An Oscar-Inspired Dessert

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, one of the highlights of each spring here in Hawley, Massachusetts, was my annual Academy-Award soiree. I would invite a crowd to join me here in Hawleywood to watch Tinseltown’s big night and try to guess the winners.

The winner, the runner-up, and the last-place guesser at the party all received prizes: a book about the movies, perhaps, or a film poster donated by our local video-rental store. (Yes, a video-rental store. I repeat: it was a long time ago.)

I had studied film in graduate school, and I prided myself on my cinematic expertise. Sadly, although I tried to view as many nominated films as I could, I was never very good at guessing whom the Academy would end up honoring.

Ironically, the most frequent winner at my parties was the late Charlotte Thwing of East Hawley. Charlotte had seldom viewed many—or indeed any—of the year’s nominated pictures.

She was, however, a faithful reader of People magazine. Apparently, its writers had knowledge that I lacked despite my Ph.D.

In advance of the party, I tried to dream up dishes that honored one or more of the nominated films. I won’t have a huge crowd for this year’s ceremonies; my television is less mobile than it was in the old days, and I can fit only a few people into the room in which we will watch.

Still, I will be joined by a few friends. And I plan to make something appropriate to at least one of the best-picture nominees.

As always, it took me a little while to figure out what to make. Did I want to make something with fish in honor of the family in Coda, who have a family fishing business? Did I want to create the meal at the end of Don’t Look Up? It looked delicious—but dessert was the demise of Planet Earth, which rendered the feast less appetizing. And so forth.

I finally settled on inspiration and a doable recipe when I watched West Side Story.

I’m a sucker for a musical. Stephen Spielberg’s camerawork, Tony Kushner’s script, and Leonard Bernstein’s score lured me into the Romeo-and-Juliet story of Tony and Maria. I was particularly touched by the casting of Rita Moreno as Valentina.

The role was written specifically for the veteran actress, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 film of this musical and who served as an executive producer for the new film at the age of 89.

20th-Century Studios/ Courtesy Everett

The young people in West Side Story don’t spend a lot of time eating or drinking. Perhaps the story would have a less tragic ending if the Jets and the Sharks could break bread together.

Valentina doesn’t eat on camera. She does drink, however. In a sad moment, as she ponders the troubles of her young friend Tony and her neighborhood, she pours herself a tumbler of rum. And she sings one of the film’s most moving numbers.

In honor of Valentina and West Side Story, then, I am making a Bacardi Rum Cake. The original recipe for this cake was published by Bacardi in the 1970s so it’s a vintage recipe. The rum makes the cake delectably moist so if it isn’t entirely consumed at my party, leftovers can be kept for days.

I’m following Bacardi’s recipe here (more or less; there are pecans instead of coconut in the original). Warning: it uses two processed ingredients, cake mix and pudding mix. I could make up a cake mix, but I’m not sure how to fake pudding mix. And I’m busy getting ready for the soiree. I gave in to the lure of packaged food. Happy viewing!

Bacardi Rum Cake


 for the cake:

1/4 cup dark rum
1 box (about 15 ounces) yellow cake mix
1 box (about 3.4 ounces) vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup coconut flakes

 for the glaze:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark rum

 for assembly:
5 rings of pineapple, fresh or canned


 Begin by baking the cake. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Mix all the cake ingredients except the coconut together until you have a smooth batter. Stir in the coconut; then pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the cake passes the toothpick test. Let the cake cool for 20 minutes in its pan. Invert it onto a serving plate, and prick lots of holes in the top and sides with a fork or a toothpick.

To make the glaze, melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the water and the sugar, and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the rum. Bring the mixture to a boil once more, and remove it from the heat again.

Spoon the glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Getting the cake to absorb the glaze can be a little tricky. If you try to pour on the glaze too quickly, it will spill off the sides. Be patient, and spoon it on in stages.

When you have used about three quarters of the glaze, place the pineapple slices around the top if the cake, and brush them and the cake with the remaining glaze. Serves 12.

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3 Responses to “An Oscar-Inspired Dessert”

  1. grad says:

    Tinky, I actually hate rum, but I nevertheless made this cake quite a bit back in the 70s and love it. For a long time, now, I’ve kept a whole foods kitchen, with very little processed items. The pudding mix would be the challenge for me, for sure. But I think Mary from Mary’s Nest on You Tube actually has a method (recipe) for making vanilla pudding mix. Thanks for calling this recipe to mind. Have a great party. I didn’t even know the Academy Awards were still being given out. Shows you how up to date on movies I am!! P.S. Love the hat.

  2. David S. Pyle says:

    Rum cake is always a great choice. My ex made a great Rum cake and I was always impressed that the last step was actually injecting a little extra rum into the cake after it was baked and glazed. Sugar and rum is always a great combo. Power of the Dog seems to be a favorite but personally, I thought Coda was a much better more deserving movie. Alas, I too have a poor track record predicting who will win though I’m fairly certain it will not be King Richard or Don’t Look Up though both were enjoyable movies. Happy watching!

  3. tinkyweisblat says:

    Grad, I’ll have to look for that pudding mix. I felt weird buying the mixes, I have to admit! And David, I’m with you. I loved “CODA.” The people with whom I watched it found it a bit sentimental, but I’m never averse to sentiment….