An Ode to Rum

On the Locavore Trail this month I was daydreaming and came across “Ode to Rum” by Renee Leverette in The Examiner. It inspired me — a little glass of rum, my iPad, and I was set to write this column.

I imagined myself afloat in tropical waters when suddenly “Pirates of the Caribbean” came to mind, and I started singing “Yo, ho, ho…” I didn’t know the words to that little ditty, so I went back to my bottle of rum.

Then I remembered my pal Craig Adcock, a wine guy with a barbecue problem, had just delivered a few of his rum cakes for me to enjoy. We’re not talking a dry, crumbly cake from down south that was baked a year ago.

No, I’m talking Jude’s Rum Cake, produced and baked right here in Kansas City. Rum and cake, a culinary marriage made in heaven!

I love the way people discover their calling.

In Adcock’s case, his mother-in-law, Judy Erb, once asked what he wanted for his birthday dessert. Remembering a bottle of Panamanian rum from the time he spent with the National Guard, Adcock wisely requested a rum cake. From that single celebratory cake, Jude’s Rum Cake was born.

Now, let’s talk about Adcock’s moist temptations made with Missouri pecans, local butter, Kansas flour, brown sugar and New Orleans rum.

The cakes are dark golden with a firm texture, topped with toasted pecans. The aroma is sweet and rich with vanilla and rum.

Remember, my friends, each Jude’s Rum Cake is soaked in rum. Delicious is not how I describe these cakes; sublime is more like it. And they are baked locally. Really, does it get any better?

Personally, I like the original made with New Orleans rum that Adcock and I discovered last year from a post-Katrina rum distillery in the Ninth Ward. If you like a little variety, try the David Rosengarten Signature 3-Pack made with rums handpicked by Rosengarten, a journalist, television personality and cookbook author. The muffin-sized cakes include the Barbancourt Crunch, St. Teresa Anejo and Jude’s Original.

Recently, Adcock and I sat down to chat about his technique, passion and baking philosophy. Naturally, we consumed a generous amount of rum and cake.

Jasper Mirabile: When did you decide you wanted to be a baker?
Craig Adcock:
I definitely would not call myself a baker. I make a rum cake and don’t get to the kitchen much before 10:30 most days. I left corporate America in 2008 and I haven’t looked back ... although some days I miss the benefits and money.

JM: Why rum cake?
The rum cakes originated in 1995. My mom-in-law, Judy Erb (Jude), is an incredible baker. She always cooks birthday desserts, so when I told her I’d never had a rum cake, she reached back to a family recipe along with my bottle of Panamanian rum. The rest is sweet history.

JM: You’re all about local — you support local food producers.
We have an incredible artisan scene in this region. I use pecans from Nevada, Mo., (some of the orchards date back to George Washington’s time). I use Old New Orleans Rum, out of the Ninth Ward. After Katrina, they had 12 barrels floating. The product is incredible and the people are real. I have never been happier with the cake. Heck, they even sell my cakes in their tasting room. My shipping boxes are made in KC, as are my labels, vacuum bags and sealer.

JM: Tell me about your bakery?
The cakes come from my kitchen ovens in Lenexa. I think my cakes stand out because of the technique, consistency and quality products. I start with the best products available and try not to mess them up. The majority of my clients are repeat orders. It’s a fun journey. The first year we made 75 cakes. In 2012, we hit 15,000.

JM: I notice you travel a lot, cooking on The Playboy Golf Circuit and at Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival. What is your favorite destination around the world?
That’s a tough one. I get to travel and hang with some cool people. A trip to Italy years ago helped me calibrate my style and realize that simple and nostalgic flavors always taste better.

JM: We have a mutual friend, the Food Network’s David Rosengarten.
I’ve known David for years. He has been a huge advocate for the cakes since the late ’90s. Over dinner and a few bottles of wine, we decided to make a special Rosengarten rum cake — tweaking my recipe for him using some of his favorite rums from around the world. We launched in December and everyone that has tried them loves them.

JM: Your cakes are becoming known nationwide.
The majority of my business is mail order. Currently, I sell to three restaurants in Key West, one in the Tampa area, in (New Orleans) and select places in Kansas City. My kitchen in Old Town Lenexa is open by appointment, but I foresee retail hours in the near future.

JM: You love to bake rum cakes, but you also know your way around the barbecue pit.
: I’ve always been a barbecue guy who happens to make a rum cake. In 2011, I became a rum cake maker who happens to barbecue when the ‘cue side started picking up nationally. 2012 was a whirlwind. I cooked at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, in wine country and from NYC to the Keys. 2013 is in full swing, from the blues crossroads in Mississippi to wine country and the Rockies.

JM: What is your favorite local dessert other than Jude’s Rum Cake?
I absolutely love the late chef John McClure’s grandma’s cookies. Starker’s still shares them on the menu and they are out of this world. The tiramisu at Jasper’s is pretty sick also.

Jude’s Rum Cake can be ordered online at or call (913) 526-6708 to arrange a pickup. You can also find them on the menu at local restaurants and in select grocery stores. Check the website for a complete listing.

photos: Imagio Studios