Before I get to the recipe I would like to thank all the wonderful readers of my blog, especially those people who have taken the time to send me such wonderful emails telling me how much you love my blog and sharing your story with me. You inspire me and I promise to not disappoint you in the new year!
Due to an overwhelming number of requests for this recipe (one), I now present the auspicious and truly ubiquitous Trinidad black cake..... The Caribbean-rum-fruit-cake that trumps all other cakes. What makes it so special, so beloved? You can say that it’s the fruits, the butter or the sugar, but I am convinced that it’s the rum. The rum elevates it to a level that makes you giddy with happiness. No wonder Trinidad was named the happiest country in the world.
This cake was soaked slightly. The color of the cake darkens as more of the rum and wine mixture is poured on.....
Even the non-alcohol drinker (a sip makes me drunk) like me makes an exception or two over the holidays and it's not uncommon to have a slice for breakfast at work. It makes for a very happy day.
I spoke to many people over the years to extract their secret to making this cake. One cousin does not add baking powder and the result is soft, almost pudding-like. Many online recipes call for 8 eggs. Most of the best bakers I spoke to in Trinidad uses 12. “Use a pong (pound) of everything and just average the odder ingredients”, they recommend. No one had a precise recipe and none of the recipes I reviewed online mentioned that the pound of each fruit along with the entire bottle of rum and wine, called for in many recipes, were not used in its entirety.
I am here to eliminate all the vagaries once and for all. I did all the testing and retesting for you. No more doubts, averaging, trial and error methods. I tested it so many times, that late one night while placing the cherries on one of the many cakes I made, I swore that the cake was moving. It was at that moment, I knew what it felt like to be utterly inebriated.
I settled on a recipe given to me over the phone by my mom’s friend, Aunty Lach. It was aunty Lach’s black cake that I grew up on. Her black cakes would be the benchmark for all the other cakes I would consume in the future. None ever lived up to hers, until now. I translated her “average” measurement and suggestions into the best recipe I could create. It’s simple and in no way daunting.
No black cake introduction is complete without telling you about all those eerie large glass jars of black stuff (currants, prunes, raisins soaked in rum) my mother had hidden under the kitchen sink. I was ordered to not touch, open or smell the contents. I don’t recall her baking black cakes, because her best friends did that for her(Aunty Lach was one), but those jars held their presence for my entire childhood. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are still there under the sink back home, all dusty and connected by cobwebs, waiting for their moment to shine.
Don’t tell her I told you this, but she still has fruits soaking here in NY under the sink somewhere. Last year, I went to her home and made black cake for her with some of the soaked fruits. As of the writing of this post, the lady still hasn’t baked a black cake.
Because of that I grew up thinking that soaking –for years and months--is best technique, until I tasted black cake that was made using fruits pureed the same day. I couldn’t tell the difference. With the introduction of food processors in the kitchen, soaking for months to soften the fruits is no longer required, in my humble opinion. If soaking for months intensifies the flavor of the rum, come eating time, it really doesn’t matter to me.
I halved the original recipe, to make only two not four cakes. I found this amount easier to manage.
I soak only half the fruits in the cup of rum and wine, then add the other half when I am pureeing the fruits, because I like the resulting texture of the cake.
Cakes baked in parchment paper lined tins are easier to remove and serve. It was impossible to remove the cake from the tins I floured and buttered, especially after soaking. I personally like using springform pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.
When the cakes are removed from the oven, they will look like the color of a chocolate cake, but will darken as the rum/wine mixture is poured on.
RIA'S TRINIDAD BLACK CAKE/CARIBBEAN-RUM-FRUIT-CAKE RECIPE
Makes 2 cakes (about 1.5 pounds each)
½ lb butter (2 sticks), room temperature (I used organic sweet cream salted butter), plus more for buttering pans
½ lb organic raw white sugar (1 cup)
5 eggs, room temperature, whisked
4 oz golden or dark raisins (packed 1/3 cup)
4 oz currants (about 1/3 cup)
4 oz prunes (about 1/3 cup)
4 oz mixed (fruit) peel (about 1/3 cup)
1 cup cherry wine (I used Manischewitz)
1 cup red rum (Fernandez black label)
½ lb all-purpose flour (about 1 ½ cups)
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ½ tablespoons browning (also known as burnt sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
1. In a small bowl or measuring cup mix 1 cup of cherry wine and 1 cup of rum.2. In a small glass bowl, add raisins, currants, prunes and mixed fruit peel and 1 cup of rum and wine mixture, reserving the remaining cup to pour over the cake when it's finished baking. Soak fruits for a few hours or overnight…..or weeks or months...or years, whatever makes you happy.
3. When you are ready to bake the cake, puree the fruits (raisins, currants, prunes and mixed peel) in the food processor, along with the liquid it was soaked in, until it is a slightly coarse consistency. It will make about 2 cups. (I pulse about 60 times in the food processor for fruit that has soaked only 3-4 hours. I don't enjoy eating huge chunks of fruits!)
4. Preheat oven to 280 degrees F. Prepare two 8 inch pans, small gift tins or cupcake pans using the usual butter then flour or line with parchment paper. I do not butter the baking tins when using parchment paper since the parchment paper comes all the way to the top of the tin. I trim the excess paper around tin.)
5. In a medium bowl, using an electric beater whisk eggs for about 30 seconds on level 2 speed.
6. In a large bowl or in a kitchen aid stand mixer bowl, using the beater attachment(I also use the whisk when I cannot find the beater attachment!), cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5-10 minutes.
7. Pour eggs into the creamed mixture in a very slow and steady stream until combined.
8. Mix cinnamon and flour and gradually add to creamed mixture (on level 1).
9. Once flour is in, add almond and vanilla extracts, increase to level 4 speed and continue until flour mixture is light, another minute. Remove bowl from stand and scrape down sides and bottom and mix with a spoon to ensure that the batter is evenly and thoroughly combined.
10. Add pureed fruits and browning to batter.
Using a wooden spoon, mix in a brisk, clockwise, whipping motion until thoroughly combined(10-15 times).
11. When oven is hot and pans are ready, add baking powder to batter and mix until just combined.
Immediately place pans on the middle rack in the oven and bake until cakes separates from the sides of the pan or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean, about 45-70 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cake and the size of the pans. You will need to employ your sense of sight and smell to ensure that it does not burn or over bake.
13. Remove cakes from the oven. When cakes are not hot but still slightly warm, pierce with a toothpick and drizzle rum and wine mixture over cake(about 3 tablespoons at a time). Repeat the morning and evening the next day. You may continue to add more wine or rum to your liking. I personally don’t like to collapse and sprawl out on my sofa, bed or desk after eating one slice of cake. The decision is yours!
Enjoy in moderation and for your own sake, DON'T eat black cake and drive!!
Great gift idea...Rum fruit cupcake.
Wishing you a Wonderful New Year!