The Alchemy of Rumcake
It starts like this – there is no other way. You must begin
with a pound of sweet cream butter. That’s sweet
cream. Forget the salt. It will pull moisture from the cake.
Keep the butter warm. Breathe on it if necessary.
Tuck it to the base of your spine, let it mold to your hips.
This makes for a good cake.
Blend pure cane sugar and nothing else
into the butter. Do not fear the butter’s fragility;
it needs, demands perhaps, to be whipped.
Add eggs, one at a time. Be gentle –
introductions can be intoxicating.
The eggsbuttersugar will swell, nearly doubling
in volume. Do not rush them. Remember your own
shyness. Remember your initial slowness when slick
against the body of another. Let them find their way.
Sing eggsbuttersugar, eggsbuttersugar with love
in your mouth. If the world could see, kitschy
hearts would float off your tongue and kiss the batter
passionately. The batter, being kissed, would rise up
and begin humming the song of itself, each atom
of the batter belonging both to itself
and to you.
Now. Add fat milk. All milk should be fat.
It is in its nature. Follow nature always,
follow the fat. Fold the milk in delicately,
in three sections, alternating with the flour
and baking powder.
The fat and light will take some time.
Milk will sink and flour will scamper
up the sides. Be thorough: Like licking
the bowl of your mouth, don’t leave anything
out. Separate the batter into four small, slippery
with butter loaf pans. The loaves will invite
the soul. Poets will come to dine with you.
They will see themselves
in your rum cake.
Bake in a hot oven:
Three hundred and fifty degrees, exactly.
Or watch the cats eyeing the birds outside. The cakes
will be hot and humming. You can peek, but don’t peek
often, don’t crowd. A cake needs its space to grow.
When the sides shrug away from the pans and the tops split
open, pull the cakes from the oven. Set them on a windowsill.
Give them a view. Let them cool off. It isn’t easy doing
so much mingling.
The rum comes next.
And choose well: Cakes don’t appreciate cheap intoxicants.
Pour the rum into sweet, hot
butter until the rum begins to glisten.
This is your alchemy, your transmutation. Don’t lose focus.
Remove the cakes from their pans. Tap gently. Never pull.
Pour the rum sauce into the pans and replace the cakes.
They will sink slowly, like maidens burdened by heat.
Leave them for a time. They must knit cake and rum fingers
After some time has passed the cakes
will be ready. Wrap them gently, call them by name.
Whisper a secret into each of their bellies. Give them away
clandestinely, with love in your mouth.
This is your alchemy.
This is the only way to make a rum cake.
Love it well.