Baked Holiday Cheer

Albers alum cooks up business selling homemade rum cakes

Written by Annie Beckmann
Photography by Chris Joseph Taylor
November 30, 2011

The Seattle Rum Cake Company is gearing up to quash that perennial Christmas curse also known as fruitcake.
The answer to the dense fruit and nut loaf is rum cake, baked with care and love by Pat Hershey and sold by her son, Jason Hershey, a 2006 Albers graduate.

Seattle Rum Cake Company is a true family operation. Mom Pat has tinkered with her rum cake recipe for more than 30 years. Jason saw the potential to make it a business. Even sister Jackie helps out with the company's website.
Armed with a degree in finance and economics and a full-time career with an accounting firm, Jason put together a business plan to sell his mom’s specialty cakes.

“When I looked at the numbers, I knew there were easier ways to make money,” he says. “But there was something special about these cakes.”

Over the years, he watched as his mom baked hundreds of rum cakes at Christmastime and cheerfully gave them away to family, friends and co-workers, especially those of dad James Hershey, ’77, a lieutenant with the Bellevue Police Department. Pat says it was not unusual for her husband to give away a hundred or more of the rum cakes during the Christmas season. Jason saw this as an opportunity as golden as the rum cakes themselves. So, nearly three years ago, he and Pat searched out a licensed kitchen and sent the cake off to a lab for nutrition information and alcohol testing. (To adhere to the requirements of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the rum cakes cannot contain more than one percent of alcohol.)

Pat’s rum cake recipe harks back to a friend of her mother’s in Japan, although Pat has refined it over the years to make it her own. It’s rich, dense and buttery, not unlike a pound cake that has been laced with rum and topped with chopped pecans—a festive, wreath-shaped treat that’s a good fit for the season.

When not baking her rum cakes, Pat by day takes people’s finger prints, a business she started more than 20 years ago while also working at the Bellevue Police Department.

This Jesuit-educated family continues to be influenced by Jesuit values, even when it comes to their tasty concoctions. There’s a community page on the company website that reads, “Cake this good is worth sharing.” For every cake they sell, the family is committed to doing something good for the community.

The Hersheys say they have made more donations than sales. You may have spotted their rum cakes at the Seattle University Crab Feed organized by the Albers Alumni Board in early spring. And there were the 20 rum cakes that raised a whopping $1,000 at a performance by Orchestra Seattle and the Seattle Chamber Singers, where Jason plays violin.

A classic rum cake or a batch of six mini rum cakes (suitable for tucking into Christmas stockings) sells for $30. A large classic one is $38. At this point, they’re only available online.

Albers alum Jason Hershey saw a business opportunity in his mom's homemade rum cakes.
The dense, buttery rum cakes have proven to be a sweet business success for Jason Hershey and his family.