The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Does anyone make black or heavy cake for the holidays?

Heidela123's picture

Does anyone make black or heavy cake for the holidays?

I have a huge Carribean influence in my life and holiday black cake is a tradition for us. I am hoping others here bake it as well, because there is no exact way to make this cake! I have always learned more from others than from my own efforts in baking, this is one cake that gets better each year.
If you have never heard of it, I guess you can compare it with a baked plum pudding. The past few years I gave baked it in jars ...omg when you find a jar of black cake you forgot!

To start one for Christmas is still possible, but the best cakes take years to evolve due to the boozey fruit involved!

My battery is almost dead, but I look forward to seeing if anyone would like to talk about black cake?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I was in Barbados, watching a preacher's wife put it together in her kitchen.  Very much like a traditional fruit cake in every respect except all the nuts (mostly peanuts) and mountains of colorful dried and candied fruit were run through a meat grinder (I had to help crank) turning everything into a dark sticky mass that was added to the batter.  The result was the "Groom's cake" or "Black" fruit cake.  

Heidela123's picture

Well that sounds pretty close to what I grew up with the exception of the fruit! We use dried unsweetened fruit left whole, including pears, peaches , pinapple cherries prunes ripen them in 100 proof rum, pretty much for the rest of your life! ( really you use some add some this way your fruit is constantly changing) never ever donwe use the candied fruit ripening, that is used for regular fruit cake. Ripening is the key
And yes a piece of this cake with a cup of coffee is a buzz, so if you do not drink don't make black cake.
The spices vary according to influence, my family it was Afro-Indio-Carribean .. uses cardamom, allspice ginger rosewater coffee, molasses and vanilla to accent the fruit. Also No nuts ever for us and I may have to try one cake with peanuts because It does sound kind of good, I have never heard of such a thing, I have put coconut milk in.
Old English Fruitcake is great if done nicely and there for sure is some huge Englsh influence because when I steamed it one year it was quite similar in texture and somewhat similar in taste.

But I am telling you this ain't your grams fruitcake ...or maybe like me it was :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

By soaking the fruit first there could be too much moisture during baking.   How do you like your crumb?  

I never did like grinding all the beautiful fruit into tiny bits.  I had decided right then and there it was not my piece of cake.  I'm a colored church window kind a girl and when I used to eat fruitcake, I like to hold it into the light, looking thru my fruitcake's jeweled color and ambered nuts getting lost in the sheer fancy of it.  

Now a days, dried fruit is not so dry as it was sold years ago in waxed paper.  Today there are moisture pouches (I remember it started with raisins) to keep the fruit supple.  I would not soak them first but use a good basic fruit cake recipe (the batter tends to be a small amount) and add what you like to eat, and see in your cake when slicing and eating.  After the slow bake, cool, wrap in a clean cloth and tight fitting container (tin) and pour on the rum or wine to wet the cloth.  Cover and do it again in a few days.  Keep doing this until the cake absorbs no more.  I imagine in the Caribbean, many staples would not last long if not kept dry or drunken or put into glass.  Cake in a glass in an interesting concept.  Yes, I've seen it but makes even more sense in an area like the moisture salty warm windward islands.   Could even bake in the glass and then add a hardy dose of 40% rum.  No expiration date.  I don't think I would use 80 proof, the maximum...  without thinning.  It is just too aggressive and may burn your vocal cords.

A good fruit cake can also be made without alcohol sealing it like a stollen with butter and sugar.  Keep cool.


Heidela123's picture

I like jeweled fruitcakes as well but like anything else this is a type and style, so while you may not have found this attractive, to me it looks and tastes beautiful. The booze mellows, the higher proof becomes soft over time and soaking is a must to make the magic happen.

