From a packed kitchen, a Lenexa bakery produces 40,000 rum cakes each holiday season | KCUR 89.3

The ovens are heating up inside Jude’s Rum Cakes, a cramped shop in Old Town Lenexa. Owner Craig Adcock is vacuum-sealing the finished cakes so they can be shipped to customers.

“It’s kind of a shotgun, long and narrow, kitchen space, but it seems to work for us,” says Adcock. “Today, we are making a mix of teaser cakes, muffin-sized, the small and the large. And we do everything from this little kitchen: 900 square feet.”

Rum cake season begins in early October and begins to wind down after the holidays. The rest of the year, Adcock operates a small farm-to-table restaurant called Table Ocho. He says that keeping busy keeps him active.

“The six months with the restaurant and the six months with the rum cakes just intertwine, and it becomes a good life,” says Adcock.

Adcock’s Cake Baking began 22 years ago with a birthday cake. His mother-in-law, Judy Erb, baked him a rum cake. She used an old family recipe and a bottle of rum he brought back from Panama, where he served in the National Guard. The two worked together to perfect the recipe and sold 80 pies the first year.

Since then the business has grown. Now Adcock’s kitchen produces 40,000 rum cakes a year.

20221104_Judes_RumCakes_0002.JPG

julie denesha

/

KCUR 89.3

With rum cake season heating up, owner Craig Adcock has been faced with rising packaging and shipping costs. He has reluctantly caused the price of his rum cakes to rise. He says longtime customers have supported him as he navigates supply chain issues.

“So there’s 6 ounces of rum in each cake, but it seems to really balance and layer everything between the butter that becomes the oils, the eggs, the batter,” says Adcock. “It’s a good balance. No rough edges.”

When it started, Adcock bought rum palettes from a distillery in Haiti. When a catastrophic earthquake cut off his supply, he used a New Orleans distillery for a time.

But after a few inconsistent batches, he says it made sense to create his own brand. It’s made from Louisiana sugar cane, aged in barrels for two and a half years, and produced in small batches by craft distillery Rocheport Distilling Co. Adcock says the switch also reduced his carbon footprint.

Back in the kitchen, Marisela Rivera is buttering Bundt pans. After 15 years working with Adcock, rum cakes have become part of her Christmas tradition.

“Yes, I love them every time, and my family too,” Rivera explains. “Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and birthdays too.”

Adcock’s mission is to source the best local ingredients. The nuts he uses in his rum cakes come from a 200-year-old orchard in Nevada, Missouri, and Adcock has tried nuts from all over.

20221104_Judes_RumCakes_0003.JPG

julie denesha

/

KCUR 89.3

Browned cakes are cooled after being baked in the oven. After dipping into Adcock’s custom brand of Trademark Denied rum, they are vacuum sealed and frozen to keep them fresh.

“Missouri pecans, they’re just phenomenal,” he says. “So I grew up in Mississippi. We had 13 trees on our property, so I know pecans because that’s what we did all damn summer and into the fall, you know, crack fucking pecans.”

When Adcock moved to the Kansas City area, he discovered that the smaller Missouri walnut trees are the original, native ones.

“The ones we had in Mississippi are hybrids,” says Adcock. “So the ones in Mississippi are bigger, but these are smaller. But they are stronger.”

Adcock says running a small business means constantly adapting to a changing landscape. Staying agile is key.

“This is my anxiety moment because I’m putting everything in order,” says Adcock. “I am also balancing my budget. And there are so many moving parts that sometimes you forget how intense it is, but, you know, it all comes together.”

This year, supply chain problems have caused its costs to rise.

“The supply chain is real,” says Adcock. “Like my same pie boards, three years ago I was paying like 19 cents, now I’m paying 55 cents a round…and then my boxes are up like 30%.”

It’s a cost that Adcock has reluctantly passed on to its clients.

“The people have been really great,” says Adcock. “I think it’s important to be transparent and, you know, take people with you on the journey.”

With the cakes out of the oven, Rivera adds the rum glaze. The warm smell of butter fills the kitchen.

20221104_Judes_RumCakes_0004.JPG

julie denesha

/

KCUR 89.3

Adcock holds up a Missouri walnut-encrusted rum cake as a fresh batch of cakes cools behind him.

“When it’s really cold outside, it’s a little cool because my side of Old Town smells like rum cakes,” says Adcock.

Next door at Heart of America Locksmith, service manager Alex Gravino says the afternoon cakes can be distracting.

“Their kitchen lines up with the back of our store, so every time we go back there and they’re cooking, it just seeps through the wall,” Gravino says.

“It’s the smell of rum mixed with pastry,” continues Gravino. “You’re here trying to work and all of a sudden now I’m hungry.”

For Adcock, the customers who return each year make the hard work worth it.

“It’s fun to be able to do what you do and have people appreciate it, understand it, and allow you to keep doing what you do,” says Adcock.

Rum cake season heats up in the weeks after Thanksgiving. Until then, you’ve resealed the finished cakes, so it’ll be ready when the orders come in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *