In part one of this black cake making recipe we focused on preparing the aromatic fruits we’ll be using to give the cake it truly unique Caribbean flavor. Black cake is one of those desserts you’ll find in just about every Caribbean home during the Christmas holidays and as we’ve discussed in part 1, just about everyone does things a bit different. This black cake recipe is one which takes me back to my childhood in Trinidad and Tobago as we all (brothers and sisters) assisted my mom in making these the night before Christmas. Besides the scent of freshly painted walls, varnished floors, new curtains and bed sheets… the tempting fragrance out of the oven leading up to and including Christmas day is one of pure joyful memories for me. Cake, bread, bake pork and the smoked ham.
Let’s get baking…
2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 lb)
1 cup brown sugar
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon mixed essence
4-5 cups dried fruits (puree/soaked)
2 cups allpurpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon browning (see note below)
1 teaspoon lime zest (grated)
dash of angostura bitters (optional) and a pinch of salt
Note: The browning required to give the cake the dark rich color and Caribbean flavor is not your typical gravy browning. It’s a Caribbean style burnt sugar browning. Its consistency will be similar to molasses (thick). You can source this at any West Indian grocery store or you can make your own if you prefer.
* Make sure the eggs are room temperature and the butter is soft.
* if you prefer to use granulated sugar instead of the brown sugar I mentioned, by all means do so. This is just my preference.
We’ll start off by creaming the butter and sugar until you have a fluffy and smooth consistency. You will also notice that the color will become more pale as you cream the butter. This is one of those times you’ll be thankful if you have a standing mixers. we don’t own one (Santa, please bring Chris a Kitchen Aid for Christmas. please boss), so in a large bowl I put the sugar and butter and using my handy hand mixer I went to work. Back in the old days I remember it was my dads job to do this with a large spoon. Mr Man was old school.
After you have a smooth and fluffy batter base, it’s time to start adding the eggs. Remember to have them at room temperature for best results, add one at a time and mix it thoroughly. Tip : Crack each egg into a small bowl first so you can fish out any shell if any pieces fall in.. this way you’re not diving in the batter for it)
After you’ve added and worked in all the eggs, it’s time to add the vanilla, bitters, mixed essence and lime zest and give it a good mix. Seeing that I was using a hand mixer I added the soaked fruits in two batches to make less work for the mixer. I added 3 cups, worked it in with a spatula, then gave it a good mix with the hand mixer.. then repeated with the other 2 cups of fruits. I now had the ‘wet’ batter completely mixed.
By now you’ll start getting that wonderful scent of cake batter, spiced by the wonderful soaked fruits. Now it’s time to work with the dry ingredients, then combine everything. In another bowl I placed the flour, pinch of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg (if you have freshly grated that would work best) allspice and baking powder. Give that a good mix and I would even suggest sifting to really have it mix evenly. We’ll now start adding the dry ingredients to the wet batter, but do so in 1/3 amounts (so three times). To make mixing easier and to allow for even mixing.
With the batter completely mixed, it’s time to add the browning (see note above about type) and time to give the entire batter it’s final mix.
You’ll have enough batter here for 2 round pans (10-12 inches) or as in my case I used 3 disposable rectangle pans. Not only did I grease then, I also lined them with parchment paper to avoid any issues when they were done baking (to remove them). I got the pans in the dollar store and I like the fact that they came with lids, so I could easily seal them when they were cooled. Great for giving as Christmas gifts.
Pour in enough batter to 2/3 up the pan and place in a preheated 250 F oven for 2.5 hours. Since your oven will differ from mine, I suggest you give the cake the toothpick test after the 2.5 hrs to see if it’s fully baked. In the video below I explain this. If it’s not fully cooked, put it back in for another 20-30 minutes. I baked mine on the middle shelf of my oven if you’re wondering and it was completely baked after 2.5 hours.
After you remove the cakes from the oven allow it to cool for a bit, then you can brush a mixture of rum and sherry over it and allow it to soak through the cake. This will give it that added kick! Trust meh!
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.