In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

How To Make Caribbean Black Cake Part 1.


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.

You’ll Need…

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.

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28 Comments

  1. January 14, 2019 / 1:53 pm

    When I lived in B’dos I would look forward to their Black cake- couldn’t get the recipe. I found a recipe for a traditional english christmas cake which I use, soaking the fruit in RUM for about 6 months before baking the cake. My mum and brother both swear that it tastes just like the black cake and a friend of mine from Guyana said the same when I gave her some last Christmas. I shall try your recipe also.

  2. Brandon J. Li
    January 16, 2018 / 4:57 pm

    The fruit alone is addictive and will make anything taste great. Ummm also loved the Cake and will make this year round 🙂

  3. Merle
    September 22, 2017 / 9:51 am

    Hi Chris,
    Thank you for the recipe how to prepare mix fruits. I want to make a black/ fruit cake with this recipe. How much flour, baking power, essence ect should I put.

    Thanks Merle

  4. Prim
    May 14, 2016 / 6:19 pm

    What can I use to substitute the Cherry

    • Tamika
      December 23, 2016 / 6:29 am

      cherry? the fruit or the brandy? if its the fruit you can use anyhitng. you dont HAVE to put cherries. for the cherry brandy he uses sherry here and ive seen people say the use other strong fruit wines or like port or something.

  5. Tracy
    September 8, 2015 / 4:51 pm

    Is this recipe more like the Jamaican rum cake or the Costa Rican black cake? I do not like Jamaican rum cake. I hope someone has an answer for me

  6. sisterj
    July 10, 2015 / 3:53 pm

    You can substitute the alcohol for grape juice. It works that’s what my mom use when she is baking the black cake.

  7. P taffe
    June 14, 2015 / 2:11 am

    I would love to try this however I dont drink alcohol is there a way to substitute the alcohol?

  8. VUVM
    December 15, 2014 / 5:06 am

    Hello fellow bakers, this is the first time I am attempting the fruit cake. I got a bit overzealous a few months ago and soaked a whole batch of fruit (more that 1lb of each). Now I am looking for a recipe that tells me how much exactly of the soaked fruit to add. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • VUVM
      December 15, 2014 / 5:20 am

      I found it in PART 2. Thanks

  9. Reeva
    December 7, 2014 / 11:52 am

    Sherry is white wine mixed with brandy. Port is red wine mixed with brandy (as learned from my time working with a major Canadian wine store). They aren’t so far off from Cherry Wine/Brandy. I used 74 (brand) Port for MORE richness to soak my fruits, a bit of XM and a dash of Grand Marnier soaked all the above fruits for 3 months in glass jars. 🙂

  10. susan
    October 3, 2014 / 6:02 pm

    I love black cake. I never measure the fruit, I just use what I like in any amount. I also use dates and apricots NEVER MIXED PEEL. Mine was soaking from January. I use whatever liquor I have, brandy, white/brown rum, port wine, falernum, manichevitz wine. My cake mix is now due for a little more liquid love. For the actual cake I add peanut butter, veg. shortening and chopped almonds/walnuts. I then bake cake the bain marie way.

    PS this mixture makes a very wicked fruit cake – you can smell it coming, just add some to yellow cake mixture.

  11. john martin
    September 8, 2014 / 4:57 pm

    Hi Chris I first had black cake on a visit to St Lucia ten years ago, from there we went on to St Vincent where my wife is from and sampled the black cake her family make . Different from the St lucia cake but equally as tasty. My father was a master baker and confectioner so I picked up a lot of his skills, one of which was wedding cakes and other celebration cakes so after that visit all my cakes were made from the black cake recipe which I have adapted to my own idea. I soak my minced fruit for about four months in dark rum as supplied to the British Royal Navy (in which I served for twelve years)and vintage port wine. I also use dates as well as prunes and the other fruit in your recipe. When ready to make the cake I use the darkest muscavado sugar I can get and a generous amount of molasses. I already have fruit soaking for Christmas cakes.

  12. Lynne Skerritt
    September 4, 2014 / 9:14 am

    I seem to recall my Mum use to soak the raisins in rum for a couple weeks before – and HER cake was to die for!!

  13. Pauline Morgan
    July 23, 2014 / 1:43 am

    Thank you Chris for your delicious recipes. I will be trying out this version of black cake. I usually use more raisins than prunes and about half the mixed peel that you use. I have not yet found the perfect recipe… this could be the one. I will give you an update.

    Thanks.

