Best of the Worst #1: Trinidadian Christmas Cake or Blackcake – Katy Carruthers

Best of the WorstOh you know it had to happen! The official launch of my “Best of the Worst” series is upon us. Think of this as a Consumer Reports of Island Cuisine if you will. It really bothers me that people seem to think that 3rd World Cuisine has any less stringent standards for the bestowing of a title on a dish. The weird things that I see on websites calling themselves pelau, black cake, jamaican patties, etc. It makes me want to cry. In fact I saw a recipe the other day for doubles (that was wrong) and worse yet was titled Pholourhie! *bangs head on keyboard*

Recently a well-esteemed blogger wrote that any idea of authentic cuisine was ‘racist’, in a post entitled Who Determines If Food Is Authentic? The article and responses were ‘invigorating’ to put it optimistically. My $0.02? Well, I would dare anyone to tell an Italian that he should accept his dishes being called French or Polish or tell a Frenchman that his baguette is really a pumpernickel round. Who determines if food is authentic? The people who have been cooking it in their communities for generations. That’s who! That’s not racism, it’s deference. No one is saying you can’t play around with a formula but please have enough respect for a culture to learn which parts of the recipe are set in stone and which parts are the flexible bits that can be modified while still allowing the dish to retain its ‘title’. Understand that there is a method to our preparations. Even in the simplest dishes there are proportions, so on and such, otherwise please name your dish something else! Anyway I’m making it my mission to -just say no- to these quasi-Caribbean fakeouts, and to alert others so that they know better! 😛

So who has the dubious distinction of being the first inductee to my little hall of shame? *drumroll*
I have chosen Australian Katy Carruthers for her Trinidad Black Cake.
There are so many things wrong with this recipe (and all of the other rip-offs that I have been compiling). Where should I begin? Well from the beginning!

First of all for some reason the website divided her recipe into two different pages. Neither of which is linked to the other. That’s just confusing!

So let’s start with the recipe itself.
She begins with the marination of the chopped fruits. Nice nice … I’m feeling you there … 🙂

175g Seedless Raisins
175g Pitted Prunes
175g Currants
100g mixed peel
250ml Port
250ml Cherry Brandy
250ml Rum
250ml Stout

Set up above ingredients as long as 3 months but no less than 2 weeks before baking date by blending small amounts of each fruit moistened with liquor mixture. Pour each blended portion into large jar, until all fruit is blended and transferred into jar. Pour remaining liquor over mixture, cover tightly to seal aroma and store in a cool place.

OK.. nothing so weird there. Interesting use of stout, but I like that. That’s a good area to flex your individuality. Kudos Katy! 🙂 She’s doing her blending at this stage as well. Interesting decision but no major issues… yet… And I like that she’s doing the whole oldschool 3 month soaking thing. My heart was almost won over..

Then I reached part 2…

You need:
200g presifted plain flour
200g castor sugar
200g butter
1/2 tspn mixed ground spices (combination) eg. allspice nutmeg cinnamon etc
1/2 tspn baking powder
3 large eggs
1 tspn of each vanilla, lemon & almond extracts
1 tspn Angostura bitters

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl beat eggs till light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs in two batches to the creamed batter beating well after each addition. Start adding the liquor absorbed fruit in small portions beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

Where’s the browning?
Castor WHAT????
Oh no she didn’t!!!

Listen my gentle masses, a Trinidad Black Cake is rooted in browning. It is not an optional step. It is the glue. The anchor. The mortar of the whole shebang! It is a ritual and even more so a rite of a passage. You -will- use the browning. You will make it from scratch even better. I could have even handled her using treacle , but just breezing over that step and moving on to the castor sugar like it was nothing? My heart skipped a beat… It was only downhill from there … 🙁

When completely blended start adding the sifted dry ingredients, stir constantly. It’s ready when the wooden spoon can stand upright in the batter for a few seconds. If it seems too runny add more sifted flour.

HUH??? Stand your spoon in a black cake batter for A FEW SECONDS? …. ok maybe I am just assuming from my own and my family’s methods, but I have never seen a black cake batter that could hold up a spoon for 1 second let alone A FEW SECONDS… are we making bread here? Add MORE flour?? See the below video to see how my spoon ‘stands’ in my batter! My sadness was quickly turning to fear…

Pour into cake tin or tins, which (any sort) have been greased, floured and lined with baking paper. Bake in preheated oven at 180 degrees for the first hour then reduce to 120 degrees for an additional two hours OR UNTIL knife or tooth pick inserted into centre of cake comes out free of batter. Cool on rack before storing in container, sealed tightly (wrap in cling wrap) in an air tight container. Every so often open the cake and sprinkle with a bit more rum.

“Every so often open the cake and sprinkle with a bit more rum.”

LOLZ … sprinkle… lolz … please look here to see how it’s done ok?.. I use a 1/2 bottle of rum on each cake immediately after taking it out of the oven… Sprinkle? Sprinkling is for pixie dust and gardens.

This cake does not need refrigeration and remember: 1. Don’t eat this cake and drive or breastfeed and 2. It can only be given to children under parental guidance.

She’s kidding right?
Please tell me this is Aussie humour cos that’s one hell of a closer!! 😀