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Rum Squares

This image courtesy of Scott Goodwin

These pastries are the blueprint for the classic Italian rum cake. As a child it wasn’t my favorite, but now I savor every morsel of the rum-soaked sponge cake, sandwiched with vanilla and chocolate pastry cream and puff pastry. Be sure to use a serrated knife in a sawing motion to cut these into squares.

Cooking Methodbaking

CostModerate

Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationkosher, peanut free, vegetarian

Equipmentelectric mixer

Moodfestive

Taste and Texturecrunchy, sweet

Type of Dishdessert

Ingredients

  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed according to manufacturer’s directions
  • Egg wash (see Notes)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 6 extra-large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate, for the Chocolate Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Instructions

  1. MAKE THE SPONGE CAKE

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11 x 9-inch quarter-sheet pan with parchment paper.

  3. Combine the eggs, sugar, and salt in a stainless-steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Lightly whisk until the temperature of the mixture reaches 110°F. This will help add volume to your sponge.

  4. Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whisk attachment (or use a hand mixer), and whip on high speed until very light, pale, and thick, 10 to 12 minutes. I always set a timer for this stage because it is so important.

  5. Carefully fold in flour, a quarter at a time, being careful not to deflate the foam.

  6. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

  7. Bake the cake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown and the center springs back when touched.

  8. Remove the pan from the oven. Cool the cake in the pan completely before assembling. (The cake can be made and frozen 2 weeks in advance. Thaw before assembly.)

  9. BAKE THE PASTRY

  10. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  11. Place the puff pastry sheets on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Prick the pastry with a fork and brush with egg wash.

  12. . Bake the pastry for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown, pricking the pastry with a fork every 5 minutes. This will keep the pastry flat

  13. MAKE THE PASTRY CREAM

  14. . In a medium saucepan over low heat, bring 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup sugar just to a boil. In a mixing bowl, whisk cornstarch, egg yolks, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and remaining 1 cup milk.

  15. . Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture in a thin stream. Return the mixture to the pan and whisk constantly over low heat until boiling and thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter.

  16. . Transfer half the mixture to a small bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming on top. Cool completely before using.

  17. . Add the chocolate to the remaining half of the mixture and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming on top. Cool completely before using. (The pastry cream can be made 1 to 3 days in advance. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate.)

  18. MAKE THE RUM SYRUP

  19. . In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Boil until the sugar has dissolved, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.

  20. ASSEMBLE THE RUM SQUARES

  21. . Spread the chocolate pastry cream over one layer of puff pastry. Top with the layer of sponge cake. Brush and soak the sponge cake with rum syrup. Spread a layer of vanilla pastry cream on top of the sponge cake and top with the remaining layer of puff pastry. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight. Slice into 2-inch squares with a serrated knife. Place in paper liners, if desired.

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