I still recall my dad getting instructions from our mom when it was his job to grind the fruits for preserving in making black cake. He had to adjust the mill the right coarseness for the consistency of the final fruit mixture to be perfect, or my mom would have an ear-full for him. I don’t think he cared much as he would sample the rum and cherry brandy during the process for that mellow state of mind. As we got older, this job became ours (I still have a love for prunes as I’m sure my mom’s recipe had about 1/4 lb less prunes than what she started off with)… if only I could convince our daughters to help me!
Black cake, rum cake, fruit cake… yea, it’s well known throughout the Caribbean and I can bet my last dollar that no two recipes are the same. Our grandmother’s cake is uniquely different than our mom’s and I’m sure when my mom sample the cake I sent for her.. she’ll notice that it’s nothing like hers. Please use the recipe below as a guide to come up with your own unique twist to this most loved cake and do get your children and loved ones involved. It’s a wonderful feeling to have the entire family involved… ladies, have your girlfriends over for a girls nite and you could all have your fruits ready for black cake making.
Today we’ll spend some time preparing the fruits we’ll be using in the actual black cake recipe, as it’s important for the fruit to soak or marinate for at least a month before it’s ready for making the batter for the black cake. In some cases I know people who do this step as soon as the use the fruits and have it soak for a full year until it’s Christmas time again.
dark rum 2 cups (try to get a spiced rum)
sherry 4 cups
prunes 1 lb (pitted)
mixed peel 1 lb
raisins 1/2 lb
maraschino cherry 1/2 lb
lemon peel 1/4 lb
* Traditionally cherry wine or cherry brandy (an alcoholic drink unique to the Caribbean) is used along with rum, but I used Sherry instead since it was the only option I had available. In all honesty, the Sherry gave it a wonderful rounded fruity flavor which I quite liked. Additionally, I used a dark spiced rum which complimented the overall bouquet I was looking for. Remember you can always tailor this to your own taste by adding any other dried fruits you may like.
I’ll be using a food processor to mince or puree the fruits, but if you’re old school and want to use a food mill.. do your thing. We’ll start by giving the prunes a rough chop to make it easier for the food processor and it also allows us to verify that each prune is truly seedless. Prunes are a favorite snack of mine and to this day I remember the look on Caron’s face the first time we went grocery shopping as a couple and I picked up a bag proudly in the store. I didn’t realize that in North America, prunes are associated with constipation…. even the young girl in the checkout gave me a sort of weird look.
The next step is basically to put everything into the food processor and to add about a cup or two of the rum/sherry into it and puree to help the processor. The consistency is totally up to you. I started giving it a few pulses (just to get things going), then I had it run until I got a thick but smooth consistency (with a little chunkiness). Some of you may like to actually get little bits of the fruit when the cake is made, so keep an eye on the consistency.
The next step is to pour the entire mixture into a large bowl and add the rest of the rum and sherry. Give it a good stir to make sure the fruit absorbs all the liquor goodness and get ready to place it all into a container which can be sealed. I used a glass bottle.
Using a large spoon I poured everything into the glass bottle I purchased (cleaned) especially for this purpose as it can be reused yearly.
If you prefer you can always “soak” the fruits without pureeing and do that step the day you’re actually making the cake, but I find that not only is it more convenient to have this step done in advance, but the fruits seems to absorb all that rum flavor and goodness much better when everything is pureed. This can be stored in any cool dark spot in your kitchen or pantry.
In the next step to making the black cake, we’ll go though the making of the dough and the actual baking of the cake itself. You can always refer to the video below for help in preparing the fruits for making this Caribbean black cake.
Note: The longer you allow the fruits to ‘soak’ or marinate the more flavor it will absorb and it will make for a more rounded and fruity cake. This explains why most people go though this step as soon as they use the preserved fruits and allow the new batch to marinate for a full year. I must also warn you that if you were to open this bottle during the ‘soaking’ period, you’ll be tempted by the lovely aroma.. to grab a spoon and eat some.