You heard that right! And, yes, Christmas is not complete without My Jamaican Black Cake. Actually that should read, Jamaican Black Rum Cake. Because one whiff of the authentic stuff will have you smiling ear to ear. If you are not familiar with this (get yourself a Jamaican friend, LOL). Black cake is not a ‘Jamaican thing’ but a ‘Caribbean thing’. However each island does their own version and will boast that theirs is the best. One thing we agree on is that it is a must have for Christmas dinner, and made number 4 on the Loop News roundup.
I will not debate whose is better, because taste is very individual. But when it comes to My Christmas Cake their is no modesty. And for us Jamaicans at home or abroad, our Christmas is not complete without it.
What’s so special about a Jamaican black cake, you may ask? Before I can answer that question I have to break down the components of much loved cake.
The Cake Texture
Texture is EVERYTHING. The cake in its simplest form is a heavy fruit cake with a pudding like texture. Your cake should be moist but not too soft. It should not be too dry or crumby. Also, you want to taste the fruit but not bite into it or chew. There are fruit cakes with lots of visible fruits, this is not them.
The cake gets its dark colour primarily from the dried macerated fruits being soaked in wine and dark rum for months (years even). To get that perfect colour without distorting taste requires a bit of science, or trial and error. The easiest step is to use a good bottled browning. Or you can really go old school and burn your sugar. You want to achieve the desired colour without the bitter taste. Once you find this sweet spot, don’t loose it.
What’s so special about the Jamaican Black Cake?
So what is so special about this yearly tradition? And why do we guard our recipes so fiercely? I can tell you for a fact, not many people will readily give up their recipes. And when someone shares it, there’s always some nuance that is kept a secret. So, if you do get shared one, you may need to tweak it to your liking. It’s always a good idea to try any recipe before tinkering with it. My recipe is ever evolving, with variations for non-alcoholic and gluten-free versions. I am always open to feedback from my clients and will adjust my recipe to their specific taste if needed.
The composition of all the ingredients, especially the fruits (Raisins, Prunes & Currants), is key to a successful outcome. (See notes on fruits preparation). You want to taste the fruits, but not bite into or chew them.
I remember giving a non-baker friend of mine a recipe for a simple cake. She honestly thought that if she melted the butter vs cream it with the sugar it would save her some time. She couldn’t understand how the cake did not turn out the way it did when we baked it together. So simple things like sifting your flour, and using room temperature eggs are very important for a good mixture. You also want your batter to be of a certain consistency before baking. And please never use water in your cake mixture. Ever! If you need more moisture add more wine.
My Jamaican Black Cake Recipe
Of course I am sharing my recipe with you! But if its too much hassle to bake it, you can always order one from me. 🙂 If you do not have soaked fruits, no worries. You can still achieve a great cake by gently warming your fruits in the rum, wine and spices overnight. The longer you can do this ahead of baking the better the result. Then save some for next year in a tightly sealed container.
Jamaican Black Cake
- 3 cups macerated fruit mixture (see notes)
- 1 lb. butter
- 1 lb. brown fine cane sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 tbsp. browning
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp rose water
- 12oz all-purpose flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup cake wine
- 1/2 cup dark rum
- 1/4 cup cherry brandy
- 1/4 cup white rum
- Leave out butter and eggs to get to room temperature (see notes).
- Zest lemon.
- Preheat oven to 275degrees F (see notes).
- In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add browning, lemon zest, vanilla and rose water.
- In a separate bowl, sieve flour and all other dry ingredients and set aside.
- Beat eggs, wine, rum and brandy together.
- Add egg mixture to creamed butter and sugar.
- Slowly add the macerated fruit.
- Add flour and fold in. Mix until your batter is of a soupy consistency. Your mixing spoon should not be able to stand in the mixture. Do not over-beat.
- Pour into greased lined baking tins.
- Bake for 90 mins to 2hrs or until done. To check for doneness insert wooden toothpick, it can be soft but not raw. The texture will change once it is cooled.
- Remove from oven and pour alcohol mixture over cake while still warm. Keep cake in pan till next day. Remove from pan and cover with plastic wrap. Store a few days before cutting.
- Enjoy a slice daily until finished.
- Prepare the fruits. This will yield more than the recipe require, so a great opportunity to soak for next year 🙂
Combine 1 lb. each, pitted prunes, raisins, and currants with one 750ml bottle of cake wine, and 250ml of white rum. You can soak this for as long as you desire. If in a pinch, gently warm overnight. Blend in a powerful blender until the fruit is completely macerated. Soak until ready to bake.
- Butter and sugar creams better and faster when you use soft (room temperature) butter.
- This is a slow baking cake, you do not want the oven temp to be too high. You may need to adjust your temp based on your personal oven.
- Prepare alcohol mixture to pour over cake. Combine half rum and half cherry brandy. For each cake, add as little or as much as 1/4 cup prepared mixture to cake.
- Recipe will yield two 9″ round cake (about 2lbs each)
The icing on the cake
Actually, we do not ice this cake. But if you love icing, go for it. Do you partake in this decadent Christmas treat that is made for hip widening? If not, what is one Christmas food tradition or custom that you need to have to make your Christmas complete? I found this neat pdf on our Jamaican Christmas Customs I wanted to share with you.
As always, I love sharing my stories with you. and if you try my recipe please let me know how it turned out for you. See you next week.