Ferene Paris Meyer’s Haitian Rum Cake Hits the Menu at Hotel Vermont | Small Pleasures | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Ferene Paris Meyer’s Haitian Rum Cake Hits the Menu at Hotel Vermont

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Ferene Paris Meyer's Haitian Barbancourt Rhum cake at Juniper Bar & Restaurant - JORDAN BARRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • Ferene Paris Meyer's Haitian Barbancourt Rhum cake at Juniper Bar & Restaurant

When Ferene Paris Meyer mixes her Haitian Barbancourt Rhum cakes, she adds her signature heartfelt, storytelling touch to the recipe.

"I'm saying intentions over all these cakes," Paris Meyer said. "For those who get to enjoy this cake, may you find abundance, love, peace of mind."

Paris Meyer is the founder of All Heart Inspirations, a business in which she uses storytelling and food to honor community and culture. Her rum cakes — and all of those intentions — are on the menu at Hotel Vermont's Juniper Bar & Restaurant in Burlington once or twice a month, when she has the capacity to make them.

Her take on the traditional Haitian cake combines 14 ingredients. Haitian vanilla, Rhum Barbancourt Réserve Spéciale dark rum and lime zest flavor a base of evaporated milk, flour, eggs and salted butter.

At Juniper, thick, fluffy, rum-soaked slices are served on a sticky-sweet pool of molasses-rum-toffee sauce topped with a flurry of powdered sugar. Proceeds from the $10 dessert go directly to All Heart Inspirations.

The cake Paris Meyer makes is slightly different from the one she remembers watching her dad make during her childhood: upside-down cake with pineapple and maraschino cherries.

"But there's rum in that, too," Paris Meyer said with a laugh. "When I'm eating Haitian cake, I assume there's rum in it. And when I lick my batter, it reminds me of the batter I would lick with my dad."

The cake got its own round of applause when Paris Meyer served it at her first Feed Your Soul storytelling event in August 2020. From there, she began getting requests to make it for weddings, birthdays and other special occasions.

Ferene Paris Meyer - COURTESY
  • COURTESY
  • Ferene Paris Meyer

Rum cake became one of Paris Meyer's side hustles, reminding her of the Massachusetts Haitian American community where she grew up, where women sold cakes from their homes to "make some means and stay connected to the culture," she said.

"I never had the idea that rum cakes would be something I would be selling as a signature item," Paris Meyer added. "My Haitian community was giving me a foreshadowing."

The Hotel Vermont team started spreading word of the rum cake when Paris Meyer was a vendor at the hotel's annual holiday market in 2020. When she hosted her summer storytelling All Heart in the Park residency in City Hall Park in 2021, she took leftover cake to Juniper's bartenders.

At the hotel's 2021 holiday market, executive chef Doug Paine finally got a taste, and within a couple of days the collaboration was in motion.

Juniper serves the cake with a card explaining the cake's story and the story of All Heart Inspirations.

"[The collaboration] is aligned with my heart and with the intention that I try to put into everything I'm putting out," Paris Meyer said. "If you just see cake, then you're missing the most magic part of it."

Small Pleasures is an occasional column that features delicious and distinctive Vermont-made food or drinks that pack a punch. Send us your favorite little bites or sips with big payoff at food@sevendaysvt.com.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Sweet Intentions"