Black cake or fruit cake is the most popular Trini Christmas cake.
It is dark, boozy and filled with wonderful dried fruits and flavor.
Here, I’m sharing my recipe upfront. If you scroll past the recipe, you’ll find all my tips for making this wonderful Trini fruit cake.
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Trinidad black cake recipe
Trinidad black cake recipe
- Blender or Food processor
- Cake mixer
- 200 g seedless raisins
- 200 g seedless cherries
- 200 g seedless prunes
- 200 g candied mixed peel
- 560 mL alcohol of your choice (500 mL for soaking fruits + 60 mL for soaking the cake) (e.g. Manischewitz blackberry wine or cherry brandy)
- 110 mL dark rum of your choice (50 mL for soaking fruits + 60 mL for soaking the cake) (e.g. El Dorado)
- 4 cups flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 6 cups soaked fruits (blended)
- 2 cups butter (soft)
- 3½ cups brown sugar (2 ½ cups for the cake; 1 cup for browning)
- ½ cup molasses
- ½ cup boiling water
- 6 eggs
- 4 tsp vanilla essence
- 4 tsp cinnamon powder
- 2 tsp citrus zest
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- ¼ cup alcohol of your choice
- ¼ cup rum of your choice (optional)
Soak fruits ahead of time
- Add all fruits to a large container.
- Pour wine (alcohol of choice) and rum to completely cover the fruits.
- Seal the container.
- Place in a dark cupboard for several days to months.
- Check occasionally (every month or so).
- Top up alcohol if necessary.
- When ready to bake, add to blender
- Blend until chunky.
- Set aside.
Or simmer fruits for same day baking
- Add fruits, wine (alcohol of choice) and rum to a blender.
- Blend until chunky.
- Place a large pot on low heat. Allow to heat up.
- Pour the blended fruits into the pot.
- Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Make the browning
- Place a small pot on low heat. Allow to heat up.
- Add 1 cup of brown sugar to the pot.
- Stir often as the sugar melts and caramelizes.
- When the sugar becomes dark brown, add ½ cup boiling water (carefully).
- Remove from heat.
- Mix in the molasses.
- Set aside to cool.
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven at 250°F.
- Add soft butter and sugar to a stand mixer.
- Combine until smooth and fluffy.
- Add one egg at a time. Incorporate fully before adding another.
- Mix in vanilla essence and citrus zest.
- Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder and nutmeg) in a separate bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the stand mixer.
- Pour in the browning and molasses. Combine fully.
- Mix in the blended fruits.
- Butter two 10-inch cake pans.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.
- Bake in the oven for 1 hour at 250°F.
- Lower heat to 225°F.
- Bake the cakes for 1½ to 2 more hours.
- Check the cake for doneness (add 10 more minutes if the cakes are not fully cooked, then recheck for doneness).
- Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Soak the cake
- Mix the wine and rum of your choice for the alcohol blend.
- Poke holes in the cake using a skewer.
- Brush the cake with half of the alcohol blend.
- Repeat the next day.
- Serve for a delightful Trini Christmas.
As promised, here are more details on how I make my fruit cakes.
Ingredients for Trini fruit cake
The fruits for this cake are all dried or preserved like raisins, prunes, candied mixed peel (get on Amazon) and cherries. But, you can use whatever you prefer like dried cranberries, blueberries, sultanas, currants or anything that does not contain seeds.
The alcohol is also subject to your preferences and the availability of the ingredients in your neck of the woods. I mentioned I like Manischewitz blackberry wine and El Dorado rum for my black cake.
But, you can use grape wine, cherry brandy, or white rum. A woman in the grocery once told me she uses puncheon rum for her fruit cake. Puncheon is a Trini brand that is 75% alcohol and very, very strong!
The point is the choice of alcohol is up to you. There are no limits on what you can use here.
I enjoy the wine because it has an interesting fruity flavor that plays well with the soaked fruits. Cherry brandy is another popular, more traditional alcohol option as well.
As for the cake itself, there are all the typical ingredients: flour, baking powder, butter, eggs, and flavorings like browning, molasses, citrus zest, essence, and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
That pretty much covers the ingredients you need for the fruit cake.
Soaking fruits for Trini black cake
The fruits are often soaked weeks and months before making the cake. But it is possible to make the cake without soaking. Here, I’ll walk you through both ways.
Soaking months ahead
You will want to use a large container with a well sealing lid for soaking the fruits. Be sure the container and lid are clean and disinfected before starting.
Add the fruits to the container and pour in enough alcohol to fully cover the fruits. The more alcohol you add, the less often you will need to top up the container as the fruits absorb the liquid.
Cover the container tightly and place in a cool, dark cupboard. Light and heat have negative effects on alcohol, so you will want to stick to those cool, dark conditions.
