Like sorrel, Black Cake in Trinidad is a Christmas institution. Made predominantly of alcohol drenched prunes, currants and raisins, variations abound (and I love taste testing when we make the visiting rounds). Still, the best black cake is always the recipe that one grew up with. In this case my black cake comes from my aunt, who also uses this recipe to make grooms’ cakes for weddings (in Trinidad these are also traditionally black cake).
You’ll notice the insane amount of liquour that goes into this dessert. Not only does that make the final cake unbelievably moist it also renders it virtually ageless. My aunt makes a batch of these at xmas time, keeps them in ‘old time cake tins’ and even in July and August we are still eating the remnants!
Trinidad Black Cake
1 lb unsalted butter (use margarine for pareve)
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 5 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 (I use Bailey’s when I have extra $$$ and it really makes it extra special :)). Leave in a cool corner, covered, to soak up the liquor. As I said 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:
I pour the soaked fruit and juices into a blender and blend until thick and still a bit chunky (like tomato sauce). Note: If you have been macerating your fruit for a minimum of a month in advance you can skip this step
Burn sugar until caramelized, 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!
Once that is done…
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 3 hours
10. Once removed from the oven soak the tops with equal portions of the remaining bottle of rum. Don’t be surprised if the top of the cake starts to look pale and ‘weird’. Kinda like below
Believe me, after several hours, and definitely by the next day all that alcohol will be absorbed and you will finally understand how this cake got its name!
NOTE: For those who avoid alcohol for religious or personal reasons, soaking can be done using grape or apple juice! Thanks to Chennette for that tip! You can find her recipe for non-alcoholic halaal Trinidad Black cake here.
This post was originally published November 26, 2006. It has been updated three times since.
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