes pale and thick.
- Using a rubber spatula or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, gradually and gently fold the flour into the yolk mixture. At the end add also the starch. Make sure all the flour and starch are absorbed and no lumps remain: scrape well the bottom of the bowl with the spatula or use a stand mixer at a very low speed.
- At the end gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans: you need 3 layers so depending on your pan size you can bake them altogether in one pan or in two pans (see notes).
- Bake for about 30-45 minutes, depending on your pan sizes and how many layers you are baking in one pan. Test by inserting a wooden skewer in the centre: it should come out clean or with a few dry crumbs.
- Let the layers cool completely before removing them from the pan and assembling the cake.
- When the cake bases are half cool, start preparing the pastry cream.
- In a medium bowl whisk shortly the yolks with the sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the starch and continue whisking until combined. You may need 1-2 tablespoon milk to dilute the mixture as it should be relatively liquid.
- In a medium saucepan heat the rest of the milk until it starts simmering. Remove it from the stove and add the yolk mixture. Whisk energetically and continuously until smooth.
- Lower the heat and return the pan to the stove. Whisk continuously for 1-2 minutes so the pastry cream thickens.
- Remove the pan from the heat and keep whisking from time to time until the pastry cream cools down. In order to cool faster, transfer it to another bowl, ideally not very deep. Don't forget to whisk to prevent from forming a crust on top.
- When the pastry cream is at room temperature, whip the ½ cup cold cream and fold it into the mixture.
- Heat all ingredients in a small saucepan. When the mixture starts simmering, remove it from the heat.
- Use the syrup right away.
- Make sure both the layers and the pastry cream are at room temperature. The layers can be refrigerated but the pastry cream should not be placed in the fridge because it might thicken too much!
- Depending on how you've baked the cake bases, you may need to cut horizontally one of them to make three layers. If your layers are tall, it is easier to assemble the cake in a ring or in a spring form pan.
- Place one layer on a serving plate and brush it with about ⅓ of the warm rum syrup. Spread about half of the pastry cream on top.
- Place another layer and brush it with half of the remaining syrup.
- Optionally add the cocoa powder to the remaining pastry cream. Whisk very well until no lumps remain.
- Spread the pastry cream on top of the second layer. You may want to reserve 2 tablespoon for decoration.
- Place the third layer and brush it with the remaining syrup.
- At this point wrap the cake with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 2-4 hours or overnight so that the pastry cream thickens. This step is optional if your cake is not tall.
- Spread the whipping cream around the cake right before serving.
- Whip the cold cream together with the powdered sugar and vanilla.
- Use it to cover the cake all around and decorate it.
- Pan size: You can use 7-9 inch / 18-23 cm pans for this recipe, keeping the original ingredient quantities. I used 7 inch / 18 cm pan and the cake became quite tall. There is a bit of a challenge to assemble it in this case so a pastry ring is recommended. In case of 8,3-9 inch/ 21-23 cm pans you can bake the whole batter in one pan and cut it in three layers. Alternatively use two pans to bake the batter in two batches (first two layers together and then the third one).
- Use a kitchen scale or a ladle to separate the batter.
- Store the cake for 2-3 days in the fridge, covered.
- Recipe adapted from Giallo Zafferano.