Tortuga Rum Cakes Newsletter

Celebrate the Tradition of Tortuga Rum Cakes, one of the Caribbean's finest contributions to gourmet desserts. Save on this issue's specials - Tortuga Rum Cake and Tortuga Rum Cake Sampler Remember your newsletter coupon is good on these and any other purchases from


On May 10, 2003 Britain's Price Edward presided over the Cayman Island's first Seafarers Festival, marking the day 500 years ago when Christopher Columbus first sighted the islands on his fourth and final voyage to the New World. We don't know what the Prince had for dinner during the festival, but it is a fairly safe bet that a Rum Cake was served at least once. Now a leading export of the Cayman Islands, Tortuga Rum Cake is a fine example of a Caribbean culinary tradition dating back to the discovery of the New World. On his second voyage in 1493 Columbus brought sugar cane to Hispanola and Cuba with the intent of planting a fortune's worth of the sugar for Europe's insatiable sweet tooth. Sugar cane thrived in the Caribbean and over time did produce a fortune for sugar cane growers - a fortune based on rum, however, a by-product of sugar refining.

Caribbean cooks quickly learned that the judicious use of rum, from a splash to a generous jigger, makes a subtle and delicious difference in both savories and sweets. The Caribbean Rum Cake is a result of this practice - cooks added rum to the rich cake batter of their British culinary traditions. Their rum cake recipes were closely guarded family secrets passed from generation to generation and baked for only special occasions for family and special friends. The Tortuga Rum Cake is a part of this long tradition. The recipe for the Tortuga Rum Cake has been in the Jackson family from Savannah, Grand Cayman, for over 100 years. It is the recipe inherited by Carlene Jackson Hamaty, co-founder of the Tortuga Rum Company. Mrs. Hamaty baked the family's traditional rum cakes at home until friends who operated successful food-related businesses in other Caribbean islands convinced her to test the local market. The Tortuga Rum Cake was served at a local restaurant in 1987 and by 1990 was an international hit.


The recipe for the Tortuga Rum Cake has never been revealed and in respect for that family tradition we will not attempt to replicate it here. We can, however, discuss the Caribbean technique for glazing rum cakes. The Caribbean glaze for rum cakes generally consists of butter, water or fruit juice, sugar and dark rum or golden rum which is cooked and then slightly cooled. The glaze is then ready to be poured into an already prepared cake - in many instances a rich "pound" cake (so named because of it's original proportions - a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of eggs). Pierce the cake all over with a sharp wooden or metal skewer or ice pick and the slowly pour the glaze over the cake until it is all absorbed.

You may wish to serve the Tortuga Rum Cake with a bit of Rum Whipped Cream.

2 cups chilled heavy cream
1/4 (one-quarter) cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum

Put all ingredients in a medium deep bowl, beat until soft peaks form. Can be made up to four hours ahead and refrigerated.

"Caymans mark British rule with wall unveiling," The Lincoln Journal Star, May 12, 2003.
Dailey, Barbara Currie, Original Tortuga Rum Fever and Caribbean Party Cookbook. (Grand Cayman, Island Fever Press, 2000).
Greenspan, Dorie, Baking with Julia; Based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. (NY, William Morrow, 1996).

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