Not your average holiday fruitcake, black cake is a delectable cake filled with rum and fruit. It sounds simple, but creating it is an arduous task that requires patience and more than a week of soaking a variety of fruit in dark rum before baking. Trinidadians take pride in their black cake and are specific about how it must taste and look. The recipe calls for an entire bottle of rum used to soak the fruit, plus a bottle of cherry brandy, in conjunction with the ingredients that make the cake rise. The cake gets its name from the black color, which results from burning the sugar.
The tradition of black cake during Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Trinidad comes from the British plum puddings or fruitcakes that can be dated back as far as the 19th century. Variations of the cake have been passed down for generations with minor changes throughout the years, including the soaking of the fruit in spirits for days. The variations differ throughout the Caribbean, from the amount of flour, eggs, spices or butter is used, to how long the spirits must be soaked in the fruits prior to baking. Because of this, there is a rivalry between the Caribbean islands about who makes the best black cake. Trinidadians will, of course, say that theirs is far better than any other. I have to say I concur.
Here’s my favorite black cake recipe:
1 lb. pitted prunes
1 lb. raisins
1 lb. currants
1 bottle cherry brandy
1 bottle rum and/or Bailey’s
2 tbsp. Angostura bitters
1/4 cup of chopped Almonds is optional
1 lb. brown sugar
1/2 cup boiling hot water
1 lb. unsalted butter
1 lb. sugar
8 whole eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup browning
3 tbsp. Molasses
4 lbs. of grinded fruits
1 lb. all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
Have on Hand:
1 more bottle of rum (750ml)
Blend Fruit base together and grind with cherry brandy, rum and bitters until the mixture is consistent. Weigh out 4 pounds of mixture and set aside.
Place brown sugar in sauce pan and heat until sugar begins to caramelize and turn a golden brown color. When all the crystals are melted, carefully add boiling water while constantly stirring. Bring mixture back up to a boil before removing from heat. Allow to cool and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix cream butter and sugar until light in color (about 20mins).
Meanwhile sift all dry ingredients and set aside.
Add in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.
Mix in browning and molasses along with the 4 lbs. of ground fruit mixture.
Gently fold in dry ingredients until all the flour is incorporated.
Place mixture in lined baking pan or half sheet pan and bake at 325F for 30 minutes or until cake pulls from the sides of the pan.
When removing from oven, immediately pour rum or brandy onto cake to lock in the moistness.
This recipe was submitted by the Hyatt Regency Trinidad’s executive chef Fernando Franco and his team, which are members of this year’s ‘Caribbean National Team of the Year’ at Taste of the Caribbean in Miami.