Black Cake

Black Cake is made on many Caribbean islands around Christmas and New Year’s. I’d been wanting to make one since I first read about it in Laurie Colwin’s wonderful collection of essays, Home Cooking, but I never felt comfortable with her recipe —  something felt too relaxed, but that’s how most of her recipes are. When The New York Times published an article and recipe about Black Cake, I was inspired. From there, I made some adaptations.

Makes 2 9-inch cakes, 24 servings

At least two days before you’re going to make the cake, and more like ATTN two to twelve months before, combine

  • 1/2 pound prunes
  • 1/2 pound black raisins
  • 1/2 pound currants
  • 3/4 pound tart dried cherries (Montmorency preferred)
  • 1/4 pound dried bing cherries
  • 2 TBL dried citrus peel
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 3/4 cup Manischewitz Concord grape wine (or cherry brandy)

Place mixture in a glass or plastic container and cover until you are ready to bake the cake, stirring from time to time. There is no need to refrigerate this mixture.

When you’re ready to bake, grind the fruit, adding

  • 2/3 cup blanched almonds
  • additional rum if the mixture is too dry

I used a meat grinder with the finer of two grinding plates and there was no need for additional rum, but whatever you do, ATTN don’t overtax your equipment and burn out the motor. If you need to add extra rum, the cake will just bake longer.

Prepare 2 8- or 9-inch round pans by buttering them and lining the bottoms with circles of parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 250 F.

In a small mixing bowl, combine and set aside

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

In the bowl of a mixer, beat

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter

until fluffy. Add

  • 11/4 cups dark brown sugar (1/2 pound)

Then beat in,

  • 5 large eggs, ATTN one at a time
  • zest of one lime
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp Angostura bitters

In a large bowl, combine the batter and the dry ingredients. Add the ground fruit and

  • 3 TBL browning (see note below)

The batter should be a medium-dark brown: it will get darker as it cooks. Distribute the batter between the 2 prepared pans and bake at 250 F for one hour. ATTN Reduce heat to 225 F and bake for another 2 hours. Using a cake tester, check that it comes out clean. Depending on how much liquid was in your fruit mixture, the cake could take up to another hour to finish — but mine didn’t.

Remove the cakes from the oven. Place on racks, and immediately brush with

  • 2 TBL dark rum

Let rest for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pan and leave on racks to cool completely. Wrap in wax paper and then foil. They will keep, in a cool place for several weeks.

NOTE: Browning is a product that’s used to color gravy, but when you go shopping make sure you don’t purchase something that says “Browning and gravy flavoring” or something like that. The only ingredients in browning is caramelized sugar and water. Browning contains no salt and gravy flavoring does. If you can’t find browning, follow the directions for making burnt sugar in the recipe cited above from the Times.

One thought on “Black Cake”

  1. 2015’s fruit mix: 1/2 pound prunes, 1 pound raisins, 1 pound dried Montmorency cherries, 1/2 pound dried Bing cherries.

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