How to make rum-soaked Caribbean black cake
“In Trinidad, when you’re invited to someone’s home over the holidays, you’ll inevitably be asked if you’d like some black cake, typically accompanied with a drink like sorrel,” says Andrew McBarnett, co-founder of Neale’s Sweet N’ Nice. “It would be impolite to decline … even if you’ve already visited five houses previously!”
Neale’s is best known for ice cream rooted in a Trinidadian family legacy, but this festive season, the Toronto-based company is branching into a new line of baked goods, including the rich, rumsoaked cake that’s a sentimental favourite across the Caribbean. Making it is both a tradition and a ritual, McBarnett explains, since it involves marinating a mix of dried fruit in liquor for weeks or months.
“Each family has their own secret recipe for making their Christmas cake — that’s the beauty of it,” says Rosemarie Wilson, Neale’s cofounder and McBarnett’s aunt, recalling that her mom would begin prepping the fruit as early as September for baking in December. Read on for the how-to, but remember it’s adaptable according to your tastes, from the specific mix of fruit and spices you use to the boozy concoction you soak it in.
If you prefer to leave the baking to others, you can order Neale’s Caribbean black cake, available for a limited run at sweetnnice.ca (for delivery in the GTHA).
Caribbean Black Cake
“It’s said that black cake is an adaptation of the European plum pudding that was brought to the Caribbean in the 1800s by British colonizers. It was improved upon with ingredients and spices local to each island and infused with Caribbean spirit. Literally. We take the dried fruit mixture and soak it in our favourite rum and wine blend, sometimes adding in port or sherry. The black cake is a very popular culinary symbol across the Caribbean and is often present at family celebrations, Christmas holidays and weddings.” —LaTisha Brown, director of baked goods at Neale’s Sweet N’ Nice
For the fruit and rum mixture
350 grams dried fruit such as raisins, prunes, currants, glazed cherries, or mixed peel like candied lemon, orange or pineapple, but there are no rules
150 mL dark Jamaican rum such as Appleton, J. Wray & Nephew, or rum of your choice
150 mL sweeter red wine, or blend of port and sherry
Months or weeks ahead of baking day, set aside the dried fruit in a jar and add just enough rum and wine to cover the fruit. As the fruit soaks up the liquid over time, you can add more rum and wine.
For the cake batter
230 grams softened butter 220 grams brown sugar
400 grams flour
2 tsps (10 mL) baking powder 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp (15 mL) burnt sugar (available at West Indian stores) 1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 mL) nutmeg
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 tsp (5 mL) almond extract
Using a mixer or hand blender, cream together the butter and brown sugar.
One at a time, add each egg to the batter while mixing in between to blend and incorporate thoroughly. Set aside.
In a blender, puree the soaked fruit. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and almond extract. Add burnt sugar. Blend all ingredients thoroughly.
Add fruit puree mixture to the cake batter and mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to the wet batter and mix well. Pour into two 7-inch greased cake pans.
To achieve a moist, puddinglike cake texture, use a “water bath”: place each cake pan inside a larger dish filled halfway with water for the entire baking process.
Bake for one hour at 300°F (150°C), then turn down to 250°F (120°C) for 30 additional minutes or until done.
Once the cake has cooled, you can add more rum and wine on top for extra flavour.