How about I gather this recipe and put it out there..and since I have never made a Barbados style cake I am really interested in the difference. The peanuts fascinate and scare me! Where they raw or roasted I wonder? 
 In fact I find fruitcake fascinating anyway and would love to talk about it. If anyone makes them has tips and pearls?  So maybe changing my title would invite more interest? 
Baking fruitcakes ( as well as quick breads ect)  in wide mouth pint canning jars is something so perfect I have no words, they kep forever and only taste better over time this piece is easy to explain. Grease jars well, put a disk of greased parchment in the bottom of the jar, fill the jar to allow the rise of your recipe to reach the top , bake with no lids unless you want a stme ed type result. When you take the jars out, if they look nice just clean the rims put the lids on tight  let them cool in the lidded jar they seal nicely, if you want to clean them up for gifts and make sure they come out nicely for serving. Let them cool completely, remove them from the jars, wash the jars well in the dishwasher, while the lids and jars are still hot put your cakes back in and seal them, if you do not get a seal, you can can them for ten min in a water bath. 
I have also put the batter in the greased jar then canned them to bake them, the result was for sure pudding !
Fruitcake is so meligned, when the reality is, it can be an exquisite treat as well as lovely gift. 
Mini oven I try my best but am not always good at conveying info ...I hope if this isn't easy to understand you  will call me on it?

If you want to follow me in this and have patience for a sadly disheveled baker, please know this cake is truly authentic in it's process plus tweaked for all the types of fruits aim able to find here, in the Islands the supply was limited, here you can find everything
THE FRUIT:  because this is what the bottom line is...the quality, variety and style of how it is prepared. Even if you never make this cake if you love boost fruits, I have even used them dried off  after soaking then enrobed them in chocolate, I put them on cake, in cake, quick breads, in chutney on ice cream! I use them as cold medication dropped in hot tea...your imagination is your limit with boozey fruits

Grinding it is truly variable from family to family,  I do not grind my fruit up entirely and leave plenty of chunks

You do NOT have to buy or procure everything at one time, it is just too expensive I think, so hunt and gather fill your jar over time 

To start use 1 a gallon/4 litre  glass jar with a plastic lid..purchase enough unsweetened , (if possible unsulphered)  dried fruits To fill the jar 1/2  full of the fruit...( so far it is easier to tell you what doesn't work well, so my flops were dates, berries, and apples)  otherwise all dried fruits work well) it you have Trader Joes they have a great selection at a decent price) 

 fill the jar about half way with the dried fruits left whole
My list of favorites are unsweetened, pineapple, cherries, peaches, raisin plums/prunes, ok I have no favorites I love boozey fruit!)  pour a bottle of good quality dark 100 proof Jamaican ( or any one you like you just need that rich rum flavor) rum, along with a good quality pint of apricot, cherry or other flavor brandy and just when you think does this need more booze, it does! Add a bottle of decent quality port wine, ( put your money into the rum and brandy the port should not be cheap but you should not toss a good port in here it would be lost) my girlfriend is from the Virgin Islands she uses old school Manischewitz instead of port and her fruits are lovely! I use a locally made reasonable port  he it's wait a month ..then add more fruits rum, brandy and wine unti the jar is about 3/4 full cover and let sit another month ..if it is not to the top then just put a few more dried fruits in..

The rush process allows for a portion of the first soak to be removed and replaced to use for one good sized cake in two weeks
I keep two gallons going all year and use the fruits to top ice cream, put in tea as a cold remedy eat out of the jar ect ect
these fruits  only get better with age over time you can add a variety of complementary alcohol and dried fruits.  I just tossed a half bottle of orange muscat in my fruits. Over time the variety and strength of your jar becomes magical 
But yes I soak, not 100 proof doesn't burn at all but it does pull the flavors into the liquid better as well as preserve not destroy the texture of the fruit.

Ok work calls 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Reminds me of Traditional Rumtopf  where fresh fruit in season is added to high % Rum and used in everything but fruit cake.  When I went diving in the Philippines,  took a jar of something similar using also some cherry rum and then vacuum packed the jar of fruit & rum so that I wouldn't have problems in the flight (non-pressurized).  When opening, it smelled... well, like Christmas!  Holiday gift for my diving instructor and he rightfully treated it as gold.  Saw my first shark on Dec. 24th!  I think the poor creature was more scared of us.  

