Breaking with tradition. Carribean Black rum cake

I had a wealth of online photos to guide me ...                                     photo:@

Christmas is coming and this old goose is getting fat.Whether using Grandmother´s, mother´s or somebody else's recipe, it´s never tw'early to think about making the Christmas cake. My mother's recipe has long since disappeared and I have always made a rich dark fruit cake, from the writings of the late Michael Smith.It should be left for at least a month for its flavours to fully mature. This cake is good at any time of the year. Got a wedding in 2024 anybody? This year however I broke with tradition, curious about how they celebrate Christmas in the Carribean.Say the words bolo pretu to a West Indian and their eyes will light up with pleasure.This moist, dense fruit cake is traditionally a Carribean wedding cake.
Bolo pretu literally means "black cake"in papiamento. Papiamento or Papiamentu is a Portuguese-based creole language spoken in the Dutch Caribbean.The musical Curaçaon dialect is woven from the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and African languages. For many Caribbean immigrants it wouldn't be Christmas without black cake.
The rich, molasses-spiced cake filled with drunken dried fruits is a part of Christmas festivities throughout the Caribbean. The cake likely evolved from plum pudding recipes British colonizers brought to the West Indies in the 18th century. Islanders modified these recipes, incorporating local ingredients and liquors. With time, black cake became a staple on Caribbean Christmas dinner tables, alongside a roasted ham, a jug of sorrel (hibiscus tea seasoned with spices), pasteles and rice.Months before Dec. 25, hundreds of thousands of home cooks throughout the Caribbean combine pounds of raisins, dried cherries, currants, and prunes, and subsequently drown them in a boozy bath of local rum and fruit-forward brandy. This dried fruit—saturated in liquor—is then pulverized to a smooth paste that gives black cake its remarkably moist texture. This ground fruit also rids the cake of the dense, stone-like chunks that afflict many versions of fruit cake.In the Caribbean, there is nothing else quite akin to black cake. It’s a cake that beats with a rhythm that only the islands could produce. All the elements that the process of baking has ever prized—patience, decadence, and
intrigue—are set within black cake’s dark, rich, and historic interior.
Bolo Pretu is relatively simple to make, but you'll need at least two weeks to a month from start to finish for steeping the ingredients in liquor and aging the finished cake.
For some Caribbean women, the real measure of Christmas is how long they’ve been soaking their fruit.
I looked at my pitiable four-quart Pyrex bowl that brimmed with one-week-old rum, port, and dried fruit with chaos. I cleared the frog in my throat while regaining mental composure, I am far too pushed busy wise to be fannying around with dried fruits a year in advance. The production of the cake begins almost a year in advance.
Currants, raisins, cherries, prunes and the peels of oranges and lemons are soaked in rum and wine for roughly six months in airtight jars, in order for the fruit to become properly saturated for the cake. Cinnamon, nutmeg, a bay leaf, tonka bean, kola nut, and other island spices are added to sifted flour to make the cake batter.But what truly makes it black cake is the burnt sugar – known as "browning" – poured in seconds before the cake goes into the oven, giving the dessert its distinctive, rich dark colour.The Orange liqueur of choice is naturally curaçao but in its absence I used my own home made orange liqueur.

When making something for the first time or something you are unsure about, it can be an idea to make an extra portion to experiment with. 
I had a wealth of online photos to guide me but nevertheless I decided to bake a mini muffin pan version so I would not have to disturb the maturing cake until Christmas.I was happily surprised that the result was not far in colour and texture from my regular cake.
This is not a crumb type cake, it resembles more of a pudding so a high temperature is not needed to cook the cake.
Personally, a pudding-like texture is what I prefer.

Carribean Black rum cake
An 8 inch pan is perfect . The batter will fill 3 tins so I reduced the quantities in the recipe by 1/3. 9in pans may be used, but make sure to adjust baking time. Bigger the pan, the less time needed to bake.
1 lb prunes, pitted
1 lb currants
1 lb raisins 
8oz red glaced cherries
4oz mixed peel
750ml bottle port wine (or another dark red wine)
3-4 cups white or dark rum
Keep one extra small bottle rum on hand
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp port wine

1 lb unsalted butter, softened (4 sticks)
1 lb sugar, demerara brown or white granulated (2 cups)
12 eggs
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp mixed essence
1 ½lbs macerated fruit mixture (about 3 heaping cups)
300g all-purpose flour (2 ½ level cups)
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground all spice
¼ tsp ground clove


¼ cup dark rum
¼ cup cherry brandy



  1. Wash and dry all fruits. Mix together in a large bowl. Place fruits a little at a time in a food processor, food mill, or ninja blender. Add enough wine to grind fruits to a paste. Repeat process until fruits have been macerated. Fruit mixture should not be too watery. Add 3-4 cups dark rum. Stir and let mixture soak at minimum one week or even one year+. Adding more wine or rum periodically.


  1. If using store-bought burnt sugar, skip this step. Place sugar in a small saucepan. On low heat turn sugar with a spoon until it begins to caramelize. Once dark brown, add wine and remove from heat. Let cool completely.


  1. Preheat oven to 275 or 300 degrees F.
  2. Line 3-8in or 2-9in baking pans with parchment paper. Trim paper and set aside.
  3. Bring eggs and butter to room temperature. 
  4. Crack eggs into a separate bowl one at a time, Remove little white membrane from each egg (optional). Beat in zests, vanilla, almond, and mixed essence. Set aside. 
  5. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Set aside. 
  6. In deep mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale. Add eggs a little at a time. Blend well. 
  7. Of the macerated fruit mixture, add 1 ½ lbs (3 heaping cups) a little at a time, continue blending. 
  8. Add flour mixture a little at a time- fold in with a spatula. Add 1 tbsp burnt sugar at a time until desired colour is achieved. If using store bought burnt sugar, 4 tbsp should suffice for a very dark cake. Mix well. 
  9. Pour batter into lined cake pans. 
  10. Bake anywhere from 275-300 degrees F for 80-90 minutes. When cake come out of oven, pour alcohol mixture on top. When cool, cover cake with plastic wrap. Flavour is best after a few days.
  11. NOTES
    1lb fruit mixture is traditionally used, you can try this recipe with these changes to see if it meets your preference. If you did not soak fruits months ahead, you can also simmer the fruits in wine for about 20 minutes. Let it cool then macerate and combine with rum.

    Batter may be split in 3 smaller cake pans.

    After removing cake from oven, it may seem it is under cooked. Do not be alarmed as this is how it is supposed to be. After 2-3 days the texture will change.


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