Originating in England in the mid 19th century, tipsy cakes refer to sweet individually portioned alcohol-spiked sponge cakes brimming with custard. This Privateer 'True American' rum, banana, and caramel New England version is a northerner's, no need to light on fire, banana's foster style tipsy cake made with seaside aged maritime rum. This secret flavor bomb and conversation starting ingredient captures the essence of "New England independence and gritty determination" that eventually led to American success in the war for independence from England. The foundation of the cake is a brioche dough. Once the dough has risen to pillowy heights, it is sweetened with a rum and banana infused custard, drizzled with a caramel sauce (we used a store bought one to save time), and finished with a sprinkling of sugar pearls. Super impressive with much of it easy to make in advance, this is a dessert that may come out more than just at the holidays.

cuisine English
difficulty Moderate
season Fall & Winter
serves 12

Ingredients for the Brioche Balls

  • 1 3/4 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 538 grams cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 335 grams unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes, room temperature
  • 15 grams kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar

Ingredients for Custard

  • 75 grams Demerara sugar
  • 75 grams Golden caster sugar
  • 3.75 ounces Privateer True
  • American Amber Rum
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds only
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 large overripe banana

To Finish

  • 750 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • 750 grams golden caster sugar
  • 4 ounces prepared caramel
  • 1/3 cup sugar pearls


  1. Heat the milk to 110 degrees F. Add the dry yeast, stir gently, and let sit for 15 minutes until little bubbles form around the edge of the bowl. Add in the egg and stir to combine.
  2. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixture fitted with the dough hook. Add the yeast mixture and mix at low speed until incorporated.
  3. Increase the speed to medium for 10 minutes. Check to see if gluten is developing (stop the machine, pinch off a piece, and stretch between fingers to check elasticity. If it is ready, it will stretch into a long, thin window that doesn't break). Continue mixing at medium speed until you are satisfied that the gluten has developed (5 to 10 minutes more if needed).
  4. Reduce the speed of the mixture to low and gradually add the butter cubes. Mix until all of the butter is incorporated.
  5. Transfer the dough to a large bowl lined with plastic wrap. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl and roll it into a long 1" thick log. Cut the dough into 1" long pieces, place them on a tray,  and return them to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  7. With plenty of flour on your hands roll each 1" piece into a ball and place crease side down on the tray. Transfer the balls to the freezer as they are made (this needs to happen quickly). The balls may be frozen at this point for up to two weeks.
  8. To make the custard, place the sugars, rum, banana, and vanilla seeds into a Vitamix or blender and blend for 5 minutes. 
  9. Add the cream to the Vitamix (no more than 2 hours before serving) and whir to combine. Refrigerate until needed.
  10. Melt 1/2 cup unsalted butter in a  bowl (then cool to room temperature).
  11. Place 1 cup of caster sugar in a small bowl.
  12. Place 5 frozen brioche balls in the butter at a time.
  13. Roll each of the 5 balls in sugar and transfer (seam side down) to a .25 quart cast iron pot (or other oven-safe ceramic ramekin). Repeat until all of the balls are used.
  14. Cover the pots with plastic wrap and put them in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours, or until the brioche doubles in size. 
  15. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (use convection if available).
  16. Sit all 6 pots on a baking tray (remove the plastic wrap) and place on the middle shelf of the oven to bake for 15 minutes.
  17. Remove the pots, run a knife between each of the brioche balls and around the edges of each pot.
  18. Ladle 1 ounce of the custard into the center of each pot and return quickly to the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
  19. Open the oven door and ladle 1/2 ounce of the custard over the brioche and bake another 5 minutes. Repeat once more. 
  20. To serve, drizzle warmed caramel sauce over the tops of each pot and sprinkle with the pearl sugar.