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Some cake recipes calls for rum, and there is none available. How to substitute? If possible, it should be non-alcoholic.

Also, what is its role in baking or cooking?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The most accurate substitution would simply be rum extract. It is concentrated rum with a huge kick of flavor, and much less alcohol. A little goes a long way.

If you're going to stick with a strong liquor my first choice would be a bourbon, it's a similarly "sweet" liquor that tastes good in baking. Another good option would be cachaça.

If you're avoiding liquor, then you may be able to use vanilla extract. Non-alcoholic varieties are available. According to Ochef you can also use molasses thinned with pineapple juice.

The rum is used simply for flavor.

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2  
@vwiggins. You are incorrect. Alcohol never totally disappears. For baking, after 1 hour 25% remains. 2.5 hours, 5% remains. –  Chris Cudmore Sep 30 '10 at 13:15
    
@chris. Where do you get these figures? Given that ethanol's boiling point is far below most baking temperatures (as well as that of water), I've always understood that it would indeed evaporate during any baking or cooking. My organic chemistry lab experience bears this out. –  kajaco Sep 30 '10 at 15:54
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@kajaco This myth is dying a hard death. the first link is a plain text explanation and the second is for further reading (including the published papers) cooking.cdkitchen.com/AHealthyBite/385.html google.com/… –  sarge_smith Sep 30 '10 at 16:21
    
I would warrant there is more alcohol in apple sauce that has simply been frozen and defrosted than in a cake with 1/2 a teaspoon of rum extract, but I no longer have a lab to test this hypothesis. I'll have to see if any food hackers out there will indulge my experiment. –  vwiggins Oct 1 '10 at 11:25
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@kajaco agreed that would be why i stuck the second link in there... the first article is just a plain english summary... there are multiple scholastic papers on the other link. –  sarge_smith Oct 1 '10 at 21:06

Apart from flavour, spirits can play another role: adding temporary moisture that can be useful in the mixing process. Spirits add water and alcohol, which allows you to mix the ingredients, but the alcohol will evaporate in the oven, so the baked dessert will not have all that moisture.

I read a recipe in Cooks Illustrated where they replaced water with vodka to get a better dough for pies, but I never used that for cakes.

If the texture of the cake without rum works, you need it only for flavour, you can use another spirit or spice for that.

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When using vodka in e.g. pastry dough, it has absolutely nothing to do with moisture. Alcohol evaporates quicker and at a lower temperature than water, providing a fluffier pastry. –  daniel Sep 30 '10 at 10:46
    
Then moisture is the wrong word... I should have picked a different one. What I meant is that it gives you more liquid while mixing without adding it to the final result. –  Julio Sep 30 '10 at 12:16
    
You are correct, I read the same article. I think "temporary moisture" describes it reasonably accurately. –  hobodave Oct 1 '10 at 21:09
    
@roux Edited a little to clarify –  Julio Oct 2 '10 at 9:37

Unless your recipe includes the word 'flambe', its role is purely flavour and nothing more. As rum is derived from sugar, you could--bearing in mind the other aspects of your recipe--substitute molasses, caramel, or just leave it out.

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