Italian rum cake is a traditional Italian dessert often purchased at an Italian bakery and
served on birthdays or other special occasions. It is a delicious four layer cake that is
flavored with rum, filled with alternating layers of vanilla and chocolate (pasticciera) pastry
cream, topped with whipped cream icing, and garnished with almonds. We have also
decorate the cake with chocolate, as we have, or add fresh fruit or maraschino cherries.
The cake does take some time to make but it can be made ahead and it does keep well
refrigerated for several days.
This is an egg leavened cake. The eggs must be
beaten for the full time indicated to achieve the
correct volume and consistency or the cake will
not rise properly. The finished layers will be
thinner than a typical layer cake. The cake and
the pastry should be completely cooled before
(Makes two 8 or 9-inch layers)
6 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
Dark rum (about 1 cup)
Pastry Cream Filling (Pasticciera):
(Makes 4 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 cups whole milk
5 egg yolks
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter
2 ounces chopped milk chocolate
Whipped Cream Icing:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Chocolate Ganache (1/4 cup chopped chocolate mixed with 1/4 cup heavy
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans.
Line the bottom of the pans with circles of waxed paper or parchment.
Using an electric mixer with a large bowl, begin to beat the eggs at low speed.
Gradually add the sugar and then add the vanilla. Increase the speed to high.
Beat the eggs until very thick and pale yellow, about 7 minutes. Place the flour
in a mesh strainer. Shake about 1/3 of the flour over the egg mixture.
Gently fold in the flour with a rubber spatula. Repeat, adding the flour in 2 more
additions. Fold the mixture until all the flour is incorporated.
Divide the batter between the 2 prepared cake pans; smooth the tops.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. The cake should spring back when pressed with a
finger and the top is lightly browned. Place the cake pans on wire rack to cool
for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks and remove the pans.
Carefully peel off the paper. Let cool completely before adding rum, filling, and
To prepare the pastry cream:
Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. In a bowl, whisk together milk
and egg yolks. Whisk milk mixture into sugar mixture. Place the saucepan over
medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minute;
remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and butter. Transfer 2/3 of the pastry cream to a
bowl. Add the chopped chocolate to the cream remaining in the saucepan.
Stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Transfer the chocolate pastry cream to another bowl. Place a piece of plastic
wrap directly on the surface of the pastry creams. Allow to cool for 30 minutes
and then refrigerate until cold.
To assemble the cake:
Cut both cake layers in half horizontally. Place one of the layers on a serving
dish, cut side up. Brush some of the rum over the cake (you want to moisten it
without soaking it.) Spread half of the vanilla pastry cream evenly over the cake.
Top with a second layer of cake, cut side up. Brush some of the rum over the
cake. Spread all of the chocolate pastry cream over the cake. Top with the third
layer of cake, cut side up. Brush some of the rum over the cake. Spread the
remaining vanilla pastry cream evenly over the cake. Top with the final layer of
cake, cut side down. Refrigerate the cake while you prepare the icing.
To make the icing and garnish the cake:
Beat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla together until stiff peaks form.
Frost sides and top of cake, reserving some of the cream to pipe stars.
Put the reserved whipped cream in a pastry bag; set aside.
With the palm of your hand, press the almonds onto the side of the cake.
Using the pastry bag, pipe stars around the bottom and top edge of the cake.
To make the Chocolate Ganache:
Put the chopped chocolate and cream in a small microwave-safe bowl.
Heat on high for 25-30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Heat for additional time if the
chocolate is not completely melted and smooth. Allow to cool to room
temperature. Apply the chocolate ganache in a decorative design to the top of
the cake. You may also use the ganache to write a Happy Birthday or other
message on the top.
Refrigerate the cake until serving.
(Makes about 3-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
With an electric mixer, beat together the shortening and butter until light
and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until well incorporated.
Add the salt, vanilla, and cream. Blend on low until the mixture is smooth.
Increase the speed to high, and beat until the icing is fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.