Skip to Content

Can I use real rum instead of rum extract?

Using real rum instead of rum extract in baking can certainly be done, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Rum extract provides a very concentrated rum flavor, while using real rum will impart a more complex, nuanced rum taste. Here is a closer look at the differences between rum extract and real rum in baking applications.

Rum Extract vs. Real Rum in Baking

Rum extract is made by distilling rum until it reaches a very high alcohol concentration, often 90% alcohol or higher. This concentrated liquid imparts an intense rum flavor. Rum extract allows you to achieve a strong rum taste without adding a lot of liquid to a recipe.

In contrast, real rum ranges from 40-95% alcohol. The lower alcohol content means you need more rum to achieve the same intensity of flavor as an extract. Real rum also carries the complex flavors that develop during rum production – notes of molasses, cane juice, spices, oak barrels, etc. So real rum will give a baked good a more nuanced, multi-layered rum taste.

Here is a quick comparison between rum extract and real rum:

Rum Extract Real Rum
Very concentrated rum flavor More complex and nuanced rum flavor
Alcohol content 90%+ Alcohol content 40-95%
Only small amounts needed Larger amounts needed for same intensity

Substituting Real Rum in Baking Recipes

When substituting real rum for rum extract in a recipe, there are two main factors to consider:

  1. Rum flavor intensity
  2. Liquid content

To match the rum flavor intensity provided by extract, you generally need 2-3 times the amount of real rum. So if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of rum extract, use 2-3 teaspoons of real rum. The exact amount will depend on the alcohol percentage of the rum – go with less rum for an overproof variety or more rum for a lower proof.

In terms of liquid content, rum extract is practically all alcohol, while real rum has some water content. This means substituting rum can potentially throw off the moisture balance in a recipe. To compensate, you can reduce other liquids in the recipe by a few tablespoons per 1/4 cup of real rum added.

It’s a good idea to also reduce any sugar in the recipe slightly, since real rum will contribute some natural sweetness. For every 1/4 cup rum, reduce sugar by about 1-2 tablespoons.

Here is an example substitution in a cake recipe calling for 2 teaspoons of rum extract:

  • Reduce milk by 2-3 tablespoons
  • Reduce sugar by 1-2 tablespoons
  • Use 4-6 teaspoons real rum (depending on proof)

Best Uses for Real Rum vs. Extract

Although real rum can be substituted for extracts in most recipes, there are certain applications where one or the other tends to work best:

Rum extract works best:

  • Cakes – provides maximum rum flavor without thinning the batter
  • Frostings and fillings – imparts concentrated flavor
  • Cookies – enables high rum taste without spreading issues
  • Mousses – gives pronounced rum flavor

Real rum works best:

  • Rum balls/truffles – allows rum to permeate and soften the candies
  • Tiramisu – rum can fully soak the ladyfingers
  • Rum cake – real rum provides authentic flavor and moistness
  • Glazes – rum contributes complex flavors

Tips for Cooking with Real Rum

Here are some tips to get the best results when using real rum in baking and cooking:

  • Look for a rum that matches the flavor profile you want. Dark rums work well in chocolate or caramel desserts, while spiced rums complement spices like ginger or nutmeg.
  • Pay attention to proof – higher proof rums will impart more alcohol flavor.
  • Add rum to batters and doughs at the end when possible to retain more rum flavor.
  • Reduce heat and bake time slightly if substituting large amounts of rum – the alcohol can make batters more fluid.
  • For dishes like rum cake that soak in rum, use a rum with at least 40% alcohol so it penetrates the food.
  • Flambeing with rum concentrates the flavor – cook off some alcohol before adding to a recipe.
  • When cooking, add rum at the end to retain the volatile flavors.

Rum Baking and Cooking Safety

While the alcohol does cook off when using rum in baked goods and cooking, it’s important to keep in mind:

  • Trace amounts of alcohol can remain even after cooking. Avoid giving rum-infused foods to children.
  • Heating rum above 175°F (79°C) will cause most of the alcohol to evaporate. Baked goods and dishes that reach higher temperatures will have little alcohol remaining.
  • The longer the cooking time and higher the temperature, the more alcohol burns off. Dishes cooked briefly or at low heat will retain more alcohol.
  • Adding rum to food raw (like tiramisu) results in no alcohol loss. In this case, the full alcohol content remains.

Rum Baking Recipes

Here are some delicious recipes that highlight rum’s complex flavors:

Rum Cake

This moist, decadent Bundt cake gets infused with rum syrup for maximum flavor.


  • 1 cup real rum
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup rum over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in remaining 1/2 cup rum and vanilla.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  6. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Poke holes all over cake with a skewer. Slowly pour cooled rum syrup over top, allowing it to soak in. Let cool completely before removing from pan.
  7. Dust cooled cake generously with powdered sugar before serving.

Rum Balls

These no-bake rum balls are a perfect bite-sized holiday treat.


  • 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup real rum
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • Powdered sugar or crushed nuts, for coating


  1. In a large bowl, stir together wafer crumbs, chopped nuts, powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. In a small bowl, stir corn syrup into rum until dissolved. Pour over wafer mixture and stir until evenly moistened.
  3. Form mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar or nuts to coat.
  4. Place rum balls in a single layer in an airtight container, separating layers with wax or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Coconut Rum Bananas Foster

Caramelized bananas get drowned in an insanely delicious rum caramel sauce.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted
  • Vanilla ice cream


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and rum. Cook for 1 minute more. Add bananas and cook until lightly caramelized, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Remove pan from heat. Carefully add cream (mixture will bubble up). Return to medium heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens slightly.
  4. To serve, spoon bananas and sauce over vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.


While rum extract can provide concentrated flavor in baking, real rum imparts depth, complexity and authenticity to desserts and other dishes. When substituting real rum for extract, just take care to balance the rum taste and account for the added liquid. With the right adjustments and recipe choices, rum can take your cooking and baking to the next level.