Like many people, I’ve got some traditions for New Year’s Day. Nothing that would stand up to any historical perspective but just ‘our’ traditions. We have to have some Black Eyed Peas for luck, a tradition that started when our family lived in North Carolina for 10 years, and I have to make a Butter Rum Cake (don’t worry…I’ll get to the Bourbon bit in a minute!) just because. Maybe the because is because it’s so easy? Purists will decry the use of a box mix but I refuse to back down. I didn’t always make cakes from scratch; as a matter of fact there was a time when I would go that route only if there was something HUGELY significant that was happening, like my daughter’s FIRST birthday cake or a friends baby shower.
Over the course of many years I became more confident doing things from scratch and now that’s my comfort zone. Except for this cake. Maybe because it was the first sort of fancy cake that I ever made, or maybe because it had liquor in it (that yes, I was legally able to purchase), it remains in my mind a memory of a special occasion and the cake a memory of a special cake. That has not changed.
I remember the year I decided it was time to stop using a box mix for German Chocolate cake and the end result of that effort was so amazing that last year I thought it again time to try with my beloved Butter Rum Cake. I will admit that as much as I am game to play with almost any ingredient, I like to have a base for cakes…I’ve never done the scientific study to determine the ratio for flour, sugar, leavening, etc. so I took to the Internet to see what I could find.
And what I found is that the recipe that I had been making all these many years is literally EVERYWHERE! And not an ‘original’ or scratch version in site. Something about that was reassuring and I actually don’t mind that the cake is so easy to put together, so this year, without a thought, I made sure I was ready with a box of yellow cake mix and a box of French Vanilla instant pudding and I would just do my thing, box mix and all.
After a last minute change of plans last weekend, I ended up spending Christmas with a friend and her family after having already purchased all of the ingredients for dinner. I had a boneless leg of lamb, brussels sprouts, potatoes and the mix for ‘the cake’ so I decided to make my Christmas dinner for New Year’s instead.
Friends were invited, the rub for the lamb was made and the meat was coated and ready to put in the oven (thanks @thetoughcookie and @ethanadeland); the potatoes for Lemon Garlic Mashed Potatoes were boiling and it was time to bake. Can I still call it ‘mise en place’ if I’m using a boxed mix…oh, well, that’s what I did next; organizing ingredients for the cake. Except for one little snafu. That box with the bottle of rum that I know I saw in my liquor cabinet? It was there alright but unfortunately the bottle inside was EMPTY! Uh oh…what now? I pulled out every bottle in that cabinet thinking that even though I preferred using dark rum I might have some light rum further back. Nope…no where in sight so it was definitely time to punt. And punting resulted in this Manhattan Bundt Cake with Bourbon, Pecans and Maraschino Cherries.
I remember thinking a couple of weeks ago that Thanksgiving was a bourbon holiday. I had a strong tendency to imbue a lot of dishes with this smooth adult beverage then and then see my likings for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday more inclined towards the use of my other favorite which is rum; this cake included. But I was willing to call on my Thanksgiving friend and substitute…there’s no law against that. Right? Right?
So that’s what I did. The same basic cake except bourbon would be front and center, pecans found their place instead of walnuts and because I was looking for a drink analogy, I decided that adding some maraschino cherries for decoration would come close to a Manhattan, well, if Manhattan’s had pecans!
To tell you the truth…the use of a bourbon blend which is what I had doesn’t make for a huge difference and we loved this cake just as much and I’m now apt to be inclined to go this route as well as the other; both are winners. Stay tuned for my next version; I’m thinking chocolate cake mix with Kahlua and almonds!