There’s all the food, the merriment with family and friends and of-course the variety of adult beverages, but nothing SCREAMS Christmas in the Caribbean louder than a thick slice of black fruit/rum cake. I remember mom having her dried fruits soaked in a lethal combination of rum, sherry and cask wine, for months (even a full year at times) and as a family we’d all have a hand in making this Christmas staple. Let’s be clear.. this is NOT black cake, but it’s an excellent substitute for if you want something a little different this holiday season or if you forgot to soak your fruits in advanced (as required for best results).
1 large bread (cubed – remove crust)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups milk (or heavy cream)
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried pineapple
1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup dried papaya
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup pecans
1.5 tablespoon vanilla
1.5 tablespoon mixed essence (optional)
* sherry / cognac 1/2 cup each for soaking the dried fruits – dark rum is the best substitute.
* flour/butter for preparing the baking pan
The first thing we need to do is to soak the dried fruits in the alcohol for a couple hours or best case scenario – over night. Try to chop the dates, pineapple and papaya into small pieces. You can also add or substitute with any of your fav dried fruits.
In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar until you can no longer feel the grit of the sugar, then add the milk, spices, pinch of salt, vanilla and mixed essence. BTW, you’ll need to cube the bread (remove crusts) and spread it onto a baking sheet to air-dry over night (single layer).
Fold in the bread, then go in with the marinated dried fruits (include the alcohol) and add the chopped nuts.
Allow the mixture to soak for about an hour, so the bread absorbs most of the lovely custard we created. The longer you air dry the bread, the more of the custard it will absorb. Remember to stir it every 15 minutes or so.
Preheat your oven to 350 F and butter/flour dust your baking tray (I used a loaf pan) and pour in the bread pudding mixture. Tap-down to ensure it’s somewhat packed in the pan and place it in a hot water bath (see the video below). Basically you’ll place the baking pan with the uncooked bread pudding into a larger (oven proof) pan and pour in hot water (about 1/3 the way up). Then place this into the lower rack in the oven for about 50 minutes.
Please allow the bread pudding to cool completely (I actually chilled mine in the fridge) before removing from the pan and slicing though. You can store any remaining pieces in the fridge for up to about 5 days.
Just as important as helping prepare the Christmas cakes, mom had us busy painting, varnishing and generally scrubbing down every inch of the house. The scent of oil paint and varnish (add NEW curtains) is now one of those scents which takes me back to the Caribbean – Christmas time!