Rum Balls — So Easy, So Pretty, So Delicious

rum balls in gift box

It’s December 23rd. I’ll keep this brief. Rum balls are delicious. They are perfect for a crowd. They are perfect as a gift. They are perfect little bites of boozy goodness. I can’t think of a more perfect treat to have on hand this time of year.

What’s more, the batter takes all of about 5 minutes to whip up (if you have a food processor) and shaping, about 20 minutes more. I’m certainly not trying to make more work for you, but if you’re still on the prowl for one more treat to add to your dessert spread or if you need a last-minute host/hostess gift or if you just plain forgot to make rum balls this year, there’s still time. Get busy. You won’t be sorry you did.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Also, just a reminder, if you’re interested in winning Food52′s Holiday Recipe and Survival Guide iPad app and haven’t yet left a comment offering your entertaining advice, do so here.

rum balls

Feeding rum balls to small children is probably not advisable. Ella, however, was never happier:
Ella, sneaking a rum ball

Rum Balls
Yield = 40

3+ cups vanilla wafers (I ended up using a whole box (12 oz))
1+ cups confectioners sugar (plus more for rolling)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons white corn syrup
2/3 cup rum

1. Place vanilla wafers in a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. There might be a few large pieces that don’t catch the blade at this step, but they’ll eventually end up getting pulverized, so don’t worry. (Alternatively, place vanilla wafers into a Ziploc bag and bash them with a rolling pin until they are fine pieces).

2. Add confectioners sugar, cocoa and corn syrup and pulse till combined. At this step, you could do one of two things:

A. Add all of the rum and pulse, which will likely leave you with a mixture that is too wet to form into balls, and which will require you to add more vanilla wafers and perhaps more confectioners sugar. This is what I did, and I ended up correcting the texture by adding all of the remaining vanilla wafers from the box as well as a 1/4 cup more confectioners sugar.

or B. Slowly add the rum to the food processor until the mixture comes together and you are able to form small little balls using a teaspoon. This is what I’ll do the next time I make them.

3. Using a teaspoon (I used a measuring spoon teaspoon), scoop out balls from the processor, roll them gently with your hands into irregular shaped balls, and drop them into a plate (or shallow tupperware) filled with a thin layer of powdered sugar. Shake the vessel to coat the balls, then transfer balls to storage container until you are ready to serve them. I store mine in the fridge — not sure this is necessary, but I like the texture the rum balls get once they are chilled a bit.

Notes: When I first began forming the balls, I used a mini scoop — it’s one that I find perfect for making truffles. It was not working so perfectly with this dough, which is a little stickier than truffle dough (batter? whatever you want to call it). If you have one of these scoops, you could try using it, but I had better luck just using a teaspoon.

rum balls


  1. says

    That’s interesting – in Australia rum balls are always made with leftover Christmas pudding and cake, so I was wondering how it was done in fruitcake-averse America. Vanilla wafers! That must taste quite different to the ones I’ve had. They look good!

  2. lizzie says

    OMG you have done it again ! And they only took four minutes to make – absolutely wonderful. I used Black and Greens cocoa and Lyles Golden Syrup. I measured the rum in 1/3 cups and you are right – I only used half of the second 1/3 and they were perfect.
    Genius ! Thanks so again.
    I made the Christmas pudding truffles this year a la NIgella. More practical for the U.K. and Australia Christmas I think.

  3. says

    Ali, these look delicious! I’ll be making these for New Years Eve! Merry Christmas!
    And I love the shot of Ella reaching for one… adorable!

  4. Jani says

    i just made them, they’re wonderful, and as simple as they are,I still managed to make a total wreck of my kitchen!

    Can’t find vanilla wafers or corn syrup where I live, so I substituted ladyfingers and palm syrup, and they worked wonderfully. Amazing how so little cocoa goes so far in flavoring them.

    I don’t have a food processor either, so I used my trusty old blender, and made the recipe by halves since the ol’ blender won’t handle so much volume. For the second half, I dumped the syrup in too fast and had to pour everything out into a bowl to mix it properly. Then I tried mixing in the rum while still in the bowl, and it seemed like all went well, but then they wouldn’t form balls because the dough was too loose. So I dumped the whole thing back into the blender container and gave it a few whirls, and that altered the texture so it formed balls perfectly. (Maybe you can see why my kitchen was a mess when I finished…)

    Now they’re cooling in the fridge while I get ready for the dinner party. They’ll make a beautiful hostess gift. Thanks and Merry Christmas all!

  5. Jill says

    I have made these for years as did my mom (who once took them to a southern baptist womens bible study 😉 they all left happy ). A family tradition in my home.

  6. Anna says

    Wonder what it would taste like using real maple syrup instead of the “not good for you” corn syrup?? Ever tried it?

    • says

      Anna — I know, corn syrup, it’s never an ingredient I’m proud of using. Definitely worth a shot, but I have no experience trying thus far. Report back if you make any discoveries.

  7. Connie says

    Hi I saw the last post about corn syrup… in stead of maple syrup , because I think it may change the taste try honey.. im wondering also if I wanted to try them with out the chocolate or cocoa, can I use a vanilla flavoring? I cant wait to make these too late tonight im too tired but it will be the first thing I make tomorrow!!


    • says

      Connie, hi! I think vanilla will be delicious. You might just have to add a few more vanilla wafers (or confectioners’ sugar or something like almond flour) to make up for the two tablespoons of cocoa powder. Just remember to add the rum or bourbon slowly! You probably won’t need it all to get the right consistency.

    • says

      Oh, I hope they did! Did you end up adding all of the rum at once? This usually causes the dough to be a bit too sticky. When this happens, I just correct with more confectioners’ sugar and wafers. Hope they turned out OK!

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