Let them Eat Rum Cake
A Caribbean Baking Tradition goes Commercial on Roatan

April 1st, 2012
by -


Leanne Ho-Chung, a vendor at the Roatan Rum Cake, mingles with customers at the company's store

Leanne Ho-Chung, a vendor at the Roatan Rum Cake, mingles with customers at the company's store

There is an intense smell of rum and coconut in the air as Roatan Rum Cake company employees, smiling and beaming energy, move from baking, to chatting with customers, to sampling some recently baked coconut rum cake. There is rum everywhere: Cruzan Coconut Rum, 151 proof Ron Carlos and four-year-old Flor de Caña gold rum. The different rums are added before and after the cakes are baked.

Master rum cake baker Michaeleen Francis says that her recipe for Roatan Rum Cake comes from an old recipe by the mother of Annabelle Drummond, pirate Blackbeard’s girlfriend. The recipe, which Francis found in an old book, “contains two secret ingredients … in the glazing,” says Francis. The company bakes four flavors of its rum cake: island original, crazy coconut, chocolate and 151 proof, with banana toffee rum cake expected to be launched soon.

“I came up with the idea of Roatan having its own rum cake, and it took two years to make the business reality,” said Francis. “The first commercial rum cakes were baked in December 2011.” Now there are between 50 and 120 Roatan Rum Cakes baked at the company’s head office and bakery on West Bay road.

Michaeleen Francis and her partner and head of operations Frank O’Mallie say that they became “burned out” with owning and running restaurants in Canada and the US. They toured the Caribbean looking for a place to retire and to “get off the grid of life,” said Francis. The 40-something-year-old couple found Roatan five years ago and reinvented themselves as rum cake entrepreneurs. In March they opened a 20- by 40-foot building on West Bay road, now called Rum Point.

Francis says she tries to use locally made and locally available ingredients as much as possible: eggs from French Harbour, locally grown and shredded coconut, vanilla from the mainland, and butter and milk by Sula, a Honduran dairy producer. “Everything is by the eye,” explains Francis of her baking attitude, while pulling out a last batch of the day. Her rum cakes are available in small 4-ounce or large 1-pound sizes that are vacuum sealed and packed into hexagonal carton boxes, sold for $7 and $15 respectively. [/private]

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