Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Wedding, A Murder, and My Mama’s Rum Cake

A very warm welcome to Virginia Lowell. This is Virginia's first visit to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. She writes the Cookie Cutter Shop Mysteries. Several of us on this blog love cookie cutters, and I know some of you do, too! We're so pleased Virginia could join us!

I’ve been thinking about cakes lately.

Of course, cookies are always the tasty treat du jour at The Gingerbread House, where Olivia Greyson and her best friend, Maddie Briggs, bake and decorate cutout cookies daily. They also sell everything from antique cookie cutters to sparkling sugar sprinkles. As if all that doesn’t keep them busy enough, Livie and Maddie are about to tackle their fourth Cookie Cutter Shop mystery in ONE DEAD COOKIE, due to land in bookstores on July 2.

However, Livie and Maddie are also preparing for a major and, they fervently hope, murder-free event. (They can hope, can’t they?) Maddie is getting married! Hence my current obsession with cakes.

Lately, I’ve been happily reminiscing about cakes I have known and loved. Aside from my own wedding cake (amaretto, with crystallized violets; need I say more?), I’d have to say that my favorite cake memory comes from my childhood. My mother made a killer rum cake. Now, everyone knows the classic rum cake recipe—you know, the one that starts with a yellow cake mix. My mother, being a cook of the 1960s, used mixes whenever possible, so she latched on to that rum cake recipe and never let go.

Over time, my mom made minor adjustments to the rum cake recipe, such as using a glaze without nuts in it. Then one day she decided to create a rum cake that would be remembered with delight and awe for decades to come. My father, sister, and I watched as Mom used a fork to poke holes in the top of the finished cake, right through the glaze. We felt a tingle of foreboding when we noticed the maniacal glint in her eyes. Mom picked up the bottle, which still held several inches of rum, and unscrewed the top. Was she planning to take a swig right out of the bottle? Nope. she upended that bottle and poured most of the remaining rum over the cake.**

This was the most popular cake my mother ever served. I was allowed only a small taste, but it was memorable. To this day, the very sight of a bottle of rum makes me smile.

**If you try this at home, I’d advise putting the cake on a large plate with sides. And maybe don’t empty the bottle, especially if there’s more than about a cup of rum left in it. That part of the experiment has been done, and it wasn’t pretty. Deliriously funny, but not pretty.

                              Mom’s Double Rum Cake

1 package yellow cake mix
1 package vanilla instant pudding mix
4 eggs
½ cup cold water
½ cup oil
½ cup rum

Mix together the above ingredients and pour into a tube or bundt pan. Bake at 325°F for one hour. Cool in pan for ten minutes. Invert onto a serving plate (with sides). Prick tiny holes all around the top of the cake.

½ cup butter
¼ cup water
1 cup sugar
½ rum

Melt butter in saucepan and stir in water and sugar. Boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in rum. Brush glaze over top and sides of cake. Wait for glaze to absorb, then repeat until the glaze is used up.
*Mom’s minor addition: Pour or spoon additional rum over the cake and let it set a spell.

Maddie plans to serve her wedding cake at a huge engagement party, so everyone in Chatterley Heights will have a chance to sample it. I can guarantee the cake will not be rum soaked, though it promises to be creative and tasty. It might even feature cookies; you never know. Drop in at Maddie and Lucas’s engagement party to find out. But be careful. A murderer might be lurking in the crowd.

About Virginia:

Virginia Lowell lives in Minnesota with her husband and two cats. The cold winters have driven her to baking cookies, just to keep warm. She grew up in a small town inhabited by an unusual numbers of quirky people, who hardly ever murdered anyone.

One Dead Cookie, the fourth book in Virginia Lowell’s cookie cutter shop mystery series, releases July 2. The first book in the series is Cookie Dough or Die. She is currently working on the fifth book in the series, which is published by Penguin/Berkley in 2014. Find out more about Virginia on her website:  You can check in with Olivia Greyson, Maddie Briggs, and other folks from Chatterley Heights at on the 24th of each month.

Rum Cake photo by Kent Wang, Wikipedia Commons


  1. Welcome, Virginia! I know what you mean about those nice long winters--good for baking.

    I love to collect cookie cutters--just added a puzzle piece and a three-dimensional rose. And I still use my mother's stainless steel cookie sheets--they'll live forever.

    1. A three-diemensional rose?! I'm jealous! I especially love collecting the cutters from the Cookie Cutter Collectors Club. Each year a tinsmith designs and creates the cutter, so they are unique.


    2. Cakes and liquor... there's no better combination. Plus, they are fun to make!
      Thanks for writing!

  2. I love cookies and cakes and liquor! lol The rum cake sounds great!

  3. I'm a big fan of cookie cutters, too. Cookies are perfect for every occasion, right? Always festive and celebratory.

    Thanks for joining us today, Virginia! Your mother sounds like a hoot! What a fun memory. That glaze is very clever. Butter sounds like it's key to give some body to the rum.


    1. Yes, my mom was fun. She could do a monkey imitation that had us rolling on the floor! Of course, she usually did this AFTER making rum cake. Correlation? Yep.

  4. Love the cookie cutter series, Virginia, but I've got to catch up on the ones I've missed. Reading the first one was so much fun!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed Cookie Dough or Die! Hope you enjoy the following adventures. I'm hard at work on the fifth one.
      Thanks for your comment!

  5. Love the rum cake!
    My "tricks:
    First, be sure to prepare the pan you use. {oil and flour or spray}
    Second, pour the glaze (or at least part of it) over the cake while it's still in the pan. That seriously minimizes the mess quotient.
    I assume you mean 1/2 cup of rum in the glaze.

    1. Oops, yes, I meant 1/2 cup of rum. Sorry about that. Too much rum...
      I like your idea of pouring some glaze over the cake while it's still in the pan. Might work for the rum, too. lol!