Black Cake is a rich, alcohol-soaked fruitcake found all over the Caribbean, but it is in Trinidad that I feel it reaches its ultimate form. Trinidad black cake uses two uniquely West Indian ingredients: mixed essence, which is a combination of vanilla, almond, and pear extracts and burnt sugar syrup. “Mixed Essence” is a necessity to make this cake properly – you can buy it here.
Unlike the U.S. version of fruitcake, the fruit is ground up and the burnt sugar is used to stain the cake a deep rich brown or black. The dark fruits used in the recipe are also used to make it even blacker and even if you don’t like fruitcake – trust me Citizens, you will LOVE this! 🙂
Traditionally served at Christmas, you might wonder why I am posting the recipe in late Spring. That’s because – at least to Trinidadians – you should be soaking the dried fruits in booze for MONTHS to make the cake truly delicious and I agree with them wholeheartedly. You don’t have to soak the fruits for months – weeks is fine, even a day or two would be adequate.
Rum is used in making Black Cakes all over the Caribbean, but the Trini versions also includes cherry brandy and sherry, likely a nod to the colonial British tradition of soaking cakes in brandy to preserve them for long journeys across the sea. The cake is typically baked just before Christmas and eaten at Christmas dinner and afterward, in thin slices, for as long as it lasts. You can leave it out and just pour more alcohol on it when the top gets dry, effectively preserving the cake.
Citizens – my version of this cake is very close to traditional, though I’ve replaced sultanas with dried cranberries (which I think add better flavor) and adjusted the spicing to my own personal taste (less cinnamon, more complexity).
Battle on – The Generalissimo