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How to make Caribbean black cake, a rum-soaked holiday tradition

How to make Caribbean black cake, a rum-soaked holiday tradition
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“In Trinidad, when you’re invited to someone’s home over the holidays, you’ll inevitably be asked if you’d like some black cake, typically accompanied with a drink like sorrel,” says Andrew McBarnett, co-founder of Neale’s Sweet N’ Nice. “It would be impolite to decline ... even if you’ve already visited five houses previously!”

Neale’s is best known for , but this festive season, the Toronto-based company is branching into a new line of baked goods, including the rich, rum-soaked cake that’s a sentimental favourite across the Caribbean. Making it is both a tradition and a ritual, McBarnett explains, since it involves marinating a mix of dried fruit in liquor for weeks or months.

“Each family has their own secret recipe for making their Christmas cake — that’s the beauty of it,” says Rosemarie Wilson, Neale’s co-founder and McBarnett’s aunt, recalling that her mom would begin prepping the fruit as early as September for baking in December. Read on for the how-to, but remember it’s adaptable according to your tastes, from the specific mix of fruit and spices you use to the boozy concoction you soak it in.

If you prefer to leave the baking to others, you can order Neale’s Caribbean black cake, available for a limited run at sweetnnice.ca (for delivery in the GTHA); a wider rollout to retailers is planned for Black History Month.

Caribbean Black Cake

“It’s said that black cake is an adaptation of the European plum pudding that was brought to the Caribbean in the 1800s by British colonizers. It was improved upon with ingredients and spices local to each island and infused with Caribbean spirit. Literally. We take the dried fruit mixture and soak it in our favourite rum and wine blend, sometimes adding in port or sherry. The black cake is a very popular culinary symbol across the Caribbean and is often present at family celebrations, Christmas holidays and weddings.” —LaTisha Brown, director of baked goods at Neale’s Sweet N’ Nice

For the fruit and rum mixture:

350 grams dried fruit such as raisins, prunes, currants, glazed cherries, or mixed peel like candied lemon, orange or pineapple, but there are no rules

150 mL dark Jamaican rum such as Appleton, J. Wray & Nephew, or rum of your choice

150 mL sweeter red wine, or blend of port and sherry

Months or weeks ahead of baking day, set aside the dried fruit in a jar, and add just enough rum and wine to cover the fruit. As the fruit soaks up the liquid over time, you can add more rum and wine.
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