After a month or so, check up on the fruits and add more alcohol if necessary.
That’s it for soaking the fruits.
Same day baking
If you are short on time, you will need to increase the alcohol to fruit surface area to allow for maximum absorption. This could be done by chopping the fruits finely or using a blender or food processor. Warming the mixture also helps with absorption.
So, add the fruits and alcohol to a blender or food processor and blend until chunky. Blend more if you prefer a smaller, thinner texture of the fruits.
Next, add the blended ingredients to a small pot on low heat. Allow to simmer for about five minutes before removing from the heat and leaving to cool.
Doing those two things (blending and heating) should be sufficient to speed up that “soaking” process.
Once the fruits are cool, you can add it to your cake batter.
Prepping for Trini black cake
There are two things to do before starting the cake. The first is to remove the butter from the fridge and leave it on the countertop to soften.
The second is to make your own browning. Of course, you can skip this step and use store bought browning. You can get any of these on Amazon.
I have a dedicated post specifically explaining what is browning and how it is made. So, if you’re looking for more detailed tips, check out that browning post.
Here, I’ll explain the basics.
Place a small pot on low heat. Add about 1 cup of brown sugar to the pot.
After a few minutes, you will see the sugar melting. Stir when this happens to evenly distribute the heat.
As the sugar melts, becomes frothy and caramelizes, you must stir often. Things will move quickly now. As the sugar darkens to a deep hot cocoa color, add ½ cup boiling water to stop the caramelizing process from continuing further.
Be careful though, the sugar will splutter and can cause bad burns so add the water carefully but quickly.
Once the browning sauce forms, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Since molasses is thick and viscous, I often add it to the warm sauce to thin it out.
How to make Trinidad fruit cake
So, your fruits are soaked, the butter is soft and your browning sauce is done. It is time to make the cake.
Preheat your oven at 250°F.
Combine the butter, sugar and eggs
Add the softened butter and sugar to your stand mixer (this KitchenAid mixer is what I use and it is amazing!). Use the medium setting and leave to mix until the sugar has melted and the butter is light, fluffy and smooth (this can take about 8 to 10 minutes).
Next, add the eggs, one at a time. Mix fully before adding the next egg.
After that, mix in the citrus zest like lime or lemon zest and essence. I usually use vanilla essence but you can use mixed essence or almond essence.
Mix the dry ingredients
In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder and nutmeg. You can also add a bit of allspice powder too. Mix properly to evenly distribute the baking powder and spices.
Add to the batter a little at a time and mix on a slow setting to fully incorporate.
Add the browning and fruits
The browning and molasses mixture you made earlier can be added to the batter at this point. This mixture colors the cake. The darker your browning, the darker your cake will be.
The molasses also adds a nice, complex, rich flavor to the already flavorful cake.
When that is fully incorporated, it is time to work on the fruits.
Add 6 cups of the soaked fruits and alcohol to a blender or food processor and blend until it has a nice chunky texture. I like the chunkiness because you can see and taste the fruit pieces in the finished cake. If you don’t like this, then by all means blend until the fruits have a smooth consistency.
When it is all blended to your liking, add to your cake batter. My stand mixer is only a 3.5 quart, so I transferred the batter over to a larger bowl to mix in the fruits. Be sure to stir thoroughly so the fruits spread out within the batter.
Butter and flour your cake pans. Two 10-inch cake pans are needed for this recipe. I actually have two 9-inch cake pans so I used a third cake pan which was 7-inches wide. I generally make thinner fruit cakes (under two inches) but you can make yours thicker if you like.
You can see my cake pans here with the batter added.
Bake for one hour at the temperature of 250°F. After the hour, lower the heat and bake for another one and a half to two hours at 225°F.
My thinner cakes generally cook within the one and a half hours but thicker ones will take the full two hours.
Check the cakes after the time for doneness. Do this by sticking a bamboo skewer in the center of the cake. If the skewer comes out clean, then check other spots on the cake. If it still comes out clean, your cake is done! But, if there is batter on the skewer, add it back to your oven and bake for 10 more minutes before checking again with the skewer.
When the cakes are all done, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Brush the cake with alcohol
When the cakes are all cooled, poke several holes in them. Then, mix ¼ cup alcohol of your choice (I use blackberry wine) and ¼ cup rum together. Brush this mixture on the cakes and watch them absorb that alcohol.
The extra alcohol is the reason why fruit cake can last for a long time without spoiling. It is also the reason why you can freeze the cake for years and it’ll stay well. Alcohol prevents microbes from developing and acts like a preservative. So, brush those cakes more than once if you like.
You can soak the cake the next day and the day after, it is all up to you.
Gift to your friends and family. Serve slices at your next lime or family get together. And enjoy the holidays.
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