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Thursday, January 12, 2012

(Not Quite) Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

I hope the old adage about bad dress rehearsals making for good openings is right.  Eesh.  The problem with rehearsing a show, even a reading, in pieces is that it tends to fall apart a bit when you put it back together again.  Such was the case with Love, Loss and What I Wore last night.  It probably doesn't help that Tuesday's rehearsal was cancelled due to an incipient snowstorm, which finally arrived yesterday.

There is a phrase we all utter when things don't look the best right before opening:  "Magic of theatre."  It's kind of a talisman, an indication that it can all turn around when it really needs to do so.

Considering the talent of my fellow actors and our director, it will come together.  I actually believe it will be a lovely, very funny show. 

However, the craziness of this week has left me craving a bit of sugar rather than my usual salads.  Has that happened to anyone else in the last couple of weeks?  I think the solution is to have a slice of cake and then get back to the healthy routine.  If that's your solution, too, let me introduce you to the butter rum cake:

It's every bit as delicious as it looks, and maybe more so.  It has the virtue of being easy to make as well.  I say have a slice of cake, then remove the cake to your office/book group/whatever to share the wealth and calories.

I have no control over whether the "magic of theatre" will grace our show tonight, other than making sure I'm fully prepared.  But this cake?  Well, it is a little magical.

Ciambellone al Rum (Italian Butter Rum Cake)
Adapted from Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich

For the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 sliced almonds, ground in mini-prep processor
1/4 sliced almonds, toasted
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
Zest of one large orange
1/3 cup 2% milk

For the glaze:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup light rum
Juice from the orange zested for the cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a bundt cake pan, or spray it with nonstick spray with flour.  Sprinkle the toasted almonds evenly around the pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy.  Alternate adding the yolks and the eggs, adding one egg and then two yolks until all the eggs are incorporated.  Beat the mixture on high speed for a minute after all the eggs have been added, just to make sure it is fully blended.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add half the flour mixture, and then the milk.  Mix to combine and then add the remaining flour mixture and the orange zest until it is just blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Tap the pan once lightly on the counter to reduce the number of air holes and then bake until a skewer or knife inserted into the cake comes out clean, about an hour.  Cool the cake completely on a baking rack and run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake before inverting it onto a plate or serving tray.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze.  Put all the ingredients for the syrup, plus two cups of water, into a medium saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook down until it becomes a thin syrup.

The cake should be glazed while still warm.  Using a pastry brush, brush the syrup all over the cake, repeating until all the glaze is absorbed. 

I'm warning you:  this takes a little while.  Tedious but totally worth it.

Serves twelve to sixteen, depending on how bad your sugar cravings are.


  1. Sometimes the magical opening night of a theater production can be so much better than all of the rehearsals put together, so the outcome is hard to predict. Hang in there on this one.
    Your cake does look like a tasty diversion. You had me at butter and rum. The picture of that slice does make me want to try it-yum!

  2. Oooh this looks delish!I've never made rum cake before, but looking at this, I'm tempted to try one :)I'm sure the show will come together as well :)

  3. When the chips are down, I totally agree.. eat some cake!! After all the snow you must be dealing with... eat cake! I don't know how you even step out of the're a brave soul. This cake would even melt my snow blues away. Wow.. really beautiful! I wish you all the luck for your opening night.. break a leg (that's good luck for the theater).. but be careful in the snow. ~ Ramona

  4. The cake looks and sounds delicious! Good luck with the show!

  5. Just the words "butter rum cake" entices. I must have this in one of my Lidia books - how did I miss it? My parting words on opening night to my cast is always, "Create magic." I thoroughly believe in the magic of theatre. And sugar.

  6. Oh, yeah, this looks amazing! I'd be taking the leftovers to my friends, too, so I wouldn't be tempted to eat sliver after sliver till the whole thing was in my stomach!!! I bet my knitting group would love this one~

  7. This cake is going to be my date for a work function next week!

  8. Oh YUM :) That looks fantastic :)

  9. I want that big piece in your last picture.

  10. the cake looks absolutely amazing! I'm sure that the show will be amazing - let us know how it went!

  11. I most definitely believe you should give in to a craving and then move on, especially after a difficult week! The cake looks phenomenal (and after your week, I would consider the rum medicinal!) May the 'magic of the theatre' be with you! Let us know how it all worked out! : )

  12. Did you mention rum butter? Now that certainly helps the January blues. Good luck on the theatre performances - it will be magical. Lucky friends that can dig in and share this, too!

  13. Although I am not a dessert person but that crazing does get to me too and yes during this time to this Italian rum cake. I can't remember when I tasted cakes with rum but its a try to this cake because even my fav ice-cream is rum & raisin flavor.

  14. A slice of heaven! I love this cake!

  15. I make a similar rum cake but this recipe sounds extra good because of all the almonds.

  16. WHoa - this looks so good I feel like I should shield my eyes. That cake would be gone in 5 seconds in front of me!

    Love that you use the rum in the glaze. Anything to make it more boozy. :)

  17. This cake looks so good, I now'd like to have a bit of it.

  18. There's a magic in that recipe .. i like the cake... every little thing you do is magic.

  19. Those almonds looks so pretty baked into that amazing cake! Wishing you all the best in your performance!!

  20. I do enjoy my craving for sweets from time to is HEALTHY ;-)
    The cake has a perfectly fine and smooth crumb. Delectable!
    Happy Weekend!

  21. I say Sit, have a cake and next week will be better!:))
    Your cake look tasty and perfect for cold winter tea and this cake..mmm yum!

  22. My solution to everything is have a slice of cake! This looks delicious & I hope your show went well :)

  23. I have every faith the play will go beautifully. You will stun them. Just like this cake. Total stunner.

  24. I hope your show went well! This cake looks like the best solution to sugar cravings and stress :) PS: I have a giveaway going on now that I think you might be in to!

  25. I totally feel the same way - sometimes things have to get worse to get better, or messier, or more complicated... baking is such a great stress reliever. I'm sure your show will be great!

  26. I think cake might be my solution to most things... lovely recipe!

  27. Butter and rum! I'm sold! Hope everything went REALLY well!

  28. Butter and rum in a bundt cake! You have all my attention! This goes on my must bake list.

  29. What a looker! Yum. I'm definitely pocketing this recipe when I am in the mood for cake :)

  30. I think I'm going to have to start a fav recipe folder, and this one should be totally in it. I've had cake like this before and totally concur that the brushing is totally worth it.

  31. You had me at rum and butter. I'm in love. Must make this.

  32. yum! that rum & orange glaze must have taken it to a whole new level :)