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Festive Caribbean Fruit Cake

This Festive Caribbean Fruit Cake is also known as Black Cake or Rum Cake. Its name comes from the deep, dark colour that is a result of using burnt sugar – also known as browning. It’s served at festive occasions and celebrations across the Caribbean.

It’s rich, dense and oh so moist, but you can read all about that after the recipe.

Festive Caribbean Fruit Cake

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Recipe by Marti Cuatt Course: Dessert, CakeCuisine: CaribbeanDifficulty: Some skill required
Makes

3

delicious cakes
Cake prep time

30

minutes
Cake cooking time

1

hour 

15

minutes
Fruit prep time

25

minutes
Fruit soaking time

3-12

months
Browning prep time

20

minutes

Rich with fruit and happy spices, this deeply coloured festive Caribbean cake will have you dancing the rumba in no time.

You will need

  • Soaked fruits
  • 525 g currants

  • 625 g raisins

  • 180 g cranberries

  • 200 g prunes

  • 600 mL port

  • 400 ml dark rum

  • 1 small bottle each of rum and port for topping up during the soaking period.

  • Browning (burnt sugar ingredients)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup hot water (or port)

  • For the cake
  • 450 g unsalted butter, softened (4 sticks)

  • 425 g sugar : demerara, brown or white granulated

  • 12 large eggs

  • Zest of one lemon

  • Zest of one orange

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 tsp almond extract

  • 1 tsp lemon extract

  • 3.5 cups macerated fruit mixture (about 750 grams)

  • 300 g plain white flour (2 1/2 level cups)

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp ground all spice

  • 1/4 tsp ground clove

  • To finish
  • 1/4 cup dark rum

  • 1/4 cup cherry brandy

Here’s what to do

  • Prepare your fruits
  • Fruit can be prepared up to 12 months in advance, but at the very least, try to let it soak for 3 months. The longer it soaks, the better.
  • Wash and dry all fruits. Mix together in a large bowl. Place fruits a little at a time in a food processor, or blender. Add just enough port to grind fruits to a paste. Repeat until all the fruits have been blended. The fruit mixture should not be too runny.

    Remove to a large jar and add remaining port and all the dark rum. Stir and let mixture soak a minimum of one week (I prefer 2-3 months minimum) and up to a year.
  • Periodically add more wine or rum to keep it moist, but not too liquid.
  • Make the browning
  • Place sugar in a small saucepan and turn the heat on low. Gently stir and turn the sugar over with a spoon until it begins to melt and caramelise.
  • It will start to stick to the spoon, but DON’T TOUCH! It will burn!
  • Once the sugar has melted completely and turned a deep brown colour, slowly and carefully add the water (or port). Stand back as it may spit, then stir the mixture until it’s nice and smooth.
  • Remove from the heat and let cool, then strain into a jar. Cool completely before using.
  • Get ready
  • Preheat oven to 135-150C.
  • Line 2x 20cm + 1x 15cm cake tins with 2x layers of brown paper and one of baking parchment. This will help with even cooking. Make sure the parchment is the paper the cake will actually be touching.
  • Let’s bake cake
  • Make sure your eggs and butter are at room temperature.
  • Crack the eggs into a jug and add the zests, vanilla, almond, and lemon extracts. Whisk lightly to break the eggs and mix the ingredients through. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients together. Set aside.
  • In deep mixing bowl or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until pale. Add eggs a little at a time, beating well between each addition.
  • Turn the speed down to low and continue beating while adding the fruit mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time.
  • Remove from the stand mixer and add the flour mixture 1/3 at a time, folding through after each addition.
  • Next, add the burnt sugar (browning) one tablespoon at a time until desired dark colour is achieved (3-4 tbsp should be enough). Mix well.
  • Divide the batter between the lined cake pans.
  • Bake at 135-150C around 1-1.25 hours.
  • Test with a metal skewer – they are cooked when it comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle the extra alcohol mixture on top, then leave to cool in the tins.
  • When cooled, remove from the tins and wrap in foil before storing in airtight containers.
  • Sit for a minimum of three days before cutting.

Tips and tricks

  • Note about browning: it is possible to buy this in supermarkets, but as it’s used for gravies, usually contains salt, which is not what you want. If you do make your own, make sure to watch it constantly as it will burn quickly. For this reason, it’s best to use a saucepan that’s not too good – just in case.
  • The recipe calls for a final sprinkling of alcohol on top when it’s cooked. I prefer to eliminate this step, because the alcohol gives the finished cake a rather sticky texture. While that’s great for covering with fondant icing, the cake is just as good to eat naked.

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The Caribbean Fruit Cake cake

In the Caribbean, this cake is called a Black Cake. It can be found in almost every part of the region – and every family has its own recipe. Those are usually handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter – and so it goes.

So mine is based on a few Black Cake recipes, tweaked slightly to my taste.

The ingredients

One look at the ingredients list may have you running for the door! It looks a bit overwhelming, but do stop and read each step. Think of it like this:

  1. Prepare the fruit 3-12 months ahead of baking – big step out of the way
  2. You can buy browning, which is also used in gravies. DO read the ingredients as some may have ingredients you don’t want in your cake. See the note below the recipe about making browning.
  3. The rest – well it’s simply a fruit cake recipe, full of good ingredients and happy spices.

What makes this cake unique

  • Blitzing the fruit into a paste before soaking it in rum and port means it’s a smoother texture than regular fruit cakes.
  • The fruit has a long soaking time: a minimum of three months and up to a year.
  • Using browning – which is caramelised, almost burnt, brown sugar – to achieve the darker colour.

I first made this style of cake several years ago and loved it. There are a few reasons for this, including the fact I’m not a huge fan of traditional fruit cakes that I’ve grown up with. I also don’t like the texture of sultanas, currants and raisins unless they’re so dense I can’t distinguish between them. They can also tend towards being overly sweet and a bit dry.

Mine has no dried mixed citrus peel, because I simply don’t like it.

It is super moist and the festive spices and flavours simply calypso around your tongue.

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