  14. Gary
    May 7, 2014 / 5:36 pm

    I use 4 pounds of mixed dried fruit–prunes, dates, cherries, raisins–whatever, and 1/2 pound of almonds. They are ground in the food processor with 1 1/2 bottles total of dark rum and brandy. I store in a large covered plastic box for at least two months—more is better. Then I use half the mixture with —

    1 # creamed butter
    1# brown sugar
    10 eggs
    1 # flour
    1t vanilla
    1t cinnamon
    1/2t ground clove
    1/2 a nutmeg grated
    1t baking powder
    some burnt sugar–maybe 3T

    Mix and bake in a buttered and floured bread pans until an inserted knife comes out clean–about 1hour 10 min.
    Cool for a few minutes, remove from pans and place on parchment paper with foil underneath. Start pouring rum or brandy on each until the cakes are nearly saturated. When fully cool, wrap in the paper and foil. After a week, I drizzle more liquor.
    I let the cakes sit for at least two months before starting to slice and serve.

    With all the liquor, these cakes will last for a long long time and improve with age. Secondly, a tiny slice is sufficient if you want to stay reasonably sober 🙂

  15. Phyll
    March 1, 2014 / 8:03 pm

    just a question when you store your mix have you considered using mason jars?…with the mason jars you sort of “lock” in the flavors but with added safety….

  16. Delia Sookhoo
    January 16, 2014 / 7:03 pm

    Hi Chris!

    Normally i veer from the traditional Trini way of making fruitcake, I must admit i have ah sweet mouth. So I normally add an extra 1/2 pound of cherry just rough chopped when making d cake and i must admit it hits the spot with a glass ah spiked sorrel!
    Trini to d bone!
    Delia…

  17. Linda
    October 29, 2013 / 7:12 am

    I keep a (very large) bottle of fruit going all the time. After I use what I need for my cake/ice cream etc I chop more fruit and add to the jar and turn the whole lot over to mix in the new fruit. I top up with any left over wine from dinners etc and the occasional cup of rum through out the year as it does evaporate slowly over time. My current bottle has been going for about 25 years when I first got my family’s recipe handed on to me by my Dad. I can dip out fruit anytime and it’s ready for use.

    • Kiddy
      April 20, 2014 / 10:51 am

      I keep my fruit soaking all year round. Usually whole though as sometimes I make a fruit cake, not a black cake at various time of the year. This makes a great fruit cake. When I make the black cake, I then out the amount of fruit being used in the food processor. I also use any left over wine I have. I look forward to part two of this.

  18. anne marie
    September 17, 2013 / 5:06 pm

    Hi Keva! If you cannot get the lemon peel, you could use some freshly grated orange zest. ( about 3 teaspoons)

  19. Keva
    August 3, 2013 / 3:29 pm

    I’m having hard time finding lemon peel and mixed essence in the carribean stores in west palm beach any suggestions

    • Emelia C.
      June 1, 2014 / 11:14 am

      Keva, you could try the Caribbean restaurants. Sometimes they try to cater to the islanders. Also, buy two lemons (firm), wash and dry them. Grate the yellow into a plate; try not to grate the white. Take a fork and scrape the zest from the grater. It’s fresh and you get to save a few dollars.
      Emelia

  20. Nay
    April 12, 2013 / 12:18 pm

    I just made my cake. I could not find my Dad recipe., he called and I noticed that my Dad recipe and yours was very similar. I just wanted to say I appreciate your cake recipe and it is a Great step by step guide to making a Rum Cake etc.

  21. pjcim1960
    February 13, 2013 / 10:21 pm

    Hi Chris~
    Well, I'm about ready to make this delious Black Cake. But I have a question. If I make only half the cake batter recipe, will I loose anything in the transition? Or would you suggest that I only make the whole recipe? We are only 2 ppl in this family, but Im hoping that I can give some to family & friends to try b/4 Christmas to get feedback.

  22. P.J.
    January 2, 2013 / 9:26 pm

    Hi Chris~
    I keep viewing the youtube vid. Could you help me out with one thing. When you mention that we need 1 lb of mixed peel, what kind of mixed peel, like orange peel, grapefriut peel? could you be referring to the citris peel that one finds in the grocery store in a container? (all pre-cut for ya). I am so dyeing to make this recipe. i love fruit cake, but i wanted it to be extra special. do you think if i soak the fruit for a month it will be ok, as apposed to a year? I want to make this waaaaaay before christmas so i can try it out on fam/friends. oh! i forgot to ask, could i put dried appricots in as well?
    and about the sheery, i'm not a sherry drinker, however could i try to purchase a "Cherry Sherry" OR could you reccomend another type of booze.. yayyyyyy, just as long as it has the second booze.. I really dont know what to purchase. sorry to make this email so long, but i need to have all my ducks in a row b/4 i start.. Happy New Year!!

  23. mervene
    October 29, 2012 / 12:10 pm

    I like to put some chopped almonds in mine (not my moms recipe)

    • P.J.
      January 10, 2013 / 5:25 pm

      Hi Mervene,
      P.J. here, asking how was your cake. I am in the process of purchasing all the ingredients, being a senior cit. i need to get some coins ahead. I really cant wait to make this black cake. Now have you made this b/4? Let me know & if u have some tips it GREATLY appreciated. Chat soon… P.J.

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