"Nana Dee’s is all about the rum,” says Dee Batchelder, who cooks luscious desserts under the name of Nana Dee. “As a great grandmother of 11, I’m into the rum.”
Rum desserts that is.
Batchelder, who with her daughter, Denise Batchelder, aka Peanut, make lush and rich pecan rum cakes and rum fudge which they sell at the Sawyer Garden Center in Sawyer, Barney’s Supermarket in New Buffalo, Michigan through special order and, during summer months, at Skip’s European Market in New Buffalo.
It all started when Batchelder was making a yellow cake for her granddaughter’s christening 28 years ago.
“I wanted to do something different for the event,” says Batchelder. “I’d had some rum cakes and I’d heard about rum in cakes and desserts so I thought I’d try it.”
At the time she started baking her pecan rum cakes, Batchelder owned a record store in Michigan City called Flamingo’s Record Depot.
“Every year I had a charity event,” she recalls, “and for my contributors who gave $100 or more, I just started baking them a cake as a thank you. People began asking me to make them cakes and then their friends started asking me to make cakes.”
Before long Batchelder was also making fudge – with rum of course.
“After I started making the cakes and using rum,” she says, “it seemed natural that I’d start making other things and adding rum.”
And so Nana Dee’s also offers chocolate peanut butter pecan rum fudge, chocolate rum fudge, butterscotch pecan rum fudge and all sorts of other rum fudge flavors.
“Whatever someone wants,” she says, “I can make.”
Batchelder notes that the cake pairs well with a cup of coffee, French vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
“You can also add fresh berries like raspberries or blackberry to the center,” she says “and then top them with freshly made whipped cream.”
Because the demand for her rum desserts grew, mother and daughter decided to start selling their rum goodies under the name of Nana Dee’s Rum Cakes – Nana being what Batchelder’s grandchildren and great grandchildren call her. And so the business grew. The two recently boxed up 25 cakes to send to a customer in Virginia for Valentine’s Day.
There are secrets to making these moist rum cakes and rich chocolaty fudge which Batchelder won’t reveal.
“The standing joke with Nana Dee is this,” says her daughter, “if she truly gives you the exact recipe, she’d have to ‘kill’ you afterwards.”
“I use a special top quality rum,” she says. “I won’t tell people what it is but I had a friend who tried to make the cake with 151 proof rum and the cake never rose. And she asked me what happened and I said you didn’t use the right rum.”
With business booming, the two women say they’re baking morning until night. They use the commercial kitchen at Skip’s Restaurant in New Buffalo which is just down the road from where they live.
“And now we’re trying to decide whether to expand to pies,” says Denise Batchelder. “If we did we’d start off with a sweet potato pie with vanilla rum.”
But in the meantime, mother and daughter appear to be having a great time.
“Morning, noon or night,” they both spontaneous say in unison, “Nana Dee’s Rum Cake is just right.”
To find out more or to order a cake or fudge, call Nana Dee’s Hotline 269-469-1473.
Nana Dee’s Basic Fudge Recipe
16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 ounces milk chocolate
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt chocolate and milk over low heat, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and add vanilla. This would be the time to add about a ¼ of a cup of rum if you want. Nuts can be added at this stage too.
Nana Dee’s Fudge Rum Cake
1 package (four ounces) chocolate pudding and pie filling
1 package of devil’s food cake mix
½ cup semisweet chocolate pieces
¼ cup dark rum
½ cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or whatever nut you like)
Heat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour 13x9x2 baking pan.
In large sauce pan, cook pudding and pie filling as directed. Blend dry cake mix through into the hot pudding, beating by hand or mixer 1 to 2 minutes. Add rum. Sprinkle batter with nut and chocolate pieces.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Test with a wooden tooth pick inserted in the center, if it comes out clean, cake is done. Serve warm or cooked with whipped cream.