November’s come, so we’re officially in the final sprint to the holidays. Yikes!

Thus the recipe request from a caller in Ravenel for a rum cake is timely. I don’t know why rum cake is associated with Christmas goodies but it’s more likely to show up at this time of year than any other. Maybe because its flavor marries so well with the spices of the season.

It gave me reason to read up on rum, and I’m glad I did, because there’s a lot to learn. If you are a lover of history, rum has a rich one, populated with pirates, the Royal Navy and varied settings, from the high seas to Staten Island, N.Y., and as far flung as Australia.

Rum is produced in a number of countries, but is concentrated on the islands of the Caribbean and in Latin America. That’s because it was first distilled there on plantations beginning in the 17th century. It’s fermented from sugarcane, which can happen either directly from the juice or from a by-product, such as molasses. The liquor is usually aged in oak barrels.

There are different styles of rum, ranging from highly distilled, lighter-bodied ones to darker types with a more robust flavor. Often, the language of the country can help sort out those styles.

Where Spanish is spoken — Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Panama, etc. — anejo (aged) rums predominate. They are known for their mellow, smooth taste. However, most of the silver or white rums, the least-aged, lightest type with very little flavor, also come from Puerto Rico.

Where English is spoken, such as Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica, the rums usually are darker and bear the fuller flavor of molasses.

In the French-speaking West Indies, “rhum agricole” is the thing.

These rums are made from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, not molasses. Islands known for this style include Haiti and Martinique.

In cooking, the darker or at least amber rums are most commonly used but not always. You’ll also see recipes calling for rum extracts.

A number of readers responded to the rum cake request. We’ll lead off with Kathee Hering of Summerville. “I have two recipes for rum cake from scratch, both good. One of them I’m going to say is cheating a little because of the cake mix and the pudding mix.”

Rum Cake

For the cake:

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 package yellow cake mix

1 small package (3.4-ounce) vanilla pudding

4 large eggs

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup rum (see cook’s note)

For the glaze:

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 cup water

1/4 cup rum (match the rum to the above)

Directions

Cook’s note: Kathee has used coconut or pineapple rum for a little different flavor.

For the cake: Grease and flour a bundt pan; sprinkle nuts in the pan. Mix cake mix and the next 5 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the batter to the bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Check by making sure an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack in pan. Turn out onto a serving plate and pierce cake all over with a skewer. Pour glaze evenly over cake.

For the glaze: Melt butter in a small saucepan; mix in sugar and water stirring constantly until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in rum. Spoon or brush over cooled cake.

“This next one is a little more difficult, but well worth the effort. It is from Domino Sugar,” says Kathee.

Layered Rum Cake

For the cake:

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup butter

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 pinch salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon rum-flavored extract

For the filling:

1/2 pint heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon dark rum

For the glaze:

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark rum

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

For the cake: Put chopped pecans in bottom of bundt pan. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and add alternatively with the buttermilk to the egg mixture. Stir in vanilla and rum extracts. Pour batter into prepared pan over nuts. Bake for 1 hour in preheated oven. Cool cake in pan and turn out on a serving platter. Pierce cake from top to bottom with a skewer.

For the filling: Cut cake in half crosswise. Mix filling ingredients together and spread on bottom layer. Replace top layer. Pierce more holes, being careful not to put too much pressure on the cake.

For the glaze: Melt butter, then stir in water and sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Slowly drizzle glaze over top of cake a little at a time. Allow cake to absorb glaze before adding more.

Bonnie Clark of North Charleston writes, “This is a rum cake recipe I have modified over the years. Note: Artificial rum flavoring may be substituted.”

ABC’s Rum Cake

For the cake:

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons dark rum

4 large eggs, separated

31/2 cups sifted self-rising flour

1 cup whole milk

For the rum glaze:

1/4 pound lightly salted or unsalted butter

1/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup dark rum

For the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees; butter and flour a bundt pan.

Cream butter, sugar and rum. Slowly blend in 4 egg yolks. Alternately mix in flour and milk. Gently fold in 4 stiffly beaten egg whites.

Bake in prepared pan for 1 hour. (You may have to bake a little longer if it is not completely done.)

For the glaze: In a small pot over medium heat, melt butter and stir in water and sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove and stir in the rum.

While cake is warm, glaze evenly over the top and sides. Let this sit a minute to be absorbed by the cake. Repeat until you have used all of the rum glaze.

If you enjoy the challenge of from-scratch baking and don’t mind a number of steps, this recipe from Fern Ulmer of Lodge may be of interest. Fern says she’s had this recipe for more than 40 years and thinks she copied it from a Good Housekeeping magazine.

Rum Cake De Maison

For the cake:

2 cups sifted cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 cup orange juice

7 tablespoons white rum

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Whipped cream filling (recipe follows)

Chocolate frosting (recipe follows)

11/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Grease 2 (9-inch) cake pans (11/2 inches deep) and cover bottom with waxed paper. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Beat butter until very soft and creamy. Gradually beat in 3/4 cup of the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time and orange zest.

Combine extracts, 3 tablespoons of the rum and the orange juice. Add alternately with the flour mixture to the creamed mixture.

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks; gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff.

Fold batter into egg whites and pour into pan. Bake about 25 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Make whipped cream filling (see below) while layers are cooling.

With a long, sharp knife, split cooled layers horizontally to make four layers. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon rum. Put layers together with about 11/2 cups whipped cream filling between every 2 layers.

Refrigerate cake while making chocolate frosting. After frosting, refrigerate at least 18 hours before serving.

Whipped Cream Filling

Place medium bowl and beaters in freezer until cold.

In top of double boiler, sprinkle 2 tablespoons plain gelatin over 2 tablespoons cold milk and heat over hot water until gelatin is dissolved.

Take cold bowl from freezer and beat 2 cups heavy cream with 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar until thick. Then, very gradually, beat in 1/3 cup white rum and the slightly cooled gelatin mixture. Refrigerate if necessary to get filling to hold its shape.

Be sure cake layers are cold and filling will hold its shape before putting together.

Chocolate Frosting

Melt 4 squares unsweetened chocolate over hot, not boiling water. Gradually beat in 1 cup confectioner’s sugar and 2 tablespoons hot water. Then beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, followed by 6 tablespoons soft butter or margarine, 2 tablespoons at a time. Continue beating until light in color.

Frost top and sides of filled cake and decorate with walnuts before refrigerating.

Also, many thanks to Henry Babilon of Walterboro and Mary Ellen Bryan, also of Walterboro.

Who’s got the recipe?

From Pam Kilpatrick: “I would love to have the recipe of the key lime pie sold at Simmons Seafood on Isle of Palms. I have tried many different recipes, but cannot match the creaminess.”

Fern Ulmer also has a request: “If any reader has a recipe for a chocolate frosting (cooked) using 3 egg yolks and unsweetened chocolate squares as part of the ingredients I would like to have it. I found it in an old Woman’s Day in the 1950s or 1960s and have lost it.”

Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Reach Features Editor Teresa Taylor at food@postandcourier.com or 937-4886.