It is hard to find dried fruits these days that don't have added sugar types (as if dried fruit wasn't sweet enough.)  Check your packages carefully.  As you may have noticed, I've cut all sugar, fructose  and sugar substitutes out of my intake.  At least as best I can.  But I'm sure that those listening in on this discussion are picking up all kinds of tricks and tips to make fruitcakes.  Hey, did you know that at one time in history, fruit cakes were so decadent as to be declared illegal?  The Stolen has a long history and had to return to a cake with fruit from a decadent fruit cake.  The Brits naturally kept cranking out heavy fruit cakes.  Thus a major difference was created.

I used to keep a jar of drunken raisins in my pantry for cakes, stollen, and strudel.  Ready at whim.  Yes, they're soaked because the time they take from mixing to baking is short and so is the time from baking to eating.  Fruitcakes get a good soaking themselves and so I was not so fussy to soak the fruit before hand unless it was really dry.  

The peanuts... good point.  I've been thinking about that ever since I wrote it.  They don't go well in a meat grinder alone unless mixed well with the other fruit.  I can remember a few huge jars of peanut butter too!  It was a big wedding and I don't think I'll ever see such a pile of fruit for cakes again.  You can experiment easily on a small scale.  I remember thinking it was too much raisins and peanuts for my taste but the finished product was quite good.  I don't remember seeing any alcohol.  Maybe a stronger version was being made somewhere else.  

I do remember the cake having a crumb more like a dense brownie than a cake and solid color.  The peanuts might have been hacked up in a blender too.  I don't remember seeing them raw, chances are they were roasted, salt was washed off.  I believe most of the fruit & nuts were combined and mixed together, covered and ground the next day.  It was about the time I met my husband (and fell in love) and I certainly was distracted from concentrating on the baking part (or wasn't even present)  I was also working and had other thoughts in my head no doubt.  I was waiting for that first phone call.  :)   It was the middle of December, a week before Christmas.   


EvaB's picture

I make dark fruit cake, which has raisins, (2 kinds) dates, candied cherries, and peel, currants, and candied pineapple, the cake part is flour, butter, eggs, with molasses, sugar (brown) and spices. I always put the fruit and nuts, (sliced almonds) in a large bowl, and soak with rum, wine, or whatever is handy! There isn't a whole lot of cake dough, its mostly fruit, with a bit of dough to bind it! I am going to try and make it with dried fruit this year rather than candied, especuially my white ones, these have more cake with golden raisins, dates, and mixed peel, and of course butter, eggs, sugar (white this time) and the spices.

The black cake sounds like a cross between dark fruit cake, and mincemeat (non meat type) and sort of like the depression cake which my mother used to bake, which is also known as wartime cake, eggless butterless, milkless cake, and other names. My mother added peanut butter in place of the lard or bacon grease she used in that, a nice natural peanut butter very oily, and its delicious.

I don't add rum to the cakes after baking, although I have wrapped a Dundee cake in a whiskey soaked muslin cloth, which added flavour but not a lot of alcohol, I will have to try the soaked fruit, and that is an interesting cake.

Can you give amounts of fruits, and the rest of the ingredients, in either cups, or weight (weight is always better) so I may try making it.

Oh yes the white cake has pecans in, and all the fruit nuts and the coconut for the white cake is also soaked in alcohol, I use white wine generally for the white cake, although a nice pink zinfandel is ok, but red wine or dark rum is generally used in the dark cake to not colour the cake part, I used red wine and had pink cake from bleed out of the wine when baking.


Heidela123's picture

I would love to post this cake step by step
So in order to do that I have to make them. I will do it right after Thanksgiving
Today I " freshened" my fruit with dried cherries ( I have 2 gallons use one then spilt the second replace the fruits and rum/brandy/wine make two gallons again )
And tasted a bit of the cordial
Wow was that delicious!
I have never tried rumtopf but have seen t dipped in chocolate shaped like a cone at a German bakery.

I have no idea how to tell you how wonderful I think this cake is!

But I adore cake!
This one truly gets better over time,
I like it warm out of the oven with heavy cream.

Heidela123's picture

HA! I found my recipe!

I knew I had posted it previously on a forum ... But a "bomb" hit our world a few years back so I totally forgot about it...not the thread, just that I had recorded the " recipe" I use

PLEASE do not be intimidated by the quantity of fruit and booze! Unless you are not a booze and fruit person...then skip this entire recipe ...
I find having a jar of this absolutey indispensable! You can use it so many ways, or just eat a piece of it with some of the cordial as an after dinner " drink"
So the fruit alone is worth the time effort and expense this is for a 1 gallon jar, I keep two and double the recipe
You can "build"  it with a big jar bottle of rum and box of raisins as you find things add them. I found dried cherries on sale believ it or not! So the ones I didn't eat, dip in chocolate or bake with, got dumped into the jar. I had a too sweet yet nice dessert wine ...what was left in the bottle, dumped in.  When I open a port or rum ..the fruits get a shot. 

So here you go perhaps this is a little " I am thankful" for all the advice and help I have received here

Black Cake
6 lbs of dried  mixed unsweetened fruit (more or less) 
1 cup of lemon/lime/orange rinds (you can add these along the way when you eat a fruit just grate the rind first and toss it in your fruit mix) 
1 3 inch piece of fresh ginger sliced 
1 bottle of 151 rum ( if you don't want to use 151 you can use any nice rum)
1 pint of brandy (fruit brandies are good for this like apricot or cherry, do NOT use the cheap stuff, honestly over time it does matter, keep the flavors natural 
1 bottle of port wine
you want enough fruits and booze to fill a gallon jar you can mix and match any fruits you like my usual from Trader joes or similar is to use dried pineapple, peaches, cherries, raisins, apricots 
soak fruits for 3-6 months 
Avoid, berries, citrus unless dried or just the rind
( this s double what you need so you use half then refill your jar

when ready to make the cake take out and grind half the  fruit in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped then rough cut the rest in various sized pieces according to the textur you enjoy) you should have 1/2 gallon of fruit ... volume of the chopped vs whole fruit did not change much at all

Browning  1/2 cup
I buy it premade from a Caribbean market, but if you can not find it here you go

1 cups of brown sugar in a heavy bottom skillet carefully blacken the brown sugar until just before burned when the sugar is black remove it from the heat and add 1/4 cup hot water slowly stirring until mixed well 
set aside 

cake prep ingredients 

dry sift together 
3 cups of flour (half and half cake flour and AP flour) 
1 1/2 tsp  powder
11/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground cinnamon 
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground cardamom
1/4 tsp fresh ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg 
11/2 tsp allspice

cream together well 
1/2 lb of unsalted butter softened
2 cups brown sugar
1 tble good vanilla
1 tble rosewater 
6 jumbo eggs ( I say jumbo because I use duck eggs so use 8 large if you don't have jumbo
the browning 

in a giant bowl mix the wet and the dry then add the fruits the end I dive in with my hands and mix it all together well you should have a nice thick mix of cake batter that can be poured into pans that are greased and lined with parchment on the bottoms 

I prep 2 cheesecake bundt or whatever 
and one cake mold I have a nut shaped mold I make one of
Or I double this recipe and use 12 wide mouth canning jars put a piece of parchment cut to the bottom then if they look good after baking I lid them hot so they seal, otherwise if messy I take them out of the jars when cool put the jars through the dishwasher than when they are hot and dry drop the cakes back in, lid the jars and they usually seal

bake in a 250F oven for about 3 hours for the big pans, 1-1/2 hours for the jars,  until a toothpick comes out clean ...let cool in the pan wrapped in for at least a day wrapped then remove the cakes wrap them in rum soaked cheese cloth then plastic wrap then foil then put in a ziploc bag and leave for a 3 weeks 

The rum wrap is optional but I do it even for the jars each cake is wrapped with really good tasting rum soaked cheese cloth