A Caribbean Christmas
Guyanese Christmas Cake
In the lead up to Christmas the preparation of holiday food and drinks is of paramount importance in a Caribbean household. By now you should have made your pickled chow chow, pineapple spiced ham and festive drinks like Sorrel drink and homemade ginger beer.
But the most traditional and important of all Caribbean Christmas treats is the black fruit cake. No holiday is complete without one. For many, their mixture of dried fruits would be well-soaked in rum for a few months already and as the big day draws closer now is the time to get ready to bake.
Black cake recipes have slight variations across the different islands, for instance a Trinidadian version will use cherry brandy to soak the fruit while Jamaican’s May use Wray & Nephew for an overproof delight. To add nuts or not, prunes, peel or ginger seems to come down to preference and your own family’s traditional recipe that’s been handed down to you.
Our recipe for black fruit cake is based on our grandmother’s and mother’s Guyanese style cake which calls for the fruit to be soaked in enough liquor to drunk a sailor and to be minced down to a smooth, almost mousse-like consistency. When the cake is baking the aroma that fills your home will make it feel like Christmas has officially begun. The recipe below is easy to follow and uses black treacle to give the cake it’s dark colour instead of customary browning, which can be a fraught creation of scalding hot burnt sugar. Your only problem will be deciding how late to leave making the cake to ensure it’s not all eaten before Christmas Day.
800g Mixed Fruit (e.g. raisins, sultanas, prunes
1tsp Orange Peel
150ml of Rum
200g Demerara sugar
225g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
6 large or 7 medium eggs
5 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp mixed spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove
50 mls of dark rum
Soaked Fruits Method
1. Wash you mixed fruit and leave to drain. Once dry add 100 mls of rum to the fruits. Because of our Guyanese and Jamaican heritage we use a mixture of dark El Dorado or XM Rum and a splash or two (three) of Wray & Nephew white rum for extra kick to make up the required 150ml. Place the rum soaked mixed fruits an orange peel in a food processor and mince down until the fruit has an almost pudding like texture.
2. Scrape the mixture into an airtight container and pour over the remaining 50mls of rum. This mixture can be made and stored many months or weeks in advance. Just check it occasionally and if it seems to be drying out drizzle over a little more rum to ‘feed’ the mixture to keep it moist.
- Heat the oven to 150°C (gas mark 2). Use a spray oil or butter to grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
- In your blender mix together the butter and sugar until they’re light, fluffy and pale in colour. Once blended add the eggs one at a time, ensuring the mixture is well combined before adding the next egg.
- Add your rum soaked fruit to the mixture and fold in.
- Add the black treacle in 1tbsp increments until you reach your desired darkness of colour.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and mixed spice mixture and gently fold it into the rest of the ingredients If the mixture is too stiff, loosen by adding a few tablespoons of rum until you achieve a dropping consistency.
- Scrape the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 2 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- While the still warm, use a skewer to make holes all over the top of the cake and then drizzle over the remaining rum. Once completely cool, up the cake in greaseproof paper and/or foil. In the days/weeks up to Christmas, continue to ‘feed' the cake by occasionally drizzling over more a few more tablespoons of rum.