The beating of the batter and the caramelising of the brown sugar was time consuming, sometimes involving more than one family member taking turns to get it to the right consistency.
Done just right and the result would be a rich, rum soaked indulgence that is the dessert of choice on every Trinbagonian Christmas menu.
Although we like to claim it as our own, black cake is actually a seasonal favourite throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. Actually, it is a culinary reflection of our colonial past, descended from the British plum pudding.
As popular as it is, who has time to bake a real Christmas cake these days? There is no need to go through the rigmarole of baking the customary Christmas fruit cake. To take some stress out of the season, many busy housewives have started a new tradition – ordering their speciality Christmas dessert – the good old black cake.
Kiss Baking Company has taken advantage of this niche market, creating a special line of fruit cakes intended to make life easier for most households. The cakes are made to order and taste almost like the traditional cake. However, for anyone who still craves the real thing but wants to avoid the hassle of all that preparation and baking, there are many individuals who are making authentic Trini black cakes to order.
One of them is Patricia Dalrymple, a caterer with more than 20 years experience.
“It is true that a lot of people are ordering their Christmas goodies these days. It’s really more convenient. They can find everything on a shelf — seasoned turkey, seasoned chicken, their ponche de creme, sorrel and even their fruit cakes and black cakes,” said Dalrymple.
“I make various types of cakes to order. I even do various types of jams and chow chows, which are a hit year round but especially around Christmas time. My customers still get the long time flavours because I make it the traditional way,” she said.
“Long ago I had to soak the salt butter to make the cake and wash out all the salt until it got light and fluffy before focussing on the other ingredients. It was a joy to do it. I never studied the hassle.
“These days I guess everyone is busy and they have no time for baking. For me it is really a joy to prepare all these goodies for my wide range of customers,” Dalrymple said.
“When you soak your fruits and you get ready for your preparations you actually start to smell Christmas, you don’t smell Christmas all that much as like long ago.”
If you still want to do it yourself, or just haven’t had time to place that order. Here is the recipe:
Trinidad Black Cake
1 lb butter (use margarine
1 lb sugar
1 tsp lemon essence
2 tsp lime rind (zested)
2 tsp almond essence
2 tsp vanilla
1 lb all-purpose flour (use 1/2
cassava flour + 1/2 lb rice
flour for gluten-free)
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
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 lb brown sugar
1/2 cup boiling hot water
Have on Hand:
1 more bottle of rum
Three to Five Days Before:
Up to five days before you make the cake, chop up all the fruits for the fruit base. Place in a large bowl, pour in Angostura bitters, cherry brandy and rum.
Leave in a cool corner, covered, to soak up the liquor.
3-5 days before is the best option, 24 hours minimum if you must be “so last-minute”!
On the Day Of:
Blend Fruit Base
Burn sugar until caramelised, add hot water gradually. Mix well and leave to cool.
Please be extra careful at this stage as a “browning” burn is NOT a fun thing!
1. Preheat oven to 250F (no that’s not a typo)
2. Cream the butter and sugar.
3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate
4. Add lemon essence, lemon zest, almond essence and vanilla
5. Mix and sift flour, baking powder, mixed spice and nutmeg.
6. Gradually add sifted ingredients to creamed mixture
7. Mix in fruit base puree and “browning”
8. Pour batter into greased tins that have been doubly lined with brown paper or parchment paper
9. Bake for three hours
10. Once removed from the oven soak the tops with equal portions of the remaining bottle